Belfast Telegraph

Presbyterian leader urges our politicians to work together

BY ALF MCCREARY

The next Presbyterian Moderator has admitted that he will not attend any service in a chapel organised by Catholic clergy.

But Dr Michael Barry said he was always willing to take part in joint services on other occasions.

"For years I have taken part with Roman Catholic clergy on civic occasions and school and other assemblies, and that is not an issue," he said.

Dr Barry, who's been minister of Sandys Street Presbyterian Church since 1985, had a baptism of fire when he took up the post in Newry. On the night of his installation a mortar bomb killed nine police officers in the town, not far from his church.

"I was in at the deep end," he said. "Those were very difficult times, but since then Newry is a different place. There has been much less tension, but the threat of violence remains real and we must do all we can to help produce a lasting peace."

Rev Barry's congregation dropped from 185 families in 1985 to 140, but he said things have improved significantly in Newry since the Good Friday Agreement.

In the wake of the stalled Haass talks on resolving divisive issues in Northern Ireland, he urged politicians to continue to work together. "I stand solidly behind the recent statement from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which urged the politicians to try to work together to move the situation forward," he said.

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