Sir Jeffrey said,
“The detailed joint statement demonstrates that the Presidential office and titles were respected by the organisers and there was no known diplomatic attempt to alter anything about the cross-community event. Just a flat refusal to attend.
The rejection of this event by the Irish Head of State signals to unionists that the Presidential Office does not respect Northern Ireland as an entity and has little or no interest in a shared future with unionism.
Such a stance demonstrates how far the Office under Michael D Higgins has drifted from the shared future principles it once espoused. This disrespect for the existence of Northern Ireland indicates that Michael D Higgins’ office is really a united Ireland champion rather than a leader of reconciliation.
This saga has been a sad reflection on many years of outreach by unionists like me and others. I have travelled the length and breadth of the island showing respect and explaining unionism. I have stood in gardens of remembrance with my head bowed to show respect for people who were opponents of the Union. But I recognised that to take those steps was important to heal division.
Rather than reciprocate on this occasion, Michael D Higgins has not only devalued and undermined such steps, but he has set back north-south relations to the detriment of the Office which he holds.”