Church leaders welcome devolution deal

By staff writers
March 27, 2007

Protestant and Catholic church leaders in Ireland have welcomed the agreement between the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein and the DUP reached their historic deal yesterday, which will see the two parties sharing power in six weeks' time.

The agreement was reached during face-to-face talks between Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and DUP leader Ian Paisley.

The meeting was arranged after the DUP leadership rejected the British Government's deadline of this evening for the restoration of devolution.

However, the unionist party, which was facing a major rift in its ranks over the issue, promised that it would share power with republicans on 8th May.

In a joint statement, Archbishop Seán Brady, Presbyterian Moderator Rt Rev Dr David Clarke, Archbishop Alan Harper and Methodist President Rev Ivan McElhinney said:

"Yesterday's announcements from the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and the President of Sinn Féin represent an important and welcome development in the search for a stable future for Northern Ireland.

"Along with many others, our Churches have long encouraged local politicians to work towards a devolved government for Northern Ireland and we trust that this is now to be realised.

"We would encourage all to continue to pray for our whole community and our future together. It is important that everybody continues to build a country where all are valued, difference is respected and peace and harmony can flourish."

The British Section of Pax Christi also warmly welcomed the historic agreement.

In a statement the organisation said: "The sight of the two leading, implacable souls, pledging themselves to work for a better and more stable future for all the people of Northern Ireland was truly remarkable. It marked an end to decades of bloodshed and violence and opened a new and promising chapter in the long and turbulent history of this part of Ireland. Everyone involved now owes it to the victims and suffering families of the conflict to seize this opportunity to build a lasting peaceful and just society.

"The historic agreement sends a powerful message of hope not only to the long-suffering people of Northern Ireland but to those in other conflict situations that whatever their problems and difficulties peaceful progress is possible with trust and dialogue.

"Our hope and prayer must be that the example of Northern Ireland will prove inspirational to all those who are working tirelessly and non-violently to bring about peace and justice in so many troubled areas of our world."

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