Unionists question Irish President's decision not to attend NI centenary service

Unionists have questioned Irish President Michael D Higgins' decision to decline an invitation to a church service alongside the Queen to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary in Armagh next month.

A spokesperson for the President told the Irish Times, "The President is not in a position to attend the ceremony you mention, and this has been communicated to the organisers.

"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."

DUP MLA Peter Weir has written to the President who is currently in Rome asking if he is participating in a boycott.

“The Republic of Ireland's president has turned down an invitation to be a guest at a service in Armagh marking the centenary of Northern Ireland," he said.

"I have written to the Irish president asking if his office is officially snubbing all eventsmarking this milestone in the decade of centenaries.

"If President Higgins is officially snubbing NI Centenary events, I have urged him to think again. This island has been living through a decade of centenary milestones.

"At every stage unionism has engaged positively and sought to use such events to advance reconciliation and peace.

"It is narrow-minded and deeply disappointing that Sinn Fein and the SDLP have vetoed almost every publicly funded initiative to mark Northern Ireland's centenary.

"They even vetoed the placement of a centenary stone in Parliament Buildings even though it was being gifted by unionist MLAs.

"For such high office in the Republic of Ireland to join Sinn Fein and the SDLP in boycottingcentenary events speaks volumes about that country's commitment to reconciliation and progress."