President Higgins’ actions over the Northern Ireland centenary are a massive own goal, says the former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has expressed surprise and regret at the Irish president’s explanation, commenting that he has admired Mr Higgins and found him at times inspiring.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 10:49 pm
Updated Saturday, 18th September 2021, 10:49 pm
Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "I take no pleasure in describing the president's decision as a massive own goal"

He said the president’ decision has “has the potential to infect good relations and reconciliation across this entire island and beyond”.

The MLA said: “Up to this point, I have admired Michael D Higgins’ commitment to outreach and reconciliation. My personal exchanges with him have been productive and at times inspiring, but this decision hits reverse gear hard.

“If there was a problem with language then there is no reason why the presidential support staff could not have opened a quiet back channel to resolve all issues of language.”

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Mr Nesbitt continued: “Then I hear former Taoiseach John Bruton remind us the President of Ireland has a duty, written into their constitution, to consult the Government of Ireland on matters such as attending this church service, but he appears to have gone on a solo run.

“I take no pleasure in describing his decision as a massive own goal, because it has become about much more than a single event in Armagh, it has the potential to infect good relations and reconciliation across this entire island and beyond.

“My sympathies are with the service organisers. A church service organised by the four main churches, including the two all-Ireland Primates and the respective Heads of State would have been an entirely appropriate, well-balanced occasion and consistent with my party’s vision of a Union of People.

“Now there will be an inevitable imbalance, not of the organisers’ making.”

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