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You have a Christian duty to vote on 8 June, Northern Irish bishops tell Westminster electorate

By Cian Molloy - 29 May, 2017

Northern Ireland’s Catholic bishops have urged all those eligible to vote in the forthcoming Westminster elections to do so, saying it is a Christian duty to use their democratic franchise.

Furthermore, the six counties’ leading churchmen have identified key issues that voters should ponder before deciding how to cast their vote, including: endemic child poverty, which affects more than 100,000 Northern Irish children; the ongoing reductions in funding for education and health care; the potentially destabilising impact of Brexit; the right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death; and the impact of climate change and global warming.

“The Christian vocation to transform the world in the light of the Gospel commandment to love includes the duty to participate as informed and co-responsible citizens in the democratic process,” says the statement issued jointly by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor, Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry and Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, diocesan administrator of Clogher.

“This [vocation] includes the serious moral duty to weigh up the issues at stake in each election, to carefully consider the position of individual candidates and to vote in the manner which each individual’s conscience sincerely discerns will maximise the common good and diminish objective moral evil.

“It is regrettable that so many citizens today seem alienated and disheartened by the experience of politics, especially our younger people. The experience of prolonged political instability often diminishes trust and confidence in the noble vocation of politics. However understandable, it would be equally regrettable if Christians and other citizens disengaged from the political process by not voting in the forthcoming Westminster election. A fundamental responsibility of every follower of Jesus is to transform the world with hope. Every vote in favour of a more just, peaceful and caring society is a concrete and personal expression of that hope. That is why we strongly encourage all citizens to vote in the forthcoming election.”

Sculpture symbolising reconciliation between different traditions in Derry

To help voters decide on which politicians should get their vote on Thursday 8 June, the bishops have suggested a number of questions that they could pose to individual candidates they might meet on their doorsteps or on the hustings elsewhere:

  • How will you and your party best develop the employment opportunities and good housing necessary for individuals and families to lead prosperous and fulfilled lives?
  • How will you and your party achieve a more environmentally sustainable society through effective public transport, the promotion of renewable energy and the reduction of waste food and packaging?
  • How will you and your party protect and promote the value of every human life from conception until natural death?
  • How will you and your party develop an education system that promotes the best outcomes for all young people?
  • How will you and your party ensure that government commitments to resettle refugees are kept and options to expand these initiatives are considered?
  • How will you and your party ensure that the developing Brexit process does not damage our society and ensure that Ireland, North and South, remains an outward looking country within the community of nations?
  • Regarding our constitutional status, how will you and your party promote a consensus-led society for all people?

Thanking all those who are standing as candidates in the election for their willingness to provide civic leadership, the Catholic bishops urge all sections of Northern Irish politics “to reject any divisive language and actions which will hamper the development of a new, more positive political atmosphere after the election”.

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