Queen snubbed by Irish President as he declines invite to NI celebrations

16 September 2021, 17:01 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 17:49

Michael D. Higgins has declined an invitation to an event commemorating the centenary of Northern Ireland
Michael D. Higgins has declined an invitation to an event commemorating the centenary of Northern Ireland. Picture: Alamy

By Seán Hickey

Michael D. Higgins has declined an invitation to an event marking the centenary of Northern Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth II is set to attend a church service in Co Armagh, Northern Ireland in October marking the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins declined his own invitation, which has drawn the ire of political leaders in Northern Ireland.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was quick to remind the Irish President that HRH attended historic events in Ireland which paved new ground in Anglo-Irish relations. He urged President Higgins to reconsider his decision.

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President Higgins' representatives said that he was "not in a position to attend the ceremony" but didn't give a reason for his absence.

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The statement continued: "The President, through his office, has already conveyed his good wishes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The President has welcomed, and continues to welcome any opportunities to meet with Her Majesty and members of her family."

Commentators and politicians on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland speculated on President Higgins' absence.

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Trevor Lunn, an independent MLA tweeted "I wouldn’t criticise his decision not to join in a commemoration of the partition of his country. I don’t see it as a discourtesy to Her Majesty, just a correct if difficult decision."

Peadar Tóibín, a politician from the Republic of Ireland, defended President Higgins' position.

He said that "there isn't a president in the world that would attend an event to mark, commemorate or celebrate the partition of his or her country."

Politicians from the nationalist tradition in Northern Ireland have boycotted events commemorating the centenary of Northern Ireland this year. Unionist leaders expressed concern that "politics are at play" in President Higgins' decision hoped he would reevaluate.