COI Gazette – 6th April 2018

A statement on the forthcoming referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution

6 April

The following statement has been made by the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland:

“We offer the following remarks for the consideration of members of the Church of Ireland:

“We have previously
expressed our concern that the forthcoming Constitutional referendum is being understood as something akin to an opinion poll on the complex issue of abortion.

“However, now that the Government has made known the general scheme of a Bill which it would introduce should the referendum on the repeal of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland be passed, voters face a
stark decision.




If you’ve ever had toothache, but are afraid of the dentist, then you know something interesting about the human condition. It is that people can put up with extraordinary levels of discomfort before deciding the pain is too great and that something needs to be done.

We have put up with extraordinary discomfort for the last 16 months; if not ourselves then those organisations where their funding is held up, people not getting medical treatment they might otherwise have had, or people whose livelihoods or wellbeing are affected by thousands of decisions not being made at Stormont. The list of people directly affected by political gridlock in Northern Ireland is hidden but probably growing longer by the day.

The Good Friday Agreement was signed 20 years ago, on the 10th April 1998. There were painful parts to swallow and not everyone was happy with it. The devolved system of government we ought to have functioning now is based on that agreement. Twenty years on and we are discovering how much discomfort local parties are willing to allow people to endure, as the months of political paralysis tick by.

As the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is marked, we see internationally known figures that were involved come and go to Belfast. Their visits are a reminder of the extraordinary levels of help received in Northern Ireland. On this island we have had the skills of the most talented and the attention of the most powerful as we try to make our painful journey to peace.

The visits also prompt talk of who could facilitate our political leaders in negotiations to break the deadlock. Globally we are living in extraordinary times. One of the things we are discovering is that there is not an inexhaustible supply of international
attention or energy available to be devoted to our search for lasting peace. We are glad for the attention and help we have received, but recognise others have their own issues to face and future to create.

The role of a facilitator could be described like this – to help a client find the resources within themselves to solve a problem, or to create something new. A facilitator can help a client rethink things. When looking for a facilitator the temptation for any of us is this – what we may really want is for someone to do it for us – someone to present us with the future, to do the work that we don’t feel inclined to do at that time – in essence, to rescue us.

A facilitator has a job to do. It is to help our leaders to find the resources within themselves to do what they need to do. Our leaders have their own job to do. One part of that is obvious. It is to solve immediate problems. Yet, it is so much more than that. It is to create something new – a way of finding reconciliation and a better future. That means letting go of a dysfunctional addiction to sectarian politics.

Gaining political power is not for the faint-hearted. Neither is the exercise of it. It is hard because our road to reconciliation means dealing with the past, present and the future. Yet, to paraphrase one leadership expert, “We need more in leaders than just the ability to gather a following.”

Seeking help for the task is more than reasonable.

Yet, whatever help our political leaders look for, it should not now be for someone to rescue them – to do it for them. The job of a facilitator is to help them to find, within themselves, the resources they need to make the hard decisions. Upon such does our future depend.

It was ever thus.


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