By Katie Ascough - 06 December, 2019
It has been 20 years this month since the Stormont Assembly assumed the full powers devolved to it. The damaging consequences of the prolonged, ongoing failure to restore the institutions of the Agreement are becoming increasingly clear, especially their impact on the most vulnerable in society.
As the people of Northern Ireland return to the polling booths for the Westminster elections, everyone is encouraged to vote and to urge all politicians to return to the Assembly as soon as possible.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore; Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor; Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry; Bishop Larry Duffy of Clogher; and Bishop Michael Router, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh have published the following message:
“The outcome of Brexit will have a significant impact on our fragile peace and on our political, economic and social life. Competent voices are needed to annunciate our concerns and we encourage voters to choose candidates who value positive relationships within and beyond these islands.
“On 21 October Westminster liberalised abortion laws here. The right to life is not given to us by any law or government, and any law that removes this right is unjust and must be resisted by every voter and political representative. For Catholic politicians this is not only a matter of protecting the human right to life but also a fundamental matter of our faith. Voters have a duty to inform themselves on the position of election candidates in respect of their willingness to support and cherish equally the lives of mothers and their unborn children.
“It is a matter of grave concern that payments under the welfare reform mitigation package are due to come to an end on 31 March 2020, representing a ‘cliff edge’ for many already vulnerable people. In the absence of devolved government, we call on politicians elected to Westminster to seek to ensure that the mitigation package does not end suddenly.
“We are concerned at the level of housing insecurity and the number of people, in particular families, facing homelessness. Many others are ‘hidden’ homeless who rely on family and friends for temporary accommodation. It is important that candidates for election are willing to take the necessary steps to address the current housing needs of our population.
“We have all been made aware recently of the atrocious scourge of human trafficking. In this context, we are urging all newly elected members to serve the common good by allocating significant financial and human resources to tackle this critical issue and commit to continue to work with European and international partners to combat this global phenomenon.
“These Westminster elections are very significant for the future of the social, economic and political relationships of these islands. This brings an even greater responsibility on us, as followers of Jesus, to reflect in a conscientious and informed way on the breadth of issues involved. We call for prayers for candidates and for a respectful public debate on the issues.”