Politicians ‘cannot simply offer our children more poverty’

The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, giving his presidential address
The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, giving his presidential address

Church of Ireland primate archbishop Richard Clarke has called on politicians in both parts of Ireland to find money to help the more marginalised in society and those with health and social problems.

Dr Clarke, addressing his church’s general synod in Dublin yesterday, called for meaningful political leadership in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to ensure a more positive future for generations coming forward.

“I would appeal to a wider audience and ask those who have been entrusted with political leadership to tell us what they wish to offer; to give to the future, to our children and grandchildren. It surely cannot simply be ‘more of the same’ that we wish to offer to future generations?” said the archbishop.

“There can be no simple solutions for the political class to find money for everything in their jurisdictions. However, around us we see that it is the poor who are becoming poorer and, in some cases, genuinely destitute.

“Should we not feel some sense of shame that the food bank system is now accepted as a necessary back-up to state support in a modern society?

“The generosity of so many people in supporting food banks is wonderful – a fine example of giving – and must be encouraged, but should this particular form of individual giving actually be necessary?

“Surely not in a functional humane society that looked after its weakest as a matter of course.”

Dr Clarke said all life was a gift of God – “it is never a commodity”.

“I have said repeatedly that one of the aspects of modern culture I most fear is that we have turned all human life into a commodity. The very beginnings of life and the end of life on Earth are a gift, never to be treated as anything less.

“We have seen in recent legislation in Belgium that euthanasia is now permitted for minors provided that there has been discussion with parents. This is not merely a slippery slope; it is surely near the bottom of such a slope.

“North or South on this island, we must, as Christians, never concede that life is other than sacred, a gift of God from beginning to end, never to be thrown away as though it were personal property. And yet, as you probably know, the hospice movement is not given proper support from state funding.

“If we go to the earliest stage of life, we find another acute need. Barnardo’s – North and South – can testify that there is now a massive need for foster homes for children.”

The three-day general synod continues in Christ Church cathedral in Dublin until tomorrow.