The head of the Church of Ireland (Anglican) has said he hopes that Northern Ireland can continue to build on the progress towards establishing a lasting peace.
The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper, said over the weekend that he hoped the province’s leaders could heed the words of St Paul in his New Testament letter to the Romans, in which he exhorted them "not to repay evil for evil" but instead live at peace with all people.
The Archbishop welcomed the February 2010 Hillsborough Agreement to devolve policing and justice powers - which ended a lengthy dispute that almost brought down the power-sharing government involving both unionists (those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom) and nationalists (those who aspire to it being part of a united Ireland).
“[The agreement] demonstrates the common commitment of all the parties, so far as it depends on them, to live at peace and to build not only stable structures of government but also positive social relationships in order to ensure that there will be no to return to the sterility and violence of the past,” Harper declared.
The Archbishop also condemned the recent bomb scares in Keady and Newry, believed to have been the work of dissident republicans.
“Recent events have demonstrated the intent and capacity of some, a tiny faction, to try to turn back the clock. They will not succeed,” he said.
The Primate of All Ireland, as he is known, continued": “The determination of the leaders of all the parties to build on the progress that has been made, together with the undoubted support of ordinary people for constructive, efficient and purposeful ‘partnership government’, will ensure that violence and division do not return to our streets.
“Our political leaders deserve the wholehearted support of everyone as they seek to accomplish, under God, the difficult task given to them,” said the Archbishop.
The call from one of Ireland's senior church leaders came days before a crunch vote in the Assembly this week, which is is hoped will approve the devolution package - despite continued opposition from some determined sectarian voices.