DUP should've accepted invite to Papal reception: Margaret Ritchie

Margaret Ritchie believes the DUP should have been represented at the Papal reception in Dublin Castle

ARLENE Foster missed an opportunity to show respect to Ireland's Catholics by declining the invitation to mark Pope Francis's visit at a civic reception, former SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie has said.

The ex-South Down MP, who is currently receiving treatment for breast cancer, said the DUP should have been represented alongside Stormont's other main parties at the Dublin Castle event.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood attended the August 25 reception for the pontiff, while Sinn Féin, Alliance and the Ulster Unionists instead sent party representatives because their respective leaders were unable to attend for a variety of reasons.

Mrs Foster declined the invitation from the taoiseach's office because she was on a family holiday, however, the DUP leader has yet to fully explain why the party was not represented.

According to Ms Ritchie, who due to her illness was unable to travel to see Pope Francis, it would have been better if Mrs Foster or her party had been represented at Dublin Castle.

The former Stormont minister, who in 2010 wore a poppy and attended a remembrance service at the Cenotaph in her home town of Downpatrick, said such invitations are "partly about the opportunity to show respect".

"It would have been better for her to have been there or for somebody to have been there in her place," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Ireland has moved on both north and south and I think it's part of leadership and about trying to reach a level of mutual understanding."

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