Irish News

Peace campaigner priest hopeful of Stormont agreement before deadline

Fr Gary Donegan CP

A leading peace campaigner in the North has expressed optimism that the political parties will be able to agree a new power-sharing deal at Stormont before the upcoming deadline.

Following the Assembly election on March 3, the law requires a fresh election after three weeks if there is no coalition formed. Fr Gary Donegan CP, former parish priest in Belfast’s Ardoyne area, told The Irish Catholic that while we are now coming to the end of the second week, “the first part of it is shadow boxing and people feeling things out”. 

“It will start to work and by the end of this week we will have a better sense of where things are,” he said.

Fr Donegan and other experienced community figures who helped to resolve the Ardoyne parading dispute, have formed the Making It Work Group and met Secretary of State, James Brokenshire as part of talks to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Responsibility

“The role of the group is taking responsibility to have a civic voice in governance, as enshrined in Article 67 of the Stormont Agreement, rather than sitting back and wringing your hands and blaming politicians,” he said. 

“We all have a role in this and with the way the election turned out we need to be encouraging to make the place literally work.

“There has been an impasse and this group is saying we are not prepared to sit back and let people twiddle their thumbs. We’re there to put pressure on people to make this place a workable society,” Fr Donegan said.

Christian Church leaders in the North, including Archbishop Eamon Martin, have issued a statement calling for an end to “a mentality of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to a truly inclusive society where diversity is celebrated and all can participate in shaping the future”. 

The Church representatives emphasised that the elected representatives “need our support” if they are “to have the courage to put the most challenging issues at the centre of the current negotiations and take responsibility for finding lasting solutions”.