Churches unite in plea for political stability at Stormont


Political instability in Northern Ireland is hurting the most vulnerable, church leaders warned.

The heads of the Catholic and Protestant faiths in Ireland came together to urge politicians to take a "critical opportunity" to restore hope.

The fallout from the shooting of Kevin McGuigan by IRA members and the other problems besetting power-sharing in Belfast are on the agenda in cross-party negotiations at Stormont House which began yesterday.

The clergymen said: "Threats to the peace process are most keenly felt in those areas that benefited least from the progress of recent years.

"A long-term vision, which includes effective measures to address poverty and socio-economic inequality, is essential to rebuild trust and advance the work of reconciliation."

The head of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Brian Anderson; Church of Ireland archbishop Richard Clarke, Catholic archbishop Eamon Martin, Presbyterian moderator Dr Ian McNie and Dr Donald Watts who presides over the Irish Council of Churches signed the joint statement.

"For the rising number of people struggling to cope on low incomes, the current political instability brings further anxiety. In addition to uncertainty about the impact of welfare reform, cuts to essential public services and the failure to agree a budget for future service provision have significant implications for the most vulnerable members of our society."

Yesterday Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness urged anyone with evidence linking Sinn Fein to criminality to go to the police.

He said: "It is now time to put up or shut up."

He warned a "huge responsibility" rested on the five parties in the coalition Executive in Belfast and the British and Irish governments to push themselves to find a resolution.

The administration is teetering on the verge of collapse due to a crisis sparked by a murder linked to members of the IRA but also a fundamental disagreement over welfare payments which has threatened to break the public spending budget.

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