NI party leaders sit down with Church leaders

Church and political leaders at the meeting in Belfast on Friday
Church and political leaders at the meeting in Belfast on Friday

Talks between Northern Ireland’s five main parties and Church leaders in Belfast today focussed on “relationships and trust”, a spokesperson for the leaders of Ireland’s largest Churches has said.

The meeting took place earlier today at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Assembly Buildings in Belfast.

The leadership of the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance were joined by the leadership of the Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Catholic and Methodist Churches in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the Church Leaders’ Group said: “The meeting was an opportunity for the Church leaders to discuss their concerns over the impact of the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland and to explore ways in which they as Church leaders might be of assistance to political representatives in facing the challenges that lie ahead.

“The Church leaders affirmed the vital place of political leadership in democratic societies and the significant level of personal commitment which that entails for those who seek to serve society in this essential way. In seeking to meet with the politicians, the Church leaders said, “In times of increasing global uncertainty, local leadership is vital to protect employment and essential public services, to give our communities – and especially our young people – a sense of confidence about the future.”

The spokesperson continued: “There was a wide-ranging conversation around the need to restore public confidence in the political process and institutions. Major themes arising from this morning’s conversation included the importance of relationships and trust. Leaders reflected on the need to create the space to allow for more constructive public discourse and for new relationships of trust to develop.”

The Church leaders present were: Right Revd Dr Charles McMullen (Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland), The Most Revd Eamon Martin (Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland), The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke (Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland), Revd William Davison (President of the Methodist Church in Ireland), Revd Brian Anderson (President of the Irish Council of Churches).

The political leaders and representatives present were: the DUP leader Arlene Foster alongside Dr Philip Weir; Sinn Fein Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill alongside Conor Murphy MLA; SDLP leader Colum Eastwood alongside Nichola Mallon MLA; UUP leader Robin Swann alongside Robbie Butler MLA; and Alliance deputy leader Dr Stephen Farry MLA alongside Trevor Lunn MLA.