Sinn Féin criticises decision to send Government minister to partition event

Michelle O’Neill said that sending Simon Coveney to attend the church service was ‘the wrong call’.
Sinn Féin criticises decision to send Government minister to partition event

By James Ward and Cate McCurry, PA

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has criticised the Irish Government’s decisions to send representatives to a church service marking the centenary of partition.

A statement from the Government said that it would be sending Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, as well as Government chief whip Jack Chambers.

Last month the President Michael D Higgins caused controversy when he said he would not attend the service in Armagh because he believed it was not politically neutral and had concerns about the title of the event.

The prayer service, which the Queen is expected to attend, has been organised by the four main churches in Northern Ireland.

 

In a statement on Thursday evening, the Government said it gave “full support” to the decision by the President not to attend.

Asked about news Mr Coveney would attend, Ms O’Neill said: “I think it’s the wrong call.

“It’s a matter for the Irish Government to make its own decisions. But I think that it is wrong for the Irish Government to attend the event.

“I think that we all know the sensitivities around the decade of centenaries and that those things need to be handled sensitively.

“But when it comes to the issue of partition, it’s a catastrophe. It’s failing people.

Minister for Foreign affairs Simon Coveney, as well as Government chief whip Jack Chambers, will attend a church service in Armagh to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s actually very current, and it impacts people’s lives here today and has been detrimental to relationships on this island and across these islands. So I think it’s wrong.”

Sinn Féin previously said it will not send a representative to the event.

Unionists in Northern Ireland were heavily critical of the decision by President Higgins not to attend the cross-community service.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he welcomes the decision of the Government to send representatives from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“I still very much regret that President Higgins will not be attending that service,” the DUP leader added.

“But I appreciate that the Irish government have stepped up and will be sending representatives to the service.”

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