25/02/2005

Church calls for restoration of 'moral integrity' to peace process

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has called for a restoration of "moral integrity" to the peace process.

Following a meeting in Belfast on Thursday, the 250-strong body of ministers and lay-people from around Ireland insisted that no political party should participate in the future government of Northern Ireland “unless it is fully committed to democratic methods alone and, where applicable, renounces and forsakes criminality and engages in complete, verifiable de-commissioning”.

The church also expressed its "dismay" at the recent Northern Bank robbery and the "subsequent revelations implicating Sinn Fein”.

“This wilful and planned act violated the law of God, subjected bank employees and their families to terror and cruelty, betrayed relationships with the two Governments, other political parties and people of goodwill and destroyed trust in the commitment of Sinn Fein to seek peace,” the statement continued.

“Veracity is fundamental to the integrity of any person or political party. Without veracity, there is no credibility. The denials of Sinn Fein ring hollow."

However, Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said he was “more than disappointed” that the Presbyterian Church had “jumped on the anti-Sinn Fein bandwagon”.

“To date there have been no convictions in relation to the Northern Bank Robbery,” the South Belfast MLA said. “There have been no arrests and absolutely no evidence has been brought forward. All we have at the moment is allegation, innuendo and smear.

“The fact remains that people have rights, both in terms of the right to innocence until proven guilty and in the right to have their role in the democratic process respected.”

In the statement the Presbyterian Church said it was "deeply concerned at the lack of clarity about what is right and what is wrong”.

"Until political parties end all connections to criminality, and fully commit to democratic methods alone, there is no place for them in the future government of Northern Ireland, nor in formal negotiations about such government. Sin, cruelty and duplicity are incompatible with peace, trust and respect for human rights," the statement concluded.

(MB/SP)

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