Kathy Sheridan: Armagh invite controversy reveals bafflingly poor planning

President should have anticipated likely response to decision not to attend Armagh service

President Michael D Higgins: By what ancient immutable rule is our presidential office – prized  for its lofty position above politics – obliged to respond immediately to any controversy, especially when abroad? Photograph: Getty Images

President Michael D Higgins: By what ancient immutable rule is our presidential office – prized for its lofty position above politics – obliged to respond immediately to any controversy, especially when abroad? Photograph: Getty Images

In any nuanced debate about the Armagh invitation either side with a few functioning brain cells could win the argument – or at least be humble and self-aware enough to concede that both sides have a point. The President’s decision to decline will not leave a lasting dent in the Áras limo; that will be the four days of megaphoned hostilities between our head of State and a former taoiseach, John Bruton, that was blasted across Europe.

This was more than a “spat”. It was a humiliating public exercise in mis-steps, bare-toothed barbs and bafflingly poor planning. And it took place while our President was in Rome on official State business, representing Ireland; harnessing the soft power in which we pride ourselves.

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