More ‘uncomfortable questions’ over Irish President Michael D Higgins absence from NI Centenary service

The Irish president’s decision to stay away from Thursday’s NI centenary church service “raises uncomfortable questions” about the Irish state’s commitment to reconciliation, it has been claimed.

By Mark Rainey
Friday, 22nd October 2021, 10:10 pm
Updated Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 5:43 pm
Irish Times columnist Stephen Collins
Irish Times columnist Stephen Collins

Writing in the Irish Times, columnist and former political editor Stephen Collins (pictured) asks what Michael D Higgins “found so offensive” about a cross-community Christian service.

“The unavoidable absence of Queen Elizabeth from the church ceremony in Armagh to mark the 100th anniversary of partition may have spared the blushes of the deliberately absent President Michael D Higgins, but it has not assuaged the embarrassment felt by all those who believe in a genuine parity of esteem between the two traditions on this island,” he said.

Mr Collins added: “What precisely the president found so offensive about the event organised by the four leading Christian denominations in Ireland, billed as a Service for Reflection and Hope, is still not clear but his refusal to attend has raised a number of uncomfortable questions about the commitment of the Irish State to genuine reconciliation.”

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Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, said the leaders of church leaders handled the service “with grace”.

He tweeted: “Having spent the day in Armagh at the service marking (not celebrating) partition, I suspect that President Higgins will in time be found to be on the wrong side of history. It was a complex and painful anniversary that the church leaders handled with grace.”

Peter Lynas of the Evangelical Alliance replied: “It was a fantastic service full of gospel and grace and handled really well by the church leaders.”

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