Partition of Ireland was ‘a terrible mistake’, says Simon Coveney

Armagh church service is ‘not a commemoration, and it’s certainly not a celebration’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said four churches had come together to try to take the politics out of the issue. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said four churches had come together to try to take the politics out of the issue. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Partition was a “terrible mistake” and has caused “extraordinary division” on the island of Ireland, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

The Government has decided to send representatives to a church service in Armagh on October 21st marking a century of Irish partition, which President Michael D Higgins declined to attend.

When asked on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland on Monday why he, along with Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers of Fianna Fáil, was going to the Armagh ceremony, Mr Coveney said it was because the Government had asked him to do so.

“I think the Government is making the right decision there, both Jack Chambers and I will be attending that service. We’ve got an invitation to go and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr Coveney said he respected the right of President Higgins to decline the invitation and had spoken to him at length about the decision.

“I understand them [the President’s reasons] but I think he recognises, as do I, that the Government is in a different position in terms of consideration and I think it is the right thing to do.

“This is not a commemoration, and it’s certainly not a celebration, this is a church service of reflection on the hurt and division of the last 100 years with a willingness to look ahead with more optimism and hope.

“It’s allowing people with very different perspectives on the past to stand in the same church and have that reflection and I’m somebody who believes that partition was a terrible mistake and has caused extraordinary division on this island, but there are many other people who have a different perspective of history and I believe we need to be mature enough to reflect together and to look forward.

“If we are going to be serious about a shared island in the future, then I think we’ve got to understand different perspectives. and we’ve got to be willing to reflect together and that’s what this is about.

“The four Christian churches have come together to try to take politics out of this issue as best they could and to provide a service in Armagh which I believe is a genuine effort to reflect on 100 years of partition and hopefully to focus on a more positive future on this island together.”