Nesbitt expresses surprise and regret at Irish President’s explanation

The former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has expressed surprise and regret at the explanation given by Irish President Michael D Higgins for his decision to decline the invitation to the forthcoming church service in Armagh that will be attended by Her Majesty the Queen.

Mike Nesbitt 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.

“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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