BRITISH Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in attendance for a church service marking 100 years of Irish partition in Co. Armagh today.
The event has been widely discussed, particularly after Irish president Michael D Higgins declined an invitation to the event, insisting that he felt it had become too politicised and didn't want to make any sort political gesture by attending.
Her Majesty the Queen was also set to attend, but pulled out of the event earlier this week on the advice of her doctor who advised she rest for a few days.
Politicians from both sides of the Irish border however took part in the cross-community ceremony at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral - including Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Minister of State at the Department of Defence Jack Chambers.
Notably, Sinn Féin declined the opportunity to send any representatives.
The service was organised by the leaders of the main Protestant and Catholic Churches to mark a century since the formal creation of the Northern Irish state, but was labeled a ' Service of Reflection and Hope'.
Today I was honoured to attend a service at Armagh Cathedral to mark Northern Ireland’s Centenary Year.#NIBeyond100 pic.twitter.com/lVA7GOAsBn
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 21, 2021
It began with Church of Ireland Dean of Armagh Shane Forster sending his good wishes to the Queen in light of her absence.
"We extend to Her Majesty our prayerful good wishes, and in doing so, acknowledge the significance of her commitment to the work of peace and reconciliation," he said.
Welcoming the congregation, he said: "Our past has shaped us and scarred us, it has divided us. And, yet, it has also on occasion brought us together. As we lament our failures, sorrows and pain, and recognise our wounded yet living history, may we with a united voice commit ourselves to work together for the common good, in mutual respect and with shared hope for a light-filled, prosperous and peaceful future."
Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin, who grew up in Derry, spoke about the partition of the island and said it "institutionalised difference and remains a symbol of cultural, political and religious division between our communities".
"Today I reflect as a church leader on the past 100 years. I have to face the difficult truth that perhaps we in the churches, could have done more to deepen our understanding of each other, and to bring healing and peace to our divided and wounded communities," he added.