Service of Reflection and Hope: President Higgins, you better think again

The DUP are not a bit pleased with President Michael D Higgins. Peter Weir wants to know if the President is joining Sinn Féin and the SDLP in boycotting all events marking the establishment of NEI one hundred years ago. He’s written to the President “asking if his office is officially snubbing all events marking this milestone in the decade of centenaries”. If he is, Weir warns, he should think again.

Mike Nesbitt of the UUP manages to compliment and condemn the President in one breath: his refusal to turn up is, apparently, “Surprising, uncharacteristic and regrettable.”

Which is a bit odd, when you remember unionist comments about attending any commemoration of 1916. Here’s that nice man from the DUP Christopher Stalford :

““The events of that failed rebellion should be studied, not celebrated. The legacy of 1916 is a poisonous one as it served to enshrine the notion that armed republican groups, no matter how small or deranged, can kill and maim for Ireland.”

Ulster Unionist parades spokesman Michael Copeland said although they welcomed the Irish government’s plans to commemorate the Somme, they viewed the 1916 Easter Rising as an act of terrorism.

But hey – not to be downhearted, Peter, Mike, Christopher and whoever the current leader of the DUP is. Where the politicians fail to be grateful for 100 years of discrimination, gerrymander and state violence, the clergy step in. “The Service of Reflection and Hope” will happen in Armagh next month. Prominent among those attending will be, of course, the Church of Ireland’s Arhbishop John McDowell and – yes, you guess right, Virginia – the Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin.

Never let it be said that the Catholic hierarchy missed a chance to identify with the establishment of NEI. But of course anyone who listened to the pulpit thunder of denunciation of all things republican throughout the Troubles will be a million miles from gobsmacked by this latest gesture of Archbishop Martin.

Reflection and Hope. I think by now most of us have had time to reflect on what kind of state was built and maintained in the north-eastern corner of our country for one hundred years. We also have grounds to hope that the not-too-distant future will give us the opportunity to vote for what should become of  this twisted, condescending corner.

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