Belfast Telegraph

Church of Ireland Primate rebukes magazine over ‘spoilt children’ attack on Presbyterian minister

By Claire Harrison

A Church of Ireland magazine has been slapped down by its own primate after accusing a Presbyterian minister of behaving like a “spoilt child” over the issue of victims.

The Most Reverend Alan Harper has rebuked the Church of Ireland Gazette, saying an editorial attacking Rev Lesley Carroll was discourteous and “gratuitous”.

In a statement, Rev Harper apologised to Rev Carroll and former vice chair of the Policing Board Denis Bradley — who was also disparaged — on behalf of the Church of Ireland.

Rev Harper’s comments are the latest twist in an escalating row which has raised eyebrows in both the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church.

Tensions emerged on Tuesday after the latest edition of the Gazette, edited by Canon Ian Ellis, lambasted the work of the Consultative Group on the Past (CGP) which had tried to find the best way to deal with victims of the Troubles.

Rev Carroll was one of the CGP members who worked on the group’s report alongside its co-authors, former Church of Ireland primate Lord Eames and Mr Bradley.

The report contained 31 proposals on the legacy of the past but was sidelined largely due to a contentious recommendation to compensate victims’ families — including paramilitaries.

Mr Bradley and Rev Carroll defended the report to a BBC programme on Sunday. Saying that the Eames-Bradley report had been dismissed by public consultation, the Gazette said Rev Carroll and Mr Bradley “came across on the programme rather as spoilt children who had not got their way”.

Now Rev Harper has issued a hard-hitting statement against the Gazette. “I wish to disassociate myself entirely from the sentiments expressed,” he said. Rev Harper also addressed the Gazette’s criticism of the CGP.

Canon Ellis issued a statement saying: “This was not a personal attack (on Rev Carroll) and was fair comment upon an issue of considerable public interest.

“The Gazette is well aware of the need to encourage reconciliation and has pointed to last year's ‘Advice to Government’ of the Commission for Victims and Survivors in its Dealing with the Past document as a good basis for discussion.”

Story so far

Tensions erupted between the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church after the Gazette criticised Reverend Lesley Carroll’s stance on the Eames-Bradley report.

The criticism was surprising given that Rev Carroll worked on the report alongside former Church of Ireland primate Lord Eames. The Presbyterian minister had highlighted the report’s aims in dealing with victims’ issues after the row sparked by the appointment of IRA killer Mary McArdle to a Stormont special adviser’s post. The Gazette criticised Rev Carroll for continuing to push the report, saying she was acting like a “spoilt child”.

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