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Church leaders urge politicians to strike power-sharing deal for the common good

The clerics have pleaded with parties to go the extra mile to reach an agreement

CHURCH leaders have made a dramatic intervention as parties career towards the deadline to restore a power-sharing executive.

As June 29 looms nearer, the five man parties have been urged to strike a deal for the common good.

In an open letter, the clerics pleaded with parties to go the extra mile to reach an agreement.

They warned that Northern Ireland input into Brexit negotiations was suffering. And they said that unless the current impasse was broken, then the most vulnerable people and the small voluntary and community groups that serve them were at risk.

The letter was signed by Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, Rev Dr Laurence Graham, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, Bishop John McDowell, President of the Irish Council of Churches and Dr Noble McNeely, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

"While we acknowledge the complexities involved in reaching an agreement, we want to express our continued concern that without an agreed budget and with no executive ministers in place, the most vulnerable are at greater risk, while crucial decisions on education, health and welfare are not being taken," they wrote.

"At the same time, I am sure you are aware that small voluntary and community groups - who play such a vital role at the heart of our villages, towns and cities - face mounting uncertainty and are finding it increasingly difficult to support those most in need.

"Furthermore, with no Executive there has been comparatively little co-ordinated local input into the Brexit discussions and even less detailed preparation for what lies ahead for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole."

Negotiations to establish an Executive as well as a government at Westminster will continue this week.

Downing Street is continuing to try to reach an agreement with the DUP after the Tories' disastrous showing in the general election left them eight seats short of a commons majority.

Tory grandee Lord Patten said if Theresa May cut a deal with the "toxic" DUP, it could make the Conservatives look like the "nasty party" again.

Lord Patten, who chaired the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, said the DUP would continually squeeze the government for more concessions.

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis has said it is not certain the UK will secure an EU withdrawal deal.

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