Archbishop Eamon Martin and other Church representatives have urged party leaders in the north to “go the extra mile” and restore power sharing.
The Catholic Primate of All Ireland and leaders of the Protestant faith have issued a joint open letter to the five main party leaders, including Arlene Foster, Michelle O’Neill and Colum Eastwood, as the talks process deadline looms. Parties in the north have until Thursday to strike agreement and get Stormont and the Executive back up and running. Failing this, and provided there is no extension granted in law, the north will be return under Direct Rule or a fresh Assembly election could be triggered.
The church leaders have called on the political negotiation teams to reach an accommodation “for the common good of all in our society.”
The letter, which has also been copied to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, highlights the fact that without an agreed budget, or Executive ministers in place to make crucial decisions, both the most vulnerable people and the small voluntary and community groups that serve them, are at risk.
The letter also makes the point that “little co-ordinated local input into the Brexit discussions” has taken place, “and even less detailed preparation for what lies ahead for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole” can happen without a functioning Executive in place.
They have written: “This week we strongly encourage all the political leaders involved in the talks to go the extra mile to reach an accommodation, which establishes a sustainable administration that will work for the common good of all in our society.”
The Church leaders have stated: “It has been some 114 days since March’s election to the Northern Ireland Assembly. With the current June 29 talks deadline drawing near, as Church Leaders we wanted to encourage you, and Northern Ireland’s other political leaders engaged in the talks process, and reemphasise the pressing need for everyone to act together to end the current political impasse in the interests of all in our society.
“While we acknowledge the complexities involved in reaching an agreement, we want to express our continued concern that without an agreed budget and with no Executive ministers in place, the most vulnerable are at greater risk, while crucial decisions on education, health and welfare are not being taken.
“As Christians we recognise our responsibility to pray for you and for all those in political authority and no doubt you recognise your responsibility towards the people of Northern Ireland at this time. Our prayer and hope is that you and the leaders of the other parties will take the action necessary to end the uncertainty that is weighing heavily on our society.”