Sir Jeffrey Donaldson hit back at the Irish President for his reasons for declining an invitation to a centenary event with the Queen saying he should recognize the existence of Northern Ireland.
We have said that the president’s words were backward and disappointing.
“He talks about being the President of Ireland and not the President of the Republic of Ireland. Despite the fact that people voted to remove the land claim on Northern Ireland and there was recognition in the constitution of the Republic of Ireland the existence of Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom.
“[His language] is not forward thinking, it does not recognize the reality that Northern Ireland is part of the UK, âhe told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.
He also said he was disappointed that the event organized by the church had turned political.
“It’s a throwback to the good old days where the president believes he’s president of the whole island, which we all know he isn’t.”
He pointed out how the service had been organized by churches and not by political parties and was done on the basis of hope and reconciliation.
âComments are not conducive to reconciliationâ¦. many people in the Republic of Ireland will regret what happened because I think there is goodwill.
He added: “Not acknowledging the existence of Northern Ireland really doesn’t help anyone.”
He said the case had become political and he was disappointed that it had been “dragged to this level”.
“I felt President Higgins would be on top of that and the four churches will be disappointed that a service to promote hope and reconciliation – and my God, we need it right now – was really drawn to. this level. “
He said he believed the public would have many more pressing questions on their minds and “the fact that we have to talk about this topic shows how ridiculous this situation is.”
“I thought the president would have risen above the politics of all of this.”
It emerged earlier this week that Mr Higgins had declined an invitation to the event in Armagh hosted by church leaders.
The president said the religious event had turned political and his only reason for not attending was “related to the title” of the event.
Speaking to media in Rome on Thursday, he said: âWhat was once an invitation to a church service, or a religious event, has, in fact, become a political statement.
“What started as a church service or a reconciliation is now the celebration, the marking, I think that’s the word used, the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland, it’s a different thing. “
The president also criticized âthe DUP peopleâ for not attending the events in Northern Ireland in which he had participated.
Sir Jeffrey said DUP members had attended “many events” alongside the President.
“And I welcomed his participation in these events,” he said.
“I felt that we were making real progress in terms of recognizing and recognizing our common history and I think what happened here is a step backwards and it does not help us to move forward towards reconciliation. “
He added: “When we think of the standard set by the Queen, the borders she crossed, the taboos she broke, the remarkable way she behaved which set the standard of reconciliation, it’s really disappointing President Higgins as head of state because the Republic of Ireland has really not been able to intervene on this occasion.
The DUP leader stressed that it was not only his party that called on President Higgins to reconsider his decision, but that his language only “continued the negative attitude” surrounding trade unionists.
“Trade unionists who watch this and listen to his language will be deeply disappointed, and it tells us a lot about the lingering negative attitude there is towards trade unionists, who we are, where we are and who we are. even from Northern Ireland itself “, said the MP.
He said his party’s boycott of north / south meetings was about practical and cooperative agreements and that the protocol was damaging the east / west agreements they were withdrawing.
âThis service, frankly, is not about politics and I’m sorry it was dragged to this level,â he said.
“It’s not what I wanted … it doesn’t push us towards reconciliation.”
The DUP leader also said it was disappointing that the nationalist parties in Northern Ireland had also withdrawn from the Northern Ireland centenary events.
Meanwhile Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said there had been “consultation” but no clear opinion on the issue between his department and the President’s team on the invitation, but he insisted that Mr. Higgins had made the decision not to attend.
“There have been consultations between the Foreign Office and the Aras on this issue and many others, but I can assure you that President Higgins is the kind of person who makes his own decisions,” he said. he declares.
“He listens to all points of view, then makes a judgment for himself.
“And, you know, he made his decision about it. He gave an explanation on the basis of that decision and I think we have to respect that.”
When asked if he would attend the service if invited, Mr Coveney said: “The Irish government has not received an invitation to the event you are referring to, but if we do receive a invitation, of course, we will give it serious consideration. “
Mr Coveney said he “was not going to question the decisions of the Irish president”.
“He makes his own decisions and he makes his own choices, and I respect that,” he said.
Download the Belfast Telegraph app
Get quick and easy access to the latest news, sports, business and opinion from Northern Ireland with the Belfast Telegraph app.