Northern Ireland power-sharing deal welcomed

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 16, 2007
DUBLIN, Ireland - Irish and British church officials welcomed the announcement that political parties in Northern Ireland have agreed to share power again.
The March 26 announcement represents “an important and welcome development in the search for a stable future for Northern Ireland,” said a statement from Ireland’s Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist church leaders. Among those signing was the Irish primate, Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland.

The statement said the churches had worked for a devolved government for Northern Ireland, “and we trust that this is now to be realized.”

It encouraged people to continue to pray for their communities.

The British section of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi welcomed the announcement and said, “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 predominantly Protestant Democratic Unionist Party and predominantly Catholic Sinn Fein agreed to set aside decades of animosity and share power with each other to rule Northern Ireland, beginning May 8.

The power-sharing arrangement was proposed in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to end the violence between unionists, who are mainly Protestant and favour continued British rule, and nationalists, who are mainly Catholic and want Northern Ireland reunited with the Irish Republic. While power-sharing governments have been established, they have fallen apart several times, most recently in 2004.

On March 23, Pope Benedict XVI met with Irish President Mary McAleese, who told reporters the Pope said such a power-sharing government would be “a very powerful Christian witness” for other areas where conflicts include a religious component.

The Vatican said only that McAleese’s meeting with the Pope included a discussion about “the development of the peace process in Northern Ireland.”

McAleese also told reporters she renewed the invitation of the Irish government and bishops for Pope Benedict to visit the nation. The Pope responded, “We will have to see what is possible,” McAleese said.

The president said, “It would be a great honour and privilege” to host the Pope.

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