The current situation

The leaders of the four main denominations in Ireland meet regularly to discuss matters of current interest. The group is comprised of the Anglican Archbishop, Alan Harper, the Roman Catholic Cardinal, Sean Brady, the Methodist President, Donald Ker, and myself. Here’s the letter that we sent to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in light of the current situation.

As leaders in the four largest Christian denominations in Northern Ireland we are greatly concerned at the levels of violent crime in our society. We wish to highlight the need for a  comprehensive and collective approach by all community and political leaders in responding to this issue, so that the future of Northern Ireland will be one of peaceful respect and care for every person, particularly the most vulnerable in our society. The recent attacks on the elderly and other vulnerable groups are very disturbing.

We are particularly concerned at the most recent assessment of the activities of paramilitary groups carried out by the Independent Monitoring Commission.  We note in particular that “dissident republican activity since the early summer of 2008 had been consistently more serious than at any time since the IMC started to report in April 2004”.  We also note, more encouragingly, the welcome given by the IMC to the decommissioning to date of a quantity of UDA weapons and the “significant and positive development” of the decommissioning of UVF and RHC arms. We call on all armed paramilitary groups to immediately disarm and to stop all criminal activity. We call on everyone in Northern Ireland to support the PSNI and to cooperate fully with them in bringing those who commit crime to the due process of the law. This is fundamental to the peace and stability of a just and democratic society.

The IMC report has much to encourage, but it also highlights the continuing risk of violence we face as a society.  We believe that risk will best be overcome by demonstrating clear, united and stable political and community leadership at all levels.  While acknowledging and welcoming the steps taken by the political parties in recent years, we want to encourage all in positions of political influence to continue to provide leadership which demonstrates our ability as a society to overcome difference and work together for a better and stable future.  We assure you of our continuing prayers for you in this vital enterprise.