Michael D Higgins criticised by Nigerian bishop following remarks on massacre of church-goers

Irish President Michael D Higgins has come in for criticism from a Catholic bishop in Nigeria, following comments from Mr Higgins about a massacre last week at a church built by Irish missionaries.

By Niall Deeney
Monday, 13th June 2022, 5:32 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2022, 6:09 pm

Forty people were killed in the attack at the Church of St Francis in the Owo district in the Ondo region of Nigeria on June 5. Over 126 people also suffered injuries following the attack.

In a statement last week, President Higgins appeared to link the attack with climate change.

His comments have drawn criticism from the bishop of the Catholic Ondo diocese, Jude Ayodeki Aroguande, who acknowledged and thanked the president for his condemnation but said the “incorrect and far-fetched” link drawn between the slaughter and climate change was “rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria”.

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President Michael D Higgins denied linking the attack to climate change

In his statement, President Higgins had condemned those responsible for the attack and cautioned against “any attempt to scapegoat pastoral peoples who are among the foremost victims of the consequences of climate change”.

The Labour politician also called for solidarity with “all those impacted not only by this horrible event, but in the struggle by the most vulnerable, on whom the consequences of climate change have been inflicted”.

In a message posted to social media, Bishop Arogundade said: “To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria.

“It is very clear to anyone who has been closely following the events in Nigeria over the past years that the underpinning issues of terror attacks, banditry and unabated onslaught in Nigeria and in the Sahel Region and climate change have nothing in common.”

Responding, a spokesperson for the president said: “The president’s comments with regard to climate change related to the plight of pastoral peoples in the region and the president made no link in his statement between climate change and the attack itself. The president recognises the long connections between Ireland and the Diocese of Ondo and once again offers his deepest condolences and solidarity to the families of those who lost their lives.”