President Higgins has pulled out of the civic dinner to be held at Belfast City Hall to commemorate the Easter Rising.
However according to the Irish News;
It is understood the fact the occasion has not garnered enough cross-party support, with a number of unionists declining invitations, motivated the president’s decision to stay away.
Commenting about the decision, Lord Mayor Arder Carson said;
I am extremely disappointed that the President is no longer attending this event, part of our Decade of Centenaries programme…
The overall programme for the decade was agreed by full council and has cross-party support; and that position has not changed. A lot of hard work has gone into creating an inclusive programme of events which is respectful of all viewpoints, and which focuses on the key events of our shared history, and those which have impacted on our city.
In this important year which reflects on the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, Belfast City Council has shown leadership in how we mark these events and I would wish that to continue. The dinner will of course be going ahead on April 8 and I am very much looking forward to the occasion.
Yet, the Alliance Party’s Michael Long directed his criticism towards the DUP for the President pulling out;
There has been a long-standing agreement that three of the main anniversaries would each be marked with a dinner, which would be events exploring the consequences of violence and looking at the significance of each event
It was an all-party approach to the decade of centenaries that was respectful to all traditions, and done with reconciliation and building a shared future in mind. Therefore it was disappointing the DUP has decided to not attend the Easter Rising dinner, which has led to President Higgins pulling out of the event.
It is particularly hypocritical of the DUP, given the party will likely be in attendance at the Somme event in a few months.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs