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Church leaders in Northern Ireland plead for return of Power Sharing Executive

By Sean Ryan - 28 June, 2017

“We want to express our continued concern that ... the most vulnerable are at greater risk, while crucial decisions on education, health and welfare are not being taken.”

With power sharing hanging in the balance, church leaders in Northern Ireland have issued an open letter to the five main parties, pleading with them to come to an agreement that works “for the common good of all in our society”.

They warned that Northern Ireland input into the ongoing Brexit negotiations was suffering because of the political stalemate.

They also encouraged all the political leaders involved in the talks to “go the extra mile” to reach an accommodation “which establishes a sustainable administration that will work for the common good of all in our society”.

They continued: “While we acknowledge the complexities involved in reaching an agreement, we want to express our continued concern that without an agreed budget, and with no executive ministers in place, the most vulnerable are at greater risk, while crucial decisions on education, health and welfare are not being taken.”

The letter added that they were “sure you are aware that small voluntary and community groups – who play such a vital role at the heart of our villages, towns and cities – face mounting uncertainty and are finding it increasingly difficult to support those most in need. Furthermore, with no Executive there has been comparatively little co-ordinated local input into the Brexit discussions and even less detailed preparation for what lies ahead for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole.”

The letter was signed by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, Presbyterian Moderator Dr Noble McNeely, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland the Rev Dr Laurence Graham and Bishop John McDowell, President of the Irish Council of Churches.

It was sent to DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance leader Naomi Long, Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

Northern Ireland has been without a Power Sharing Executive since March and without a First and Deputy First Minister since January. The institutions collapsed amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Féin about a botched green energy scheme.

The late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in a move that triggered a snap election in Northern Ireland. The parties have until Thursday 29 June to reach agreement. The deadline was set by Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

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