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Unionists aren’t angry, Mr Higgins, it’s worse: they’re disappointed in you

3 8 27

Dear Michael D Higgins,

For a man I’ve always admired as being dedicated to outreach and accord, you’ve fairly pulled the rug of reconciliation out from beneath the feet this week.

You’ve declined an invitation to a church service, which will be attended by all the leaders of the main churches here, on the grounds that you don’t like the title of the event (it refers to “marking” the centenary of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland); you are annoyed that the invite referred to you as President of the Republic of Ireland, rather than President of Ireland; you feel it has been politicised; and you don’t see a lot of traffic in your direction by the DUP. Phew!

The first point I’d like to make is that last point. The DUP, Mr Higgins, do not represent all unionists in Northern Ireland. Sometimes, they don’t even represent their own members.

But, coming as I do from the unionist community, I think can give you some idea of how your announcement has gone down with ordinary unionist punters.

Short answer: not well. General consensus: it’s not like you.

Starting with that original statement your office issued... oddly, for a self-avowed socialist, it gives the impression that you’re more concerned about how the Queen will take your non-attendance than you are about the feelings of working-class unionists. That you’re more worried about how it will go down in Buckingham Palace than in the council houses of east Belfast.

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