Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is set to attend a religious ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of the partition of Ireland later this month after President Michael D. Higgins refused an invitation to the event.
Coveney is set to represent the Irish Government at the "service of reflection and hope to mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland" at St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh City on October 21.
Coveney has yet to confirm his attendance, while a spokesperson said that the matter would be discussed at the next cabinet meeting.
The event, which will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II, provoked controversy last month when President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins announced that he was declining an invitation due to the reference to the partition of Ireland.
Higgins publicly defended his decision and denied that he was "snubbing" Queen Elizabeth II. Instead, he said: “What [had started out as] an invitation to a religious service had in fact become a political statement,” adding, “I was also referred to as the President of the Republic of Ireland. I am the President of Ireland.”
He added: “I wish their service well but they understand that I have the right to exercise a discretion as to what I think is appropriate for my attendance.”
Higgins faced criticism from former Taoiseach John Bruton, who claimed that his decision "runs against the Good Friday Agreement".
Bruton also claimed that Higgins's decision was unconstitutional because he did not seek the advice of the Government.
However, Coveney said at the time that Higgins was entitled to make his own decision on the matter.
"We didn’t give any clear advice to the President in relation to this particular event. I think it’s quite clear from the statements that the President has made in relation to it that he made his own decision," he told reporters.
"He is the head of state, he is entitled to make his own decisions on his own diary and the events he attends. I think he has answered for himself on that, but if we do receive an invitation, of course, we will give it serious consideration," Coveney said, hinting that he would attend the event.