Church leaders call for unified response to address NI tensions

The open letter has appealed to politicians to treat Northern Ireland’s fragile peace with care. Credit: Catholic Communications Office

Church leaders have called for a unified political response to address violence and community tensions in Northern Ireland.

An open letter - penned by the Church Leaders Group - has been addressed to political leaders in Northern Ireland, the Governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the European Union.

Trouble has flared across Northern Ireland in recent weeks - largely in loyalist parts of Belfast and Londonderry and areas including Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey, and Ballymena - with 55 police officers injured in disorder not seen on such a scale in recent years.

The fall-out from Brexit and the prospect of a border in the Irish Sea are among the issues being blamed for ongoing tensions in loyalist communities.

Local church leaders - including Archbishop John McDowell, the Revd Tom McKnight, the Rt Revd Dr David Bruce, the Very Revd Dr Ivan Patterson and Archbishop Eamon Martin - have appealed to politicians to treat Northern Ireland’s "fragile peace with care."

In the letter, they write: "These challenges can only be addressed by political leaders coming together with a genuine desire to find solutions and accommodations which meet the legitimate concerns of others as well as their own."

The Church leaders have also expressed their support for policing in Northern Ireland.

They said: "The PSNI has a political legitimacy across this community which is enjoyed by few other institutions.

"It is vital that we address concerns in a way that strengthens our democratic processes rather than undermining them."

The Church leaders’ open letter has been sent to:

  • The Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive

  • The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

  • The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

  • Mr Micheál Martin TD, An Taoiseach

  • Mr Leo Varadkar TD, An Tánaiste

  • Mr Simon Coveney TD, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Government of Ireland

  • Dr Ursula van der Leyen, President of the European Commission

  • Mr Charles Michel, President of the European Council