The SDLP has yet to say who will represent the party at tomorrow’s centennial church service in Armagh.
Chief Colum Eastwood confirmed a fortnight ago that the party will send a representative to interfaith service in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland. However, last night an SDLP spokesperson was unable to say who would attend the event on behalf of the party.
Mr Eastwood said in a statement on October 7 that attending a service in Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital “does not diminish the Irish nationalism of anyone”.
He said he understood that receiving an invitation would be a “difficult decision for some.”
Queen Elizabeth is expected to attend the church service, as there has been speculation that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could also attend alongside representatives of the DUP, Ulster trade unionists and the Alliance.
Hosted by the four major Christian churches in Ireland, the event marking the centenary of the partition and formation of Northern Ireland has been mired in controversy since President Michael D Higgins said last month that he would not participate.
Trade unionists criticized the president’s decision, which he said was due to difficulties with the title of the event, which he saw as a “political statement”.
The Irish government will be represented by Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and Chief Whip Jack Chambers.
Sinn Féin said he would not attend, although the party came under criticism after its Stormont deputy minister, Declan Kearney, attended an event hosted by churches in Belfast last month, which he said. described it as “a welcome opportunity which has given Sinn Féin a platform, and also those from other perspectives, to present their analysis and experience of partition in Ireland”.
Tomorrow’s service sermon will be delivered by Pastor Sahr Yambasu, the first African-born leader of one of Ireland’s major churches.
The 63-year-old native of Sierra Leone was elected president of the Methodist Church of Ireland earlier this year.