Poll reveals Higgins ‘right to decline’ invite to partition event

More than two-thirds of respondents back President’s decision not to attend NI centenary

A large majority of voters approve of the decision by President Michael D Higgins to refuse the invitation to attend a religious event in Armagh to mark the centenary of partition and creation of Northern Ireland, today's latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll finds.

More than two-thirds of respondents to the poll (68 per cent) agreed that the President was “right to decline the invitation”. Just 17 per cent said that he “should have accepted the invitation”, while 15 per cent expressed no opinion.

Last month President Higgins turned down an invitation from a group of church leaders to attend the event later this month in Armagh. The churches have insisted that the occasion is not a celebration of partition, but a ceremony to mark and reflect on the events of 100 years ago when partition brought about the founding of Northern Ireland. They stressed the event was to be intended to promote understanding and reconciliation.

President’s reservations

But Mr Higgins, citing fears that the event had become "politicised", declined the invitation, arousing considerable controversy. Unionist leaders criticised and expressed disappointment at the decision. Queen Elizabeth has also been invited and is expected to attend, while the Government decided yesterday to send the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to represent it at the event.


Support for the President’s decision is highest among older age groups, with 74 per cent of those over 50 agreeing with him, against just 54 per cent of those aged 18-24.

A higher proportion of Fianna Fáil voters (74 per cent) than Sinn Féin voters (72 per cent) backed the President's position, though supporters of the Green Party (81 per cent) were most likely to say he was right to decline the invitation.

Supporters of Fine Gael (19 per cent) and Labour (20 per cent) were most likely to say he should have attended the event.

Wealthier voters were slightly more likely to support his decision than voters who are less well off.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times