Belfast Telegraph

Parties must act for common good: Church leaders

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland's main Church leaders have warned that a "culture of blame" at the Stormont talks to restore devolution could lead to "an endless cycle of instability and insecurity."

They said it was now time to ask whether the progress made over recent years had begun to be taken for granted.

In a joint statement, as the British and Irish Governments came together for meetings with the parties yesterday, the senior Church representatives urged politicians to act "for the common good".

Offering advice to the parties locked into talks following last week's election, the Presbyterian, Catholic, Church of Ireland and Methodist leaders said sufficient progress in moving Northern Ireland from a mentality of 'us' and 'them' to a truly inclusive society where diversity is celebrated had not been achieved.

They said it was "disheartening to find ourselves at another potential political impasse".

Church of Ireland Primate Richard Clarke; Catholic Primate Eamon Martin; Methodist president Rev Bill Mullaly, and Presbyterian moderator the Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar said: "It was understood that peace and reconciliation would require a transformation in our political culture, moving from a mentality of 'us' and 'them' to a truly inclusive society where diversity is celebrated and all can participate in shaping the future.

"Not everything in this vision has yet been achieved as many of us had hoped, the current circumstances provide an opportunity for each one of us to ask ourselves what we are doing to make it a reality and whether we have, perhaps, begun to take the progress of recent years for granted.

"It was a vision for a fully participative democracy where elected representatives would share responsibility for governing on behalf of the whole community, with a commitment to the common good and the protection of the most vulnerable.

"In any process of conflict resolution we should be prepared to face setbacks and embrace these challenges as an opportunity to continue to learn from our mistakes, while working to put in place the necessary safeguards.

"A culture of blame will only trap us in an endless cycle of instability and insecurity."

The clergymen urged Christians to support their political leaders "through prayer and action."

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