Church leaders today met with the Secretary of State who outlined her priorities for political progress in Northern Ireland. This engagement builds on a long history of dialogue between Churches and political leaders.
Those present were encouraged by Ms Villiers’ acknowledgement of the important role Churches play in society in Northern Ireland. There was open and constructive conversation with the Secretary of State following her address. The Secretary of State spoke of the need to move beyond the politics of identity to the politics of delivery. For Churches, however, there needs to be a long-term focus on what might be described as the politics of fulfilment – moving beyond a focus on service delivery to examine the relationships that can lay the foundation for lasting change.
A particular concern for Churches was the relationship between the proposed welfare reform and the process of dealing with the past. We continue to believe that agreement on the contentious issues addressed in the Haass process will bring us closer to peace and reconciliation. For many people in Northern Ireland issues such as health, education, employment and welfare are an immediate priority. In our approach to healing the past we, as a society, cannot afford to lose sight of the responsibility to care for the vulnerable.
Participants recognised the challenge to Churches to continue to play our part in working for a more peaceful and reconciled society. We reiterate our commitment to supporting our political leaders and the whole of civic society as we work to address remaining obstacles to lasting peace.
Cardinal Seán Brady, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh
Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
Rt Rev Dr Rob Craig, Presbyterian Moderator
Rev Dr Heather Morris, Methodist President
Rev Dr Donald Watts, President of the Irish Council of Churches
Notes to Editors
Spokesperson for the Church Leaders
The Church leaders have nominated the following as spokesperson: Methodist President, Rev Dr Heather Morris. Contact through Methodist Press Office, Rev Roy Cooper Tel: 077 1094 5104
Please see photo below from today’s meeting.