This website is best viewed with CSS and JavaScript enabled.

Irish bishops call for “respectful” debate over European elections and Brexit

Posted on: May 17, 2019 4:02 PM
Archbishop Richard Clarke
Photo Credit: Church of Ireland

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Church of Ireland leaders have called for Christians to lead the way with respectful discussion and engagement around Brexit and the political changes affecting the whole Island of Ireland, as they gathered for their General Synod in Londonderry this week. Speaking at the opening of the three-day meeting, Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, called on members to be responsible Christian citizens in both practice, thinking and voting.

Both parts of Ireland – Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom and the independent Republic of Ireland in the south and west – will vote next week to elect members to the European Parliament, while the UK government continues to look for parliamentary agreement over implementing its departure from the EU.

Archbishop Richard said: “we need to be conscious . . . of how we all – wherever we may live on this island – can too easily be carried along mindlessly on a wave of popular and populist emotion, where mantras and knee-jerk soundbites are replacing reasoned, respectful and nuanced discussion. In the public square, anger has too often replaced decency, and a binary ‘black and white’ polarisation has replaced any supple, generous and complex discourse.”

In an interview before the meeting, Bishop John McDowell, who chairs the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue said the churches needed to stand up for a good quality of debate.

Bishop John said: “I think the church has something to say, not whether it was right for people to vote for Brexit or not to vote; people with good consciences voted in whichever way they wanted to. But I think that the Church has an interest in a couple of areas, one being in relation to the common good on the Island of Ireland.”

He said Ireland was in the unique situation of having one part that will remain in the European Union and, if the UK leaves, another that probably won’t. He said: “the Church of Ireland stretches across both of those. . . We need to say that we wish both parts of our island, both jurisdictions, prosperity, peace and a certain amount of social cohesion. Therefore, anything that will affect that, we should at least be aware of, and if we need to say things, we should.”

He said the churches could bring a contribution through helping set the tone of the debate, by respecting and considering other points of view before engaging in the argument.

“Whichever way Brexit works out", he said, “everyone is predicting a period of some sort of economic dislocation . . . and what happens when there are economic bumps in the road is, it’s the people at the bottom of the pile that suffer the most. We need in the churches to be vigilant to try to provide a voice for the people who might be collateral damage as there is an adjustment in the economy.”