Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, will not be attending a church service to mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland as he says it has been 'politicised'.
Higgins, who has been President since 2011, declined the invitation to the church service at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh in Northern Ireland earlier this year because the title of the service made it "inappropriate" for him to attend as head of state.
He has now said it was not "a neutral statement politically".
"I wish their service well but they understand that I have the right to exercise discretion as to what I think is appropriate," he also said.
Armagh is also the ecclesiastical capital of all of Ireland, with it being the home of Archbishops for the Catholic and Protestant Churches. The service is to "mark the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland".
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP in Northern Ireland said it was unfortunate that Higgins could not attend when the service's focus was hope and reconciliation. He said he hopes all politicians can proceed to mark similar events in a respectful way and called it a "step back".
Sunday Times columnist and Irish write Justine McCarthy wrote: "It has been argued that the Armagh event is designed to “mark” partition rather than to commemorate it, but the action of marking can be interpreted as a form of authentication and for the president to do that would be utterly unacceptable."