Martin says he would give consideration to going to service in Armagh if invited

Taoiseach says he respects the President’s judgement, and that Higgins has given ‘a lot of time and energy to commemoration’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin attending the opening ceremony of the UN General Assembly 2021 in New York. Photograph: Irish Foreign Ministry Twitter account

Taoiseach Micheál Martin attending the opening ceremony of the UN General Assembly 2021 in New York. Photograph: Irish Foreign Ministry Twitter account

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he would give consideration to going to a controversial religious ceremony marking the centenary of partition and the foundation of Northern Ireland if an invitation is extended.

President Michael D Higgins declined the invitation to next month’s interdenominational service in Co Armagh, which is to be attended by Queen Elizabeth. This prompted claims from some in the unionist community that this amounted to a snub.

Mr Higgins said a reference to partition in the title of the event politicised it in a way that made it inappropriate for him to attend.

The Taoiseach, who is in New York for meetings at the United Nations, was asked if he would attend the event or send another Government representative.

Mr Martin said the Government had not received an invitation yet. He said he respected the President’s judgement, and noted that Mr Higgins had given “a lot of time and energy to commemoration”.

“Suffice to say that I certainly respect his position, and I understand where he’s coming from,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned the Government will consider any invitation that comes in. We’ll give that due consideration and make decisions at that time.”

Asked if he would go if invited, Mr Martin replied: “As I said, I’d give it consideration, but we haven’t made any decision in that respect.”

Asked if he had concern over his own attendance given Mr Higgins’s decision, he reiterated that he respected the President’s position.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys, whose has been mooted as a possible candidate to represent the Government at the service, was asked at a press conference in Dublin if she would attend if asked.

Ms Humphreys said she had been proud to represent the Government at many events before, but that no invitation had been received at this stage.

Redress

Separately, the Taoiseach said he did not believe Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was ruling out 100 per cent redress for people whose homes have been damaged by mica block after the the Fine Gael leader raised concern about the possible cost of such a scheme.

Mr Martin said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien was in discussions with homeowners’ representatives, and this process is due to conclude at the end of the month, before a proposed scheme is brought forward for consideration by the Government.

The Taoiseach said he had visited families in Donegal, where many of the mica-affected homes are located, and that “you can see how soul-destroying” finding the material in their homes had been.

“We want to respond in an empathetic and effective way to enable them to have this situation rectified. It will be an enormous challenge given the scale of it, but we’re very committed as a Government to doing that.”