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22/10/2021

Longford-Westmeath TD hits out at Chambers over partition church event

Longford/Westmeath Fianna Fáil general election candidate Joe Flaherty

Longford/Westmeath TD Joe Flaherty has questioned the merits behind two government representatives being sent to an event next week commemorating the partition of Ireland

Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Joe Flaherty has said there is “no reason” for party colleague and Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers to join Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney in attending an event next week commemorating the partition of Ireland.

Mr Flaherty questioned the rationale behind last week's confirmation Mr Chambers will join his more senior ministerial colleague at the Service of Reflection and Hope event in Armagh.

He also appeared to canvass the suitability behind a ceremony in similar fashion to that of President Michael D Higgins, who has already declined an invitation.

“There should be no acknowledgement or commemoration of any event that acknowledges the partition of our country,” he said, describing it as arguably the most “divisive” episode in its history.

Mr Flaherty referenced the part played by peacemakers of the ilk of late former taoiseach Albert Reynolds in ensuring the “festering sore” of partition was addressed.

The Lanesboro native stopped short of endorsing Mr Coveney's decision to attend, but was more critical of Junior Minister and government chief whip Mr Chambers anticipated attendance.

“I appreciate any commemorative event is important but it needs, to be first and foremost, a community event,” he said.

“Whatever about Simon Coveney attending in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs there is no reason Jack Chambers should also be attending.”

Mr Flaherty's remarks are in stark contrast to those of Mr Coveney who has already fended off questioning over the event.
The minister said he was attending because, “the Government has asked me to” and said he believed, “it is the right thing to do”.

That came following President Higgins' insistance that he would not be attending as he believed the title of the commemoration service in Armagh had a title that was not “politically neutral”.

The prayer service, which Queen Elizabeth is expected to attend, has been organised by the four main churches in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin has, predictably, been equally critical of the Government's decision to send representatives to next week's ceremony.

Vice president Michelle O'Neill said she believed it was the “wrong call” for senior government figures to attend, arguing how centenary occasions like next week's needed to “be handled sensitively.”

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