Michael D Higgins cites "political statement" in decision to turn down Armagh ceremony invitation
'I was also referred to as the President of the Republic of Ireland. I am the President of Ireland.'
President Michael D Higgins has elaborated on his decision to refuse an invitation to attend a commemorative church ceremony in Northern Ireland next month, stating that his potential involvement has become a "political statement".
The President was asked to appear at the service in Armagh alongside Queen Elizabeth in order to mark the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the foundation of Northern Ireland.
According to RTÉ News, President Higgins told reporters that what was initially delivered as an invitation to a religious service had devolved into a political statement and thus it would be "inappropriate" for him to attend.
Higgins also underlined that he had been officially referred to as the President of the Republic of Ireland, when, in fact, he is the President of Ireland.
It is understood that President Higgins had made the decision to distance himself from the event some time ago and that he does not regard his position as that of him snubbing the event.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has questioned Higgins' decision, speculating that the President may have been explicitly warned against attending.
"When I chaired the World War 1 Centenary Committee, we worked hard with President Higgins and others to develop a sense of our shared history," Donaldson wrote on Twitter.
"It is sad if he has been prevailed upon not to attend this centenary service. His absence in Armagh leaves a gap neither necessary or desired."
When I chaired the WW1 Centenary Committee we worked hard with President Higgins and others to develop a sense of our shared history. It is sad if he has been prevailed upon not to attend this centenary service. His absence in Armagh leaves a gap neither necessary or desired. https://t.co/fmRwBzjXG7
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) September 15, 2021
President Higgins is set to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday afternoon.