COI Gazette – 10th January 2014

Archbishop Clarke disappointed but still hopeful following Haass talks stalling

Dr Richard Haass

Dr Richard Haass

Following last week’s inconclusive marathon Stormont Hotel talks, led by American former diplomat Dr Richard Haass and Vice-Chair Harvard Professor Meghan O’Sullivan, on the three issues of parading, flags and the past in Northern Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, expressed disappointment that full agreement between the five main political parties had not been reached, but also hope for future “rapprochement”.

Dr Clarke paid tribute to Dr Haass and Professor O’Sullivan and their team, adding: “We continue to pray that their careful groundwork will indeed come to valuable fruition in the future.”

In his New Year’s Eve statement, the Archbishop went on to reflect on the biblical lesson for the situation: “One of the most powerful biblical concepts that we can reflect on today is the word ‘forbearance’. It is not the same as patience, although it is clearly associated with it.




It is disheartening that the Haass talks did not lead to an agreed way forward on all three subjects of parades, flags and the past in Northern Ireland (report, page 1). Nonetheless, there now appears to be the potential for a further refining of what has been achieved, although undoubtedly things can also unravel outside the ‘hothouse’.

The disturbances that have been associated with some parades and flag protests not only are dangerous and destructive but also convey a very negative image of Northern Ireland to the wider world. Inward investment is not helped. So, particularly for young people looking for jobs and the means to establish themselves, disturbances are wholly counterproductive. Until other arrangements are put in place, the determinations of the Parades Commission must be respected, with any exercising of the right to protest kept within the law. As far as flags are concerned, there is no doubt that the vast majority of people abhor them being dishonoured by being used in sectarian ways, such as by being left to fly from lamp posts for months on end.

Half of Richard Haass’s 38-page draft is devoted to the issue of the past. In their submission to the process, QUB legal academics Professor Kieran McEvoy, Dr Louise Mallinder, Professor Gordon Anthony and Luke Moffett, acknowledge the problem of “moral equivalence” and the Haass draft does show a real awareness of this issue and its dangers.

There are three words in particular that consistently cause difficulty in speaking about the Troubles in Northern Ireland: ‘terrorism’, ‘conflict’ and ‘victim’.

The word ‘terrorism’ refers to acts of violence against the community and State bodies, thereby attempting to coerce the State. It is very much to be welcomed that many of those who were involved in proscribed paramilitary organisations have now eschewed terrorism and have embraced democratic politics; those who do so must be ready not only to admit the wrongs that they did but also to guarantee that they will not return to their former ways.

Because the term ‘conflict’, which is often used in referring to what happened during the Troubles, does not carry any value judgement, it can enable dialogue to proceed. However, in dialogue, the nature of the conflict can be recalled and, equally, the facts of the conflict will never alter.

The Victims and Survivors (NI) Order 2006 indicates that “someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident” is to be regarded in law as a ‘victim and survivor’. The breadth of this definition understandably has given rise to widespread moral objection. Currently, Jeffrey Donaldson MP has a Private Member’s Bill going through Westminster seeking to amend the Order, with the Bill’s second reading expected in the House of Commons on 28th February. If there is a change in the definition of a victim and survivor that removes moral objection, there would be relevant implications for the Haass draft agreement.


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Letters to the Editor

First woman bishop?

We are very proud of the Most Revd Pat Storey, the first woman bishop in the Church of Ireland, and wish her well in her new job, but is she really the first Irish woman bishop?

When in Kildare Cathedral for her recent enthronement, I wondered if the new bishop had time to see the exhibition on St Brigid, where she might have read the following:

‘Brigid felt called to be a nun and was professed by Bishop Mel in Ardagh. The Bishop read the wrong formula and consecrated her a bishop. Mel declared: “It was the will of the Holy Spirit. I have no power in the matter”.’

Peter Boyle (Dr) Blessington Co. Wicklow

Irish language service for Christian Unity week

We wish to extend a céad míle fáilte to everyone to attend an Interdenominational Church Service in the Irish language in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on Friday 24th January at 8.00pm. This service is being organised by Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise and Pobal an Aifrinn. The service, a tradition for over 40 years, will celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, with hymns, prayers and readings. Hymns will be sung by the choir of Gaelscoil na Cille, Co.

Meath, and a consort of Christ Church Cathedral choir will sing canticles and an anthem. Clergy from the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church will be present and representatives of the Lord Mayor will also attend. Refreshments will be available in the medieval cathedral crypt after the service.

Caroline Nolan, Irish Language Development Officer Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise Christ Church Cathedral Dublin 8

Information sought

In relation to a current writing project, I am interested to hear from individuals who organised, participated in and attended the events of the Mission led by Canon David Watson of St Michael le Belfrey in York which took place at Belfast Cathedral in the 1970s.

I am particularly interested to discover the extent to which this event was significant in the subsequent developing charismatic ecclesiology within the Church of Ireland.

Paul Gilmore Belfast Cathedral Donegall Street Belfast BT1 2HB

Christian tradition in Syria and Iraq

Since 1996, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) has opposed the doctrine of perpetual war which has become the dominant ideology of this state, especially since it no longer has an independent foreign policy and instead supports the EU Common Foreign Security and Defence Policy.

PANA opposed the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and Ireland’s participation in these wars, all of which have been supported by the mainstream media.

PANA commissioned the RedC poll to ask the Irish people about their views on Irish neutrality and the war on Syria in September 2013. Some 78% supported neutrality and 67% opposed sending arms to the rebels in Syria.

Since May 2013, the EU, including Ireland, agreed to lift the embargo on supplying arms to the rebels, but there is now clear empirical evidence that PANA’s advocacy of neutrality and opposition to arming the Syrian rebels had the support of the decisive majority of the Irish people.

However, the commitment to the doctrine of perpetual war is so strong that The Irish Times, RT É, TV3 and the rest of the media (with the exception of the Examiner) ignored it. PANA opposes arming the rebels because they are dominated by Muslim fanatics who reject the tolerant Muslim ideology that was dominant under the Ottomans, a tradition that was continued by the Baathist an Arab nationalist movement founded by a Christian, Michel Aflaq.

So the question facing Gazette readers is: Why have the leaders of the EU and the US been so keen to see the 2,000-year-old Christian tradition in Syria wiped out as it was in Iraq?

Why has the mainstream Irish media been so supportive of the rebels in Syria? At one level, the answer is simple.

The military-industrial complex in the EU and the US sell enormous amounts of weapons to Saudi Arabia. However, it could also be due to Christians becoming unwilling to question the secularist and militarist ideology of the mainstream media. Pope Francis was the first to do so. Maybe the time has come for other Christian denominations to do so as well.

Roger Cole, Chair Peace and Neutrality Alliance 7 Castle Street Dalkey Co. Dublin


Features and Columns

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Book Reviews

ON HEAVEN AND EARTH: POPE FRANCIS ON FAITH, FAMILY AND THE CHURCH IN THE 21st CENTURY Authors: Jorge Maria Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka (translated by Alejandro Bermudez and Howard Goodman) Publisher: Bloomsbury; pp.236 Price: £14.99

Living faithfully : Following christ in everyday life Author: John Pritchard Publisher: SPCK; pp.184

Letters to London: Bonhoeffer’s previously unpublished correspondence with Ernst Cromwell , 1935-6 Editors: Stephen J. Plant and Toni Burrowes-Cromwell Publisher: SPCK


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