In Belfast today, Church leaders met members of the Panel on Disbanding Paramilitary Groups – the body set up under last November’s Fresh Start Agreement to develop recommendations for a strategy to end paramilitarism and disband paramilitary groups. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the Church leaders said:
“Nearly 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, paramilitary violence and criminality remains an oppressive reality that pervades everyday life in many of our communities, particularly those in some of the most disadvantaged parts of Northern Ireland.
“Today we welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Panel on Disbanding Paramilitary Groups and encouraged them in the very difficult, but vital task, they have been given. We also discussed the many challenges that any strategy would need to address. We pray for openness, co-operation and engagement on all sides.
“We also stressed that any strategy for dealing with this issue has to have its focus on people, because it is ultimately people that matter to God. There genuinely needs to be a fresh start – bringing a sense of hope to those who have suffered through paramilitary activity in their communities and also pointing to a better way for those who have been involved in paramilitary organisations.”
Rev. Brian Anderson, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Archbishop Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor (representing Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh)