Bruton suggests President may be in breach of constitutional obligations

Diarmaid Ferriter says decision was ‘rock and a hard place stuff’

Mr Bruton suggested that the President’s decision not to go to the service  “runs against the Good Friday Agreement”.

Mr Bruton suggested that the President’s decision not to go to the service “runs against the Good Friday Agreement”.

 

Former taoiseach John Bruton has suggested President Michael D Higgins may have been in breach of his constitutional obligations in declining to attend a church service to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland.

Mr Bruton cited Article 13.9 of the Constitution which states that “the powers and functions conferred on the President by this Constitution shall be exercisable and performable by him only on the advice of the Government”.

The Government has confirmed that President Higgins did not seek its advice before making the decision not to attend the event in Armagh, which Queen Elizabeth II is expected to attend.

Mr Bruton suggested that the President’s decision not to go an event of this nature “runs against the Good Friday Agreement”.

The agreement recognises the legal status of Northern Ireland until, under the principle of consent, the electorate decides otherwise.

“The idea that a president wouldn’t go to something that the State recognises is problematic,” he told VMTV’s Tonight Show.

“It is not about celebrating Northern Ireland. It is about reflecting and praying for a better future.”

UCD Professor of Modern Irish History Diarmaid Ferriter said it was a myth that the President of Ireland cannot exercise “autonomy of judgement in a matter of this nature”.

Prof Ferriter continued: “It is the president’s call and we should respect his decision and judgement. He has been no slouch when it comes to commemoration.Commemoration in Northern Ireland as we all know is a delicate and difficult area.”

Prof Ferriter, who is a member of the Government’s Expert Advisory Committee on Commemorations, said attending the event was “rock and a hard place stuff”.

The President may have been put in an invidious situation where he was attending an event that nationalist parties in the North were boycotting, he said.