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Cleric implores Northern Ireland's leaders to broker an agreement 'for common good of all'

By Noel McAdam

Published 02/11/2015

Rev Norman Hamilton
Rev Norman Hamilton

A former head of the largest Protestant denomination has urged the Stormont parties to focus on a deal for "the common good".

The Rev Norman Hamilton, who was Presbyterian moderator in 2011/12, yesterday told each of the parties they were unlikely to achieve all their aims.

But he also urged the British and Irish Governments to "play their parts" in ensuring a way to rescue the Stormont House Agreement can be found.

His intervention came as the talks chaired by the London and Dublin governments aimed at tackling the existence of republican and loyalist paramilitaries and the stalemate over the introduction of welfare reform in the province appeared to reach the make-or-break stage.

Both First Minister Peter Robinson of the DUP and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein have said they hope to see an agreement in "days rather than weeks."

In a statement yesterday, the very Rev Dr Hamilton, who is convenor of the church's Council for Church in Society, which deals with political issues, said: "This is a critically important week for Northern Ireland.

"As is the nature of any negotiation, those involved are unlikely to achieve everything that they set out to achieve, so as a Church we would encourage all the participants to work resolutely to find an accommodation for the common good of all the people of Northern Ireland.

"As a Church, we also hope that both the British and Irish Governments would play their part by positively contributing to an agreement that will both deal with the outstanding issues, and lay a foundation on which trust and confidence can be rebuilt.

"All those involved in the negotiations will be in our prayers and the prayers of many other people this week."

In Ireland north and south, the Presbyterian Church has more than 240,000 members spread across a total of 545 congregations in 19 Presbyteries - making it the biggest of the four main churches, including the Church of Ireland, the Catholic church and Methodists.

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