SIMON COVENEY says the partition of Ireland "was a terrible mistake" ahead of an event to mark a century of political separation on the island.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs says says the decision to split the island caused "extraordinary division" and stressed that the event was in no way intended to celebrate the partition.
The Irish government is sending a number of representatives to the event in Co Armagh, which will take place on October 21.
Notably, President Michael D Higgins declined an invitation to attend.
When asked on RTÉ's Morning Ireland why he was attending, Minister Coveney said it was because his government asked him to.
"I think the government is making the right decision there. Both Jack Chambers [Teachta Dála] and I will be attending that service - we've got an invitation to go and I think it's the right thing to do," he said.
Coveney said he respected President Higgins' decision not to attend, adding that he'd spoken to him at length about it.
"I understand them [President Higgins' reasons], but I think he recognised, as I do, that the government is in a different position in terms of consideration and I think it is the right thing to do.
"This is not a commemoration, and it's certainly not a celebration - this is a church service of reflection on the hurt and division of the last 100 years with a willingness to look ahead with more more optimism and hope.
"It's allowing people with very different perspectives on the past to stand in the same church and have that reflection. I'm somebody who believes that partition was a terrible mistake and has caused extraordinary division on this island, but there are many other people who have a different perspective on history.
"I believe we need to be mature enough to reflect together and to look forward if we're going to be serious about a shared island in the future. Then I think we've got to understand different perspectives. We've got to be willing to reflect together and that's what this is about.
"The four Christian churches have come together to try to take politics out of this issues as best they could and to provide a service in Armagh which I believe is a genuine effort to reflect on 100 years of partition and hopefully to focus on a more positive future on this island together."