he Government ‘completely understands and respects’ the President’s decision not to attend the partition centenary in Northern Ireland – but feels it is appropriate to send the Foreign Affairs Minister.
Cabinet last night agreed to send Simon Coveney and Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers to the event at a church in Armagh.
President Michael D Higgins has declined an invitation to the event noting that it had become politicised and warning that it would be inappropriate for the head of State to attend an event that commemorates partition.
The invitation is to a “service of reflection and hope to mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland”.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is due to attend the event and unionists in the North have claimed President Higgins’ decision was a snub to the UK crown – a charge the president has strongly rejected.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe defended the Government’s decision to attend.
“We believe with the way we will need to think about the future of this island in the coming years, with the conversations we will have to have, I believe it is appropriate that the Government be represented at this event,” he said. “But I completely understand and completely respect the decision that the president made.”
He said the President has a right to make his own decisions on what events to attend.
“He is the head of our State and from all the years I have seen him hold that presidency and the way I have seen him make decisions in relation to it, he is a deeply thoughtful and deeply reflective president and I fully respect and understand why he made that decision,” he said.
“The Government knows and we understand that there are many, many important political debates coming up regarding the future of this island and we believe it is important the Government be represented at this event.”