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President Higgins says he was annoyed at DUP, not church leaders, over giving him the wrong title

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President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins

President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins

President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins has said he was never annoyed at church leaders, but instead the DUP leadership for referring to him as “president of the Republic of Ireland,” rather than his proper title.

Yesterday President Higgins had told media in Rome he had taken issue with the wording of the invitation to the event commemorating the partition of Northern Ireland.

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Letter to President Higgins from The Church Leaders Group (Ireland)

Letter to President Higgins from The Church Leaders Group (Ireland)

Letter to President Higgins from The Church Leaders Group (Ireland)

At that time, President Higgins said: “They keep referring to me as the President of the Republic of Ireland - I am the President of Ireland.”

He added: “What had once been an invitation to a religious service, or religious event, had become in fact, a political statement.”

However, this evening President Higgins clarified the statement.

The letter from The Church Leaders Group (Ireland) was leaked on social media, showing the invitation had addressed the president as ‘The President of Ireland.’

"I do want to clarify one point in my interview yesterday...,” President Higgins said.

“I may be responsible in causing small confusion and that is that the organisers writing to my office have always referred to me as the President of Ireland.

“The reference to me being a president of the Republic of Ireland is really a remark from the leadership of the DUP."

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President Higgins spokesperson also confirmed it was in fact DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson who had “referred to the president of the ROI.”

The letter from the Church Leaders Group was on behalf of the Archbishop of Armagh Most Rev John McDowell, The Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev Eamon Martin, The Moderator of the General Assembly Presbytrian Church in Ireland Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Dr Tom McKnight and The President of the Irish Council of Churches, Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson.

In the letter, President Higgins is invited as “President of Ireland to attend a Service of Reflection and Hope, to mark the Centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland.”

The letter continues: “This will be a service of Christian worship hosted, organised and led by the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, Presbytirian, and Methodist Churches and the Irish Council of Churches.

“All of these churches extend across both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. The service will provide the opportunity for honest reflection on the past one hundred years, with the acknowledgement of failures and hurts but also with a clear affirmation of our shared commitment to building a future marked by peace, reconciliation and a commitment to the common good.

“The overriding theme will be that of ‘Hope.’”

The invitation continued that a letter was also being sent to “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.”

And it detailed a congregation to include “representatives from the political leadership of Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Ireland (and) …. A cross section of the local population including some of our young people, and family members of those impacted during the difficult years of ‘the troubles’.”

President Higgins had denied subbing the event with the British Queen and instead stated that the event had gone from being “a religious event” to a “political statement.”

President Higgins has been in Rome, where he has been meeting with Pope Francis but the issue has followed him during the official engagement.

A Church source confirmed the letter leaked online was the letter that had been issued to President Higgins.

Independent.ie has asked the DUP if it had any communications where it had referred to President Higgins as the President of the Republic of Ireland.


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