President under fire from Bruton

The President's decision not to attend a church service in Armagh marking the centenary of partition and creation of Northern Ireland has come under fire from former Taoiseach, John Bruton.

The former Meath TD said Mr Higgins should attend the event and appeared not to have sought the advice of the Government as “he is obliged to do under the Constitution”.

However the president has been defended by Aontú leader, Peadar Toibin who said “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.”

“The partition of Ireland has been a disaster. It set in train decades of second class citizenship for the Catholic, nationalist population. It institutionalised discrimination and state violence and it sundered thousands of townlands and communities across the northern half of this island.

“It significantly arrested the social and economic development of Ireland and it has seen the loss of thousands of lives”.

Deputy Toibin said Brexit has shown in flashing neon lights that there is a massive cost to Ireland of having a Tory party in London, with no interest or knowledge of this country, determining our future as an island. “By all means we need to foster positive healthy relationships with our neighbours but there is nothing healthy in commemorating something that has been so destructive to the Irish people”.

Mr Bruton told BBC Radio Ulster this morning: “If he had fulfilled his obligation under the Constitution, which is to take the advice of the Irish Government on this matter, they would have advised him that he ought to go.

“He seems to have some concern that it is in some way taking note of the existence of Northern Ireland as a separate entity.

“But the reality is that the Irish people in the Good Friday Agreement, which they voted on and approved in a referendum, accept the present wishes of the people of Northern Ireland to maintain the union, until that is changed.”

Mr Bruton said that in accepting an invitation to an event which is simply marking the existence of Northern Ireland for 100 years, the President would have been acting in accordance with the wishes of the Irish people.

“It appears he didn’t seek the advice of the Government which he is obliged to do under the Constitution”.

Mr Bruton said “some of the explanations the President gave for his declining the invitation involve going out of the way to take offence, in regards to the way he was addressed”.

He said he hoped the Government would send a representative to the event as the attendance of the Taoiseach or Tánaiste would “remedy some of the harm that has been done”, but the president should be there.