Belfast Telegraph

Politicians are urged to restore powers by church leaders

By Suzanne Breen

Church leaders are appealing to politicians in Northern Ireland "to go the extra mile" to reach a deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

As Thursday's talks' deadline looms, the clerics 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.

And they said that, unless the current impasse is broken, the most vulnerable people, and the voluntary and community groups that serve them, would be at risk.

"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," they wrote.

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 Fein'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.

The church leaders told the politicians: "I am 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 leading clerics said they prayed and hoped that all local politicians would do what was necessary to end the uncertainty.

"This week, we strongly encourage 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 said.

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