President Michael D Higgins is facing further backlash over his decision to not to attend a religious service marking Northern Ireland's centenary.
Former Taoiseach John Bruton says the President should attend the event next month claiming “he is obliged to do under the Constitution”, The Irish Times reports.
Last night, 16th September, President Higgins broke his silence on the matter and emphasised that he did not snub the Queen.
Higgins commented that the event is political in nature as it commemorates the “centenary of the partition of Ireland”.
Speaking to reporters in Rome, where Higgins is on an official 4-day visit, the President of Ireland said his issue was with the title given to the event being held in Armagh in October.
He strongly denied any suggestion of snubbing Queen Elizabeth, who is set to attend the event in Co Armagh in October, and described criticism of his declined invitation as “a bit much”, according to The Irish Times.
“What [had started out as] an invitation to a religious service had in fact become a political statement,” he said. “I was also referred to as the President of the Republic of Ireland. I am the President of Ireland.”
President Higgins spoke about the question of snubing the Queen of England.
On the matter, President Higgins said: “There is no question of any snub intended to anybody. I am not snubbing anyone and I am not part of anyone’s boycott of any other events in Northern Ireland.
“I wish their service well but they understand that I have the right to exercise a discretion as to what I think is appropriate for my attendance.”
This morning, 17th September 2021, former Taoiseach Bruton spoke to BBC Ulster on the matter, stating that on the advice of the Irish Government and obligation under the Irish Constitution, he should go to the event.
“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.
“So, 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.”
According to The Irish Times, President Higgins remarked that criticism of his response to the event is "a bit much".