President attends memorial service for New Zealand mosque victims

Irish President Michael D Higgins has attended a memorial service for the victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings.

A service of silence and reflection was held at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral on St Patrick’s Day morning by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to remember those who died in the mass shootings and to renew the rejection of all forms of religious and racial intolerance by Christian believers.

The death toll stands at 50 after the shootings at two Christchurch mosques during midday prayers on Friday, with dozens more were wounded.

New Zealand mosque shootings
Mr Higgins signs a book of condolence before the memorial service (Niall Carson/PA)

Archbishop Martin welcomed Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina to the service, where he expressed solidarity with the people of New Zealand, and Muslims both in Ireland and abroad.

New Zealand ambassador to Ireland Brad Burgess was among the large crowd that attended.

Archbishop Martin said: “I felt that it would somehow be incongruous to hold our regular joyful celebration of the Feast of Saint Patrick here in the Pro-Cathedral, without first finding a moment to pause and reflect on a horrific event which took place on the other side of the world but which involves us all.”

He said that the brutal murder of 50 innocent people anywhere would in itself alone be a “deplorable event of world dimensions”.

“The inspiration of the event in Christchurch – to attack people of prayer just because they were of a different faith – is something that offends Christian culture; it offends our own Irish culture, just as it offends the culture of New Zealand, a country known for its tolerance and welcome,” the archbishop said.

He added that racism and religious intolerance can never be allowed to assume even a token tone of respectability or reasonableness.

“There is no such thing as half-racism. There is no way any society can think that racist or religious tolerance should have any place within it,” he said.

“The Church of Jesus Christ and Christian believers must constantly be alert not to fall prey to the temptation of intolerance.

“History shows that when racism and religious intolerance are not addressed they contain within themselves a frightening power for fostering hatred and social destruction.”

Queues to sign the book of condolence for the victims of #Christchurch in Pro Cathedral this morning pic.twitter.com/H3r5U8f2y9

— Archdiocese Dublin (@DublinDiocese) March 17, 2019

The service was followed by mass, celebrating the Feast of St Patrick and blessing of the shamrock at 11am.

Long queues of people formed to sign books of condolence after the memorial and mass.

The books were opened to the public on Saturday, and will also be available for signing on Monday from 10am.