A church service has marked the centenary of the partition of Ireland today in Armagh. The event was hosted by the five main Christian churches on the island of Ireland.
It was shrouded in controversy since it emerged in September that the President, Michael D Higgins, had declined an invitation to attend.
President Higgins objected that the title and structure of the “Service of Reflection and Hope” to “mark the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the foundation of Northern Ireland” were political in nature and hence decided to avoid the event.
Instead the Minister for Foreign Affaires Simon Coveney and Fianna Fail TD Jack Chambers, the government’s chief whip, represented the government in the presence of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Queen Elizabeth’s attendance was cancelled yesterday on the grounds of health, based on the instruction of her medics.
The head of the Catholic church in Ireland says partition remains a symbol of cultural, political and religious division on the island.
”For the past 100 years partition has polarised people on this island. It has institutionalised difference,” was the refrain from Archbishop Eamon Martin.
He added in his address “When I look back on what happened on this island in 1921, like many others in my community, I do so with a deep sense of loss and also sadness. Because for the last 100 years, it has polarised people on this island.
“I have to face the difficult truth that perhaps we in the churches could have done more to deepen our understanding of each other and to bring healing and peace to our divided and wounded communities.”
Partition was imposed on Ireland a century ago, against the wishes of the majority of its people. The border was opposed not only by republicans, but also by the so-called “constitutional” nationalists of the Home Rule party, the labour movement and indeed many southern unionists.