Armagh service to ‘mark’, not commemorate or celebrate partition, says Archbishop

Wording surrounding event was ‘careful’ as to be inclusive, says John McDowell

Archbishop John McDowell: said difficulties between Britain and Ireland, and within Ireland, were ‘eating away’ at  gains of  Belfast Agreement

Archbishop John McDowell: said difficulties between Britain and Ireland, and within Ireland, were ‘eating away’ at gains of Belfast Agreement

 

The Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop John McDowell has said that he would respect the decision of the Irish Government if it was decided not to send a representative to a service marking the centenary of partition.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, the Archbishop said the wording surrounding the event had been very careful. It was a service to “mark”, not commemorate or celebrate partition and included those who felt that the legacy of partition had been bitter.

The Government is expected to approve plans on Thursday to send a representative to the religious service, which President Michael D Higgins last month declined to attend.

He said he had no doubt that the political parties who made up the Government “are more than able to make up their minds about the nature of the event.”

Archbishop McDowell explained that people had been invited because the organisers wanted them to come and they were held in high regard. Their presence would enrich the event and their absence would impoverish it, he added.

The people involved in the organising of the service had been working at reconciliation “in very difficult circumstances” all their lives, he added. As a significant event they wanted to make sure that everyone knew what they were planning as there were “a lot of moving parts” and it had been planned “very carefully”.

“We felt that we had got across the nature of the event we were planning”.

The Archbishop also expressed concern that the political difficulties between Britain and Ireland, and within Ireland, were “eating away” at the gains of the Belfast Agreement.

“What is needed here is some kind civic engagement, so things can be explained and understood”. He said that there had been “no local voice” during Brexit negotiations which had taken place when there were no institutions in place. “There were no contributions to their shape (negotiations).”

Because there had been so little “real input” from the people of Northern Ireland the details needed to be explained as so many areas were open to misunderstanding, he said.