Boris Johnson to join queen at Armagh commemorative service

Simon Coveney and Jack Chambers to represent Government at Thursday's event

British prime minister Boris Johnson will attend the church service in Armagh on Thursday marking the centenary of partition and Northern Ireland's foundation, it is understood.

Mr Johnson will join Queen Elizabeth at the commemorative service organised by Ireland's five main Christian churches.

Last month, President Michael D Higgins declined an invitation from the Church Leaders Group as he believed the title was politicised and it would not be appropriate for him to attend.

The Service of Reconciliation and Hope, which will be held in St Patrick's Church of Ireland cathedral in Armagh, will mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the chief whip, Jack Chambers, will represent the Government.

Government Buildings declined to comment on Tuesday night on Mr Johnson’s attendance, confirming only that the Ministers would attend and saying that “any invitations to the service are a matter for the organisers”.

A spokesman for Áras an Uachtaráin also declined to comment.

Also present at the service will be the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, and other Northern Ireland Office representatives.

First Minister

The North's First Minister, Paul Givan, is also expected to attend, as is his party colleague, the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson. The UUP leader Doug Beattie, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood will also be present.

Sinn Féin has said it would not accept an invitation to the event, with Stormont junior Minister Declan Kearney saying President Higgins had been "correct" to decide not to attend the service.

Other representatives from civic society known for their peacebuilding and reconciliation work have also been invited.

In a statement earlier this month, the church leaders said they “felt a responsibility as Christian leaders to explore the opportunity to deepen the work of reconciliation in a context of respectful dialogue.

“We cannot undo the past, but we can learn from it, and we all have a responsibility to contribute to the healing of relationships from our different perspectives,” they said.

Writing in The Irish Times on Tuesday, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin said he could not think of "celebrating" the centenary of Northern Ireland and the partition of Ireland, but that the event would see people "from diverse backgrounds and traditions, and with different beliefs and aspirations, coming together to pray for the healing of past hurts and to seek God's guidance in a spirit of hope for the future".