Irish church leaders have called for the revived Stormont Assembly and Executive to prioritise the “needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised” in the north.
The Church Leaders Group said in a statement they welcomed the return of power-sharing, but said “long over-due hard decisions” would follow for MLAs and ministers to fix struggling public services.
The group comprises the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin; Church of Ireland Primate Rev John McDowell; Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney; Methodist president Rev David Turtle; and president of the Irish Council of Churches, Rev Andrew Forster.
“As the final steps are taken that should lead to the welcome restoration of devolved government, it is important to recognise that government is never simply an end in itself, but rather a means to an end,” they said.
“A re-established Executive and Assembly are first and important steps towards re-establishing hope and a vision for the future. But for that to be achieved it will mean a commitment to focus on the common good.
“It will mean prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised of our fellow citizens. And it will mean at times taking the long over-due hard decisions necessary to transform our public services, many of which are close to breaking point.”
The leaders had met with the leaders of the Stormont parties in November, and spoke of a “rising sense of despair, and even hopelessness” in society following almost two years without devolved government.
They said that following the new deal between the British government and the DUP, parties should “move forward together, acting for the common good and governing for all” and that “they do so with the support and prayers of many in our society, ourselves included”.