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Take me to church Minister Humphreys would be 'very proud' to attend controversial NI centenary service

'On every occasion, I have been more than proud to represent the Irish Government at whatever event I was asked to attend'

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Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys (Brian Lawless/PA)

Heather Humphreys has said that if she was asked to represent the Irish Government at a church service commemorating the partition and the foundation of Northern Ireland she would be “very proud” to do so. 

She was speaking in the wake of the controversy surrounding President Michael D Higgins' decision to decline an invitation to attend the commemoration at a church in Co Armagh.

The President has stood over his decision to decline the invitation to the religious service on the grounds that it is political in nature and commemorates the “centenary of the partition of Ireland”.

He also strongly denied any suggestion of a snub on Queen Elizabeth, who is due to attend the service in Co Armagh in October.

The Social Protection Minister told Newstalk Breakfast this morning she would have no issue with attending.

“Just to say, first of all, the Government has not received an invitation but the Taoiseach was very clear yesterday, he said that if we get an invitation we will certainly consider it,” she said.

“Can I just say that if the Government decided to send a representative and they did ask me to represent them, I would be very proud to represent the Government as I have done in the past at many different events.

“So, as I said no invitation as yet and if there is one Government will decide.”

She said she has never turned down the chance to represent the Government.

“On every occasion, I have been more than proud to represent the Irish Government at whatever event I was asked to attend,” she said.

Earlier, former Taoiseach John Bruton said President Higgins should change his mind about his “wrong” decision not to attend.

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Mr Bruton told Newstalk Breakfast last week that the service is a recognition of the existence of Northern Ireland.

"I think he is wrong not to attend, and I think there is time for him to change his mind," Mr Bruton said.

"Obviously it requires great strength of character to change one's mind, but I think he should do so.

"This is not celebrating partition, it is simply recognising a fact.

"And it is important to recognise that fact - the fact that Northern Ireland exists and is legitimate - was recognised by the Irish people when they voted in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Good Friday Agreement accepts that it is the present wish of the people of Northern Ireland that they remain in the United Kingdom until that view is changed.

"So in going to this event and recognising that Northern Ireland existed for the last hundred years, the President would simply be recognising something that the Irish people have recognised."

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