Catholic Arena –

In a reply to a request today from Catholic Arena, the office of the Irish President Michael D Higgins stated the following:

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. 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.

These new comments come as the international outrage over his original statement threatens to permanently damage both the reputation of Higgins and of the Irish State across the world.

The ridicule and disgust towards Higgins came from his original comments, which mentioned climate change on a number of occasions in said statement.

The Bishop of Ondo has released a strong statement, stating that Higgins had ‘rubbed salt in the wounds of the victims’.

Since that statement, the international outrage has exploded.

Social media has been flooded with outraged objections, from Catholics and non Catholics alike.

In a report in The Irish Times, Sister Kathleen McGarvey, co-founder of the Interfaith Forum of Christian and Muslim Women’s Association, completely shredded the President’s remarks as an aversion to criticising the real source of the terrorism, Islam.

‘‘As an Irish missionary, with close ties to Nigeria as many Irish missionaries have, I feel strongly that we in this side of the world need to pay much closer attention to what is happening in Nigeria. President Higgins’s use of words reveals the ignorance of our leaders, whether conscious or unconscious, of the alarming spread of insecurity and violence in Nigeria.

To present climate change as the reason for the gruesome massacre in the church on Pentecost Sunday or for the ongoing rise of terrorist activities, banditry, kidnapping, attacks, and unabated onslaught of peoples and villages in Nigeria, is hugely incorrect and far-fetched, as Bishop Jude has said.

The cause was the very inadequate and bad governance in the country, beginning at the highest level. The people of Nigeria marooned in ongoing poverty and insecurity, see this failure as caused by others and hence it is easy to exploit the lines of division along religion, ethno-regional and political loyalties. These division lines are exploited and strengthened by the political elite class, particularly by the Muslim elite of Northern Nigeria’’

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