Assembly Election

Northern Bishops: Catholics should quiz election candidates

The north's Catholic bishops have called on voters to quiz assembly candidates about their policies

CATHOLICS can never support any policy that undermines unborn children's right to life, the northern bishops have said.

In a wide-reaching pastoral letter ahead of the assembly elections, the bishops compiled a list of 10 questions Catholics are encouraged to ask candidates, including their parties' policies on abortion and child poverty.

They said tackling child poverty must be prioritised in the executive's new programme for government.

"It is an indictment on the priorities and preoccupations of the last assembly that Northern Ireland was the only region in the UK where levels of childhood poverty actually increased, with over 101,000 children in Northern Ireland now living below the poverty line," the letter states.

They said politicians must work to eradicate child poverty and social need.

"One practical appeal we make is for funding to be made available to schools so that no pupil begins the day without a nutritional breakfast."

The letter reminded Catholic voters of Pope Francis's recent comment that there are "no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family".

The bishops said marriage between a man and a woman is "the foundation and cornerstone of society and therefore deserving of special recognition and protection in policy and law".

They also called for a "new and more constructive political culture" and said a preoccupation with "tribal issues" and party point-scoring had alienated many people, particularly the young, from politics.

The letter reaffirmed the importance of Catholic education and said the existence of faith schools is to be "celebrated and encouraged as part of a genuinely tolerant society that respects diversity and parental choice".

Calling on the assembly to tackle educational under-achievement, the bishops said politicians must also address continuing problems around post-primary transfer tests.

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Assembly Election