The Irish government seems to disapprove of President Higgins’ Northern Ireland centenary service snub

News Letter editorial of Saturday October 9 2021:

By Editorial
Saturday, 9th October 2021, 5:21 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th October 2021, 5:23 pm
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The decision by President Michael D Higgins to snub the coming centenary church service in Northern Ireland reflected badly on the Irish head of state.

He has often been praised for his reconciliatory gestures but these have helped to conceal his consistently partisan reading of Irish history, and his open criticisms of Britain’s past on this island. Barely any major political figure in the UK has ever criticised Ireland’s own shortcomings, and certainly not an apolitical figure in Britain, such as a member of the royal family.

It is worrying to read of poll findings of public support for President Higgins, and his implicit endorsement of republican narratives on partition.

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But it has been more pleasing to see a cooler reaction to his snub from much of the Irish establishment, including John Cushnahan, right, who has a distinguished political career on both sides of the border.

It is particularly encouraging to learn the Simon Coveney will now attend the service. The Irish foreign minister has been at the heart of the greening of mainstream Dublin politics, and has taken a partisan nationalist approach to divisive issues in NI such as the Irish language.

While the Irish government, currently led by the thoughtful and admirable Micheál Martin, has defended Mr Higgins’ right not to attend, it is now clear that they actually think the president’s decision was regrettable.

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