Republic of Ireland news

DUP yet to confirm plans for Pope's visit

Michelle O'Neill will attend two events in Dublin marking the Pope's visit. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

FOUR of Stormont's biggest parties will be represented during events marking the Pope's visit to Ireland later this month – but it remained unclear last night if the DUP will join them.

Sinn Féin has confirmed that northern leader Michelle O'Neill will travel to Dublin on Saturday August 25, where a civic reception for the pontiff will be held in Dublin Castle.

Pope Francis will also celebrate Mass in Croke Park later that afternoon.

There was speculation that the Sinn Féin deputy leader would be unable to join the events associated with the papal visit after breaking her leg last weekend.

However, a statement from Sinn Féin said: "Michelle O'Neill has received an invitation from the Irish government to both events.

"She intends to accept the invitation and is liaising with the taoiseach's office on the arrangements."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also plans to travel to the capital for the pope's visit, though it remains unclear which event he will attend.

His Alliance counterpart Naomi Long will be overseas on the weekend of the visit but a spokesman said a party representative would be taking her place.

Earlier this week, the Ulster Unionist Party said its leader Robin Swann will not attend the Dublin Castle event or the Mass, as he will he will be taking part in the annual 'Black Saturday' Royal Black Institution parade in Larne.

Lagan Valley MLA Robbie Butler will instead represent the party.

The DUP is expected to signal shortly whether Arlene Foster will be attending any events around the Pope's visit, but last night her plans remained unclear.

In recent months the former first minister has made several 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.

He will also travel to Knock in Co Mayo but is not expected to venture north of the border during his visit, despite calls from some political and religious leaders.

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