By Cian Molloy - 09 April, 2017
As Northern Ireland approaches the 19th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement with an ongoing hiatus between the two main political parties – Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party – the Archbishop of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin has called for prayers for the peace process.
On Good Friday, 10 April 1998, Northern Ireland’s political leaders, nationalist and unionist, Catholic and Protestant, reached an agreement that promised a lasting peace that involved paramilitary organisations ending their campaigns of violence, a reform of policing in the six counties and power sharing in a devolved government assembly at Stormont.
However, that power-sharing arrangement collapsed following a row between Sinn Féin and the DUP. Ostensibly, the row was about how public funds were wasted in a badly run environmentally friendly heating scheme, but Sinn Féin were aggrieved at a perceived lack of parity of esteem from unionist politicians, especially considering expressions of Irish national identity, including the status of the Irish language.
An election was held, with the DUP winning 28 seats and Sinn Féin winning just one less. Out of the 90 seats in total, unionist parties won 40, nationalist parties won 39, and those classed as ‘other’ won 11.
Now the politicians are meeting in Stormont to see if they can come to an arrangement to share power with one another.
On Saturday, Archbishop Martin said: “Tomorrow, as we begin Holy Week, I am conscious that this is a critical time in the peace process. Our politicians continue to seek breakthrough at the talks in Stormont. I encourage everyone to pray this Holy Week that the talks will be guided by wisdom, courage, right judgement, and a spirit of cooperation and compromise.
“Today I offer the following prayer which was written by Rev Cecil Kerr during some of the worst years of the Troubles, a prayer which we hoped would never have to be used again. I encourage all to pray for peace this week.”
The Rev Kerr, who died in September 2010, was one of Northern Ireland’s foremost workers for reconciliation throughout the dark years of the Troubles. He and his wife Myrtle founded the Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor in 1974 and it became internationally famous for its ecumenical activity and its work for peace. His ‘Prayer for Ireland’, promoted by Archbishop Martin, reads as follows:
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the way of peace. Come into the brokenness of this land with your healing love.
Help us to be willing to bow before you in true repentance, and to bow to one another in true forgiveness.
By the fire of your Holy Spirit melt our hard hearts and consume the pride and prejudice that separate us from each other.
Fill us, O Lord, with your perfect love, which casts out fear, and bind us together in that unity, which you share with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever.