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Church leaders in Northern Ireland urge action on poverty

04 November 2022

Alamy

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, outside Downing Street on Wednesday of last week

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, outside Downing Street on Wednesday of last week

CHRISTIAN leaders in Northern Ireland have met the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, to urge government action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, amid continuing political uncertainty in the province.

On Wednesday evening of last week, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, along with leaders of Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches in Ireland, met Mr Heaton-Harris.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the church leaders said: “We stressed the need for urgent action to be taken in light of the fact that the people of Northern Ireland are experiencing the worst cost of living crisis in generations.

“Together we were able to relay to [Mr Heaton-Harris] the reality of life for ordinary people from across our congregations and parishes, outlining the significant stress that is being caused by the fear of what is coming in the months ahead and the uncertainty about the support that is being offered.”

The statement said that they had also “discussed the current uncertainty around the political situation in Northern Ireland and the importance of maintaining stability”.

The Northern Ireland executive has been in deadlock since the elections in May. The Democratic Unionist Party — which won the second highest number of seats after Sinn Féin — has refused to appoint a deputy first minister, because it opposes the post-Brexit trade arrangements introduced by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The church leaders’ statement said that they “urged the Secretary of State to encourage his colleague, the Foreign Secretary, to work for a negotiated settlement with the European Union that deals with both the trade issues, and enables people to be secure in their identity, allowing relationships to improve”.

Last Friday was the deadline for forming an executive, and the law states that a new election must now take place within three months. At the time of going to press, it had not been confirmed when these elections would be held.

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