Did you know that the beloved Bishop Desmond Tutu berated an African woman testifying before his “Peace and Reconciliation Commission” because she would not say that she forgave the killers, torturers, and oppressors of apartheid?
There’s a brouhaha currently going on in Ireland that similarly has not caught the attention of the U.S. press. The President of Ireland is being criticized by some religious leaders who organized an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the country.
My question is: How would you expect the President of Armenia to react to an invitation to a commemoration of Ataturk’s founding of the Turkish Republic? Sometimes people are so intent on peace, love, and forgiveness that they become bullies or, at least, insensitive to the harm that has been done to others.
Here are key elements of the story excerpted from a Politico article.
DUBLIN — Irish President Michael D. Higgins says he won’t attend a religious ceremony alongside Queen Elizabeth II commemorating the foundation of Northern Ireland a century ago. His decision has roiled opinion across the island, winning cheers from Irish republicans hostile to Ireland’s 1921 partition but irritating the north’s British unionists and some politicians in the south. The planned October 21 ceremony at the Church of Ireland cathedral in Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital for both Catholics and Anglicans on the island, was intended to bring together church leaders and the heads of state of the U.K. and Ireland.
While the queen accepted her invite, Higgins declined — and initially offered no public explanation why.
During a visit to Rome to meet Pope Francis, Higgins told journalists he had rejected the invite because the event was not politically neutral — and also because the invitation had not used his correct office title.
“An invitation to a religious service had in fact become a political statement,” he said. “I was also referred to as the president of the Republic of Ireland. I am the president of Ireland.”
That distinction might seem word-splitting and petty, but it strikes at the heart of Ireland’s evolving political framework over the past century.
For that reason, it struck a particular nationalist nerve when the event organizers called Higgins the president of, effectively, only part of Ireland. The elfin 80-year-old has held the largely ceremonial post since 2011 and has often invited northern unionists to summer parties at his opulent official residence in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
But one of the Armagh event organizers, Archbishop Eamon Martin, leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said Higgins’ refusal surprised him.
“It would have been very special if the president had been able to attend. It was a bit unexpected,” Martin said.
Deirdre Heenan, social policy professor at Ulster University and a former adviser to the president, said the Armagh event “has been managed in a ham-fisted way.”
Heenan accused the Democratic Unionists of “jaw-dropping hypocrisy.” She noted that its leaders often have shunned all-Ireland events and ceremonies connected to important events in Irish nationalism, and currently were threatening to block joint meetings of the administrations in Belfast and Dublin mandated under terms of the Good Friday pact.
P.S. While I’m on a tear, please note the ethnic stereotype in the description of the President of Ireland as “elfin.”