By Katie Ascough - 24 December, 2019
The leaders of Ireland’s main churches have encouraged political parties to restore devolution in Northern Ireland as the talks pause for Christmas.
According to The Independent, the devolved executive and assembly of Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017 because of ongoing disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Féin and now holds the world record for the longest period without a sitting government, which it reached after 589 days.
In a joint statement the leaders of the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches said: “Like many across our community, we are disappointed that it has not been possible to restore the devolved institutions before Christmas. As leaders of Ireland’s main churches, we want to encourage all those taking part and we pray that, together, they fully grasp this opportunity when they return to the negotiating table in January.”
The Church leaders continued, “It is incumbent on all of us to recognise the road that has been travelled since the collapse of the Executive nearly three years ago. It is a journey that has damaged our health service and our schools. It has also nurtured a growing sense of despair in our politics and contributed to additional hardships and worry experienced by the most vulnerable people in our society.
“While we acknowledge that points of difference obviously remain, the goal of restoring devolution remains within reach, even if it still rests a little way off. We add our collective support for this process and encourage those taking part to continue working creatively and courageously towards a deal that can bring stability and begin to restore a sense of hope. For the sake of the whole community, we urge all our political representatives to go that extra mile.”
The bishops added that their prayer is for a demonstration of courageous leadership that can bring about a “balanced accommodation that serves the common good”. They pray for reconciliation and a “sustainable power-sharing executive in the New Year”.
“As the talks pause over the Christmas period and our thoughts turn once more to the birth of the Prince of Peace, it is our prayer that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will also rest upon the whole community and the land that we share,” the bishops’ statement concluded.
The statement was signed by Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland; Rt Rev Dr William Henry, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Most Rev Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore & Primate of all Ireland; Rev Sam McGuffin, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland; and Rev Brian Anderson, President of the Irish Council of Churches.