Northern Ireland news

Broken leg may thwart Michelle O'Neill's bid to join Pope's historic visit

Michelle O'Neill speaking in west Belfast on Saturday shortly before she broke her leg

It remains unclear whether a broken leg will prevent Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O'Neill from travelling to see the Pope during his visit to Ireland later this month.

Ms O'Neill broke her right leg in Belfast on Saturday evening.

She had attended the annual Pride parade through the city centre before taking part in a Féile an Phobail event later on Saturday afternoon.

It is understood the Mid Ulster MLA was injured after tripping near Bank Square, close to the southern side entrance of the Castle Court shopping centre.

Yesterday she tweeted after receiving surgery on her injured leg at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

"Very grateful to the wonderful hospital staff at the RVH who where all amazing," the Tweet said.

"Thanks also to all those who’ve sent well wishes x."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was among those who wished the Sinn Féin deputy president a speedy recovery.

Both Stormont leaders and their counterparts from the DUP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance have been invited to events involving Pope Francis on Saturday and Sunday August 25 and 26.

Pope Francis arrives in Ireland on August 25. Picture by Alessandra Tarantino, Associated Press

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's office has written to the five leaders asking if they would like to attend events associated with the papal visit, including Mass in Dublin's Phoenix Park or the Angelus in Knock, Co Mayo.

The party leaders have also been invited to a civic reception in Dublin Castle, where the pontiff will give a speech to an audience that will include Irish government representatives and members of civic society from both sides of the border.

Only the Ulster Unionist Party has so far signalled that its leader Robin Swann will not attend the Dublin Castle event, as he will he will be taking part in the annual 'Black Saturday' Royal Black Institution parade in Larne, which takes place on the same date.

Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler will instead represent the party at the event.

The DUP press office has yet to say whether leader Arlene Foster will travel to any of the events associated with the Pope's visit.

In recent months the former first minister has made a number of outreach gestures, including attending the Ulster GAA football final in Clones and an LGBT event organised by Pink News at Stormont.

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin for his first visit to Ireland - and the first by any pontiff since 1979 - on Saturday August 25.

The Pope will not travel north of the border during his visit, despite calls from some political and religious leaders.

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