The bishops of the Church of Ireland, as part of a process of engagement with political parties, met with a delegation from Sinn Fein on October 23 at Stormont, Northern Ireland. The Church of Ireland has previously held meetings with the Ulster Unionist Party, the Alliance Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, and is requesting a meeting with the Democratic Unionist Party. A statement from the Most Rev. Robin Eames, Primate of All Ireland, follows:
"The Bishops of the Church of Ireland are engaging in a process of engagement with the political parties in Northern Ireland. As Bishops representing the church, which operates in both jurisdictions of this island, we are pleased to have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein. The Bishops view the current political situation as an opportunity for progress towards democratic structures to serve the whole community in Northern Ireland.
"The Bishops stated their belief that political and social progress can only be achieved by full and equal participation in the structures of democracy with support for policing. The Bishops strongly encourage the Sinn Fein Party in its plans to consult on this issue with those providing its political mandate. Recognising the differences that people have in addressing this question, the Bishops appeal to all to consider the issue with great care.
"As Bishops, we have stated our own commitment to articulating the values of fairness and equality at every level of community life. We acknowledge the ongoing existence of sectarianism within all parts of our society and our responsibility to give leadership within our own Church and beyond to end such practices.
"This was a positive meeting. Both delegations exchanged views on a wide range of issues, including collusion, the issue of the disappeared and concern regarding parades. A range of social justice issues was addressed including education, the Church's initiative on child poverty, the review of public administration, water charges, rates and health issues, as well as concerns about suicides in Northern Ireland.
"The Bishops have committed the church to ongoing participation in processes that will achieve peace and reconciliation between the communities in Northern Ireland."
The Church of Ireland delegation was:
- The Most Rev. Dr. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland
- The Rt. Rev. Alan Harper, Bishop of Connor
- The Rt. Rev. Michael Jackson, Bishop of Clogher
- The Rt. Rev. Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe
- The Rt. Rev. Ken Clarke, Bishop of Kilmore