Church leaders meet chair of the Social Development Committee Alex Maskey MLA, and Sinn Féin delegation on welfare reform

28 Oct 2014

MLA's meet Church Leaders

From left: Rev.Donald Ker, Secretary Methodist Church; Fra McCann MLA; Micky Brady MLA; Alex Maskey MLA; Archbishop Eamon Martin; Archbishop Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland; Mervyn McCullagh, Irish Council of Churches; Rev Michael Barry, Moderator Presbyterian Church and Canon Shane Forster, Church of Ireland. Credit:

Church leaders appeal to politicians not to allow the urgent needs of the poorest to become a hostage to the wider political impasse.

Following a request for meetings over the impact of on-going cuts in the welfare system on the most vulnerable, Church leaders today met with the Chair of the Social Development Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey MLA, and other representatives of Sinn Féin. This follows their meeting on 20th October with Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA (DUP).

During the meeting they emphasised that Churches are acutely aware of the harsh realities faced by many dependent on welfare and how the current environment of uncertainty is generating high levels of fear and confusion among those who are already very vulnerable. They stressed that politicians need to act quickly to address that fear.

Pointing to increasing demands for support from Church-based charities, and the uniquely high levels of child poverty, fuel poverty, working poor and disability welfare dependency in Northern Ireland, the Church leaders appealed to all public representatives not to allow the urgent needs of the poorest to become a hostage to the wider political impasse.

They also highlighted the importance of helping the economy in Northern Ireland to become more sustainable, recognising that our particular history of conflict that has left us with some of the highest levels of social need on these islands.

The Church leaders appealed to all parties to keep the needs of the most vulnerable to the absolute forefront of their minds as they engage in the on-going talks to resolve the impasse over welfare reform.

Notes to Editors

The Church delegation included: Most Rev. Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev. Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Barry, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev. Dr Donald Ker, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Mr. Mervyn McCullagh, Executive Officer, Irish Council of Churches, Canon Shane Forster, Executive Chaplain to Archbishop Clarke, Fr Timothy Bartlett, Secretary to the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland. The spokesperson for the Church Leaders is Rev Dr Donald Ker. Mobile: 079 0152 5626 or Office: 028 9032 4554