Belfast Telegraph

Presbyterian anger over 'spoilt child' jibe at cleric

By Claire Harrison

The Presbyterian Church has leapt to the defence of a minister accused of behaving like a "spoilt child" by a Church of Ireland magazine - branding its comments out of order.



The Rev Lesley Carroll has been staunchly defended by her Church after coming under fire in an astonishing attack in the Church of Ireland Gazette.

The Gazette, edited by Canon Ian Ellis, was critical of Rev Carroll's recent defence of the contentious Consultative Group on the Past (CGP) which had tried to find the best way to deal with victims of Northern Ireland's troubled past. Rev Carroll worked with the goup, which produced the Eames-Bradley Report, alongside its co-authors, former Church of Ireland primate Lord Eames and former vice chair of the Policing Board Denis Bradley.

Tensions are emerging between the two major churches after the question of how to deal with victims was raised by the recent appointments of IRA killers Mary McArdle and Sean McGlinchey to high-profile Sinn Fein posts. There was widespread anger after Ms McArdle, part of an IRA gang who killed judge's daughter Mary Travers in 1984, was appointed special adviser to Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin. Community relations have also been under strain at Limavady Borough Council after Sean McGlinchey, part of a gang which bombed Coleraine in 1974 killing six people, was appointed mayor.

Mr Bradley and the Rev Carroll spoke to a BBC programme on Sunday and called for the CGP report, which was largely rejected by public consultation, to be re-visited against the backdrop of the rows. The Gazette said both members "came across on the programme rather as spoilt children who had not got their way".

In the wake of the surprising criticism, Presbyterian Church communications secretary Stephen Lynas has written to the Belfast Telegraph accusing the Church of Ireland Gazette of a "personal attack".

"It is perfectly reasonable for the Gazette and Mr Ellis to debate the rights and wrongs of the Eames-Bradley Report and the recent BBC interview with Dr Carroll and Mr Bradley," he wrote. "However, to issue a personal attack and describe them as 'spoilt children who had not got their way' is out of order.

"Recent events including the appointment of Mary McArdle, the Smithwick Tribunal and the row in Limavady Council show that the past is still with us. We have not dealt with it and until we do our past retains the power to keep us in its grip."

Mr Lynas highlighted the need for victims' issues to be addressed.

"We need, as a society, to begin to deal better with our past. Who better than the churches and their magazines to set an example of how to face up to the issues and help us handle ourselves among people with whom we differ?

"Dr Carroll and Mr Bradley have devoted their time and experience in attempting to plot a better way forward for everyone. Constructive criticism and debate is good, but personal attacks by those in positions of influence and responsibly do not benefit anyone."

background

The Church of Ireland Gazette completely dismissed the work of the Consultative Group on the Past which was chaired by its former primate Lord Eames. The report, known as Eames-Bradley, was published in January 2009 to outcry after recommending that the families of all victims of the Troubles should be awarded compensation of £12,000, including paramilitaries. Overall it contained 31 proposals on how to deal with the legacy of the past, which were largely overshadowed by the compensation row.

The report has effectively been sidelined since strong opposition was found during public consultation.

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