Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster turns down invitation from Irish Government to Pope's visit

Arlene Foster has turned down an invitation to an event during the Pope's visit.
Arlene Foster has turned down an invitation to an event during the Pope's visit.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has declined an invitation from the Republic of Ireland's government to attend an address by Pope Francis at Dublin Castle.

Mrs Foster said she "appreciated the invitation" but that she will be regretfully away with her family at the time of the visit.

"She particularly acknowledges the significance of this event for many Roman Catholics in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland," a DUP spokesperson said.

It is understood no one else from the party will be attending.

Mrs Foster has made attempts at bridge-building in recent months, attending an Ulster GAA Final and speaking at an LGBT event.

The BBC has reported Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill will attend both the address and the papal mass in Phonenix Park.

The UUP Robin Swann is unable to attend the papal address as he will be participating in the annual Black Saturday Parade in Larne, but Robbie Butler will represent the party instead.

Mr Swann has no plans to attend the Papal Mass on Sunday.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood will be going to Dublin, but has not decided which event.

Alliance party leader Naomi Long is unable to go but the party will be sending someone else to Dublin in her place.

The Pope's visit will take place over two days on August 25 and August 26, with a speech at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin's Croke Park on the Saturday, followed by mass in Phoenix Park the following day.

The Pope's address at Dublin Castle takes place on Saturday August 25.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Charles McMullen will attend the event alongside other religious and civic leaders.

Dr McMullen and his wife Barbara will attend a concert at Croke Park, at the invitation of Archbishop Eamon Martin.

The Taoiseach's department had said that it plans to invite the leaders of all Northern Ireland's political parties to the service in Phoenix Park on August 26.

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