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Brian Lawless/PA Wire
UK News

Catholic priest helps break political deadlock

On Wednesday Father Martin Magill, the Parish Priest at St John's Parish, Belfast, told the packed St Anne's Cathedral: "Why in God's name does it take the death of a 29 year old woman with her whole life in front of her to get us to this point? As Christians recalled the death of Jesus on the cross, we remembered that his death was not in vain but was for us the doorway to eternal life. I dare to hope that Lyra's murder on Holy Thursday night can be the doorway to a new beginning."

Fr Martin received a standing ovation and on Friday it was announced that there will be new talks to re-establish power sharing at the Northen Ireland assembly. 

Reverend Brian Anderson, who is a Methodist minister in Belfast, says Father Martin Magill may have played a significant role in finding a way to end Northern Ireland's political deadlock.

The Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed more than two years ago, and talks up until this point have failed to restore it. Northern Ireland's two biggest political parties have failed to reach an agreement that would allow the Assembly to reconvene.

Rev. Anderson is hopeful the reaction to Lyra's death, and Fr Martin's words at the funeral, will help create an opportunity for political progress: "In some ways, what he said will allow them off their hooks and out of their corners - because there's a momentum now.

"Let's work towards a hopeful fresh start in Northern Ireland."

At Lyra McKee's funeral, the leaders of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party sat side by side in St Anne's Cathedral, listening to Fr Martin's words. It was seen as a rare show of unity. 

"He was prophetic in that moment. There's a groundswell going on and Martin captured it in his words and in his message".

"I sent him a text on the morning (of the funeral) knowing he was going to speak and my text said to him 'my prayer for you today is that the Spirit of the living God will fall afresh on you'. And I texted him at night and said 'I think my prayer was answered.'"

The Methodist minister believes the church needs to continue to put pressure on politicians to find a way for the Assembly to restart its work as the devolved government. "Let's speak strongly but fairly - with a Christian grace. Let's work towards a hopeful fresh start in Northern Ireland."

Rev. Anderson and Fr Martin have worked together in recent months to try to stop paramilitary killings and violence in Belfast, where the two men work in different parts of the city.

The Methodist believes his Catholic friend may continue to play a role in putting pressure on Northern Ireland's politicians.

"He has this ability to be trusted. He has this ability to speak out. And he has this ability to come alongside those who have been victimised in different ways. So what happens with Father Martin, and I mean this generously, God only knows, as God uses him. But he has and is a significant voice for Northern Ireland."

You can listen to the full interview with the reverend Brian Anderson, president of the Irish Council of Churches, speaking with Glyn Jones here:

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