Áras silent on Higgins turning down centenary invitation

President not to attend Soloheadbeg event to mark IRA attack on Royal Irish Constabulary

A plaque marking the site of the Soloheadbeg ambush in Co Tipperary. The incident on January 21st, 1919, involved the first shots fired in the War of Independence. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy

A plaque marking the site of the Soloheadbeg ambush in Co Tipperary. The incident on January 21st, 1919, involved the first shots fired in the War of Independence. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy

 

Áras an Uachtaráin has declined to say why President Michael D Higgins turned down an invitation to attend an event in Co Tipperary later in January commemorating the centenary of the first shots of the War of Independence.

Mr Higgins did not accept an invitation to attend the event at Soloheadbeg which will commemorate an attack by a local IRA group on Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) men who were escorting a consignment of gelignite.

RIC men James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell were killed in the attack, which was led by IRA figures Dan Breen and Seán Treacy. The attack took place on the day the first Dáil met in Dublin: January 21st, 1919.

A local committee organising the commemoration was unhappy with the President’s refusal to participate, according to a report in the Sunday Business Post.

Men killed

It is expected that Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will represent the Government at the event, which is to be addressed by Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív, who is a grandson of former president Éamon de Valera. The former minister and historian Martin Mansergh is also due to address the gathering, which relatives of the two RIC men killed in the ambush are due to attend.

A spokesman for the President declined to say why he would not attend.

Asked if it was a result of prior commitments, the spokesman said in a text message: “Details of the President’s schedule of public engagements for that week will be published in the usual way.”

The President is understood to be in Lanzarote on holidays at present.

A separate event, which is held every year and organised by an old IRA commemorations group in Tipperary, will also take place at the ambush site at Soloheadbeg on January 20th.

Events to remember the first meeting of the Dáil in Dublin’s Mansion House are planned for the following day, including a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas at the Dawson Street venue.