Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Irish Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers will attend a church service celebrating Northern Ireland's centenary later this month. 

The prayer service, which will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II, is being organized by the four main churches in Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland. 

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins confirmed last month that he would not be attending the event, citing concerns that the event was not politically neutral. 

Higgins said that he had considered the invitation for six months and added that what started out as a religious service had turned into a political statement. 

The event has been called " marking the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the foundation of Northern Ireland" and Higgins said that the title was not a "neutral statement politically". 

"Let's be clear... that's why doing commemorations is difficult," Higgins told RTÉ last month. 

Higgins was criticized for his decision by a number of unionist politicians and by former Taoiseach John Bruton but received overwhelming support from Irish citizens. 

The Irish Government has now confirmed that Jack Chambers and Simon Coveney will attend the event at the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh on October 21. 

In a statement, the Government noted that its "role in this matter is clearly distinct from that of the President". 

"In that regard, the Government reiterates its full support and understanding for the decision made by President Higgins with regard to his attendance at the event. That decision was quite properly made by the President and was based on concerns that he had consistently expressed," the Government press release said. 

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald criticized the decision to attend the event and said that the Irish Government should "follow the lead of Uachtarán na hÉireann". 

"No member of the Irish Govt should participate in the commemoration of partition - a catastrophic event for Ireland. The decision to attend is wrong. Very wrong," McDonald said on Twitter. 

Government should follow the lead of Uachtarán na hÉireann, the President of Ireland Micheal D Higgins. No member of the Irish Govt should participate in the commemoration of partition - a catastrophic event for Ireland. The decision to attend is wrong. Very wrong.

— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) October 7, 2021

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