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'Constitutional republican' Jack Chambers attending NI service 'to build on peace and reconciliation'

The Fianna Fáil MInister of State is to attend the event with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers.
Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers.
Image: Leah Farrell

MINISTER OF STATE Jack Chambers has said he is a “constitutional republican” and that his attendance at next week’s church service in Armagh is about “trying to build up trust”. 

Chambers is to attend the service, which marks partition and the formation of Northern Ireland, as a representative of the government along with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. 

President Michael D Higgins declined an invitation to the service, which is being organised jointly by the main Christian churches on the island of Ireland, saying that that the title of the service “isn’t a neutral statement”.

The government said in a statement last week that it would send representatives to the event as its role was “clearly distinct from that of the President”. 

Speaking today about the event, Chambers said he believes in uniting Ireland but that this includes “facing truths” and “building on the work of peace and reconciliation”. 

“I’m someone who is a republican and a nationalist, and I share that constitutional republicanism with many in my party. And I respect that certain people across different parties will have different perspectives on this,” he said.

I think when you look at what the invitation actually sets out, it says it’s about peace, it’s about healing, it’s about reconciliation, it’s about facing truths about failings in leadership and building on the work of peace and reconciliation. 

The churches have previously said that the “Service of Reflection and Hope” is being held “to mark the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland”. 

Chambers today described partition as “devastating for this country”. 

“I’m someone who believes in uniting our people and uniting our Ireland, but I believe that in the spirit of constitutional republicanism,” he said.

Several representatives with Chambers’ Fianna Fáil party have said that the government should not attend the event, with TDs from Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats also saying that it was not appropriate to attend. 

 

Chambers today highlighted his party’s role in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement and said that “the principle of consent was key”.

“We all respect, certainly I respect, that there are people who have a very different view of history and come from a very different tradition. I think leadership is about bringing people with us, and trying to build up trust and reconciliation, and build a more prosperous future on our island,” he said.

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Following the controversy caused by the President’s decision not to attend, the church leaders behind the service said they were  “saddened by the polarised public commentary” around the event which they said was “primarily to gather in prayer for healing of relationships”.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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