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Michael D Higgins denies linking Nigeria church shooting to climate change


Michael D Higgins.

Michael D Higgins.

Michael D Higgins.

The Irish President Michael D Higgins has denied that he linked climate change to a church shooting in Nigeria.

Mr Higgins had released a statement of condolences after 40 parishioners were shot dead on June 5 at St Francis Church Owo in Ondo State.

He was later criticised by a Nigerian bishop who said he had made an ”incorrect and far-fetched” claim the attack was linked to climate change and food shortages.

Gunmen wielding AK-47 rifles and explosives had attacked the congregation as they attended Sunday mass.

Another 87 people were injured in the attack with many remaining in hospital.

It was reported that the authorities suspect the insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) were responsible but so far no group has claimed responsibility.

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Mr Higgins’ statement strongly condemned the atrocity and said it was also wrong to “scapegoat pastoral peoples who are among the foremost victims of the consequences of climate change”.

He also said that the neglect of food security issues in Africa had “brought us to a point of crisis that is now having internal and regional effects based on struggles, ways of life themselves”.

This prompted a backlash from Bishop of Ondo diocese, Jude Ayodeji Arogundade.

"To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria," he said.

"Alluding to some form of politics of climate change in our situation is completely inappropriate.

"Such comments associating banditry, kidnapping and gruesome attacks on innocent and harmless citizens of Nigeria with issues concerning climate change and food securities are deflections from the truth."

In a new statement to the Belfast Telegraph, a spokesperson for Mr Higgins denied conflating the attack with climate change.

 “The President has utterly and unequivocally condemned the attack on St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Nigeria and expressed his particular horror that such an attack could happen in a place of worship,” they said.

“The President’s comments with regard to climate change related to the plight of pastoral peoples in the region and the President made no link in his statement between climate change and the attack itself.

"The President recognises the long connections between Ireland and the Diocese of Ondo and once again offers his deepest condolences and solidarity to the families of those who lost their lives in this horrific, indefensible action, and all those impacted by the attack.”

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