A number of church leaders from across Ireland have renewed their calls for all parties involved in Brexit negotiations to find a swift and fair resolution to issues related to the region.
Representatives from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Irish Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church insisted that "with limited time remaining to prepare for the outworking of Brexit, it is in everyone’s interests to achieve the clarity and security an agreement will provide".
The group also reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - a historic peace accord which instituted a new era of non-violence in Northern Ireland following 30 years of brutal sectarian conflict.
“We do not underestimate the challenges faced by the negotiating parties in terms of the complexity and the significance of what is at stake. As Church Leaders on the island of Ireland, we have welcomed the important commitment of both parties in the negotiations to the protection of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in all its parts," the group wrote. "It is our hope that the Agreement might serve as a source of inspiration and a foundation to build upon as we continue to work through the Brexit process."
“The Preamble of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement is a powerful reminder that it is relationships that make agreements operational. The signatories committed to ‘the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust and to the protection of the human rights of all’. Based on these principles, the Agreement created a new space in which to navigate what the Preamble describes as ‘the substantial differences between our continuing and equally legitimate, political aspirations’. The work remains unfinished, but that framework allowed us to address significant barriers to political engagement, promote greater social cohesion and develop our economy."
The leaders added that the Good Friday Agreement is "rightly regarded as an act of significant global leadership in peace and reconciliation, an achievement that belongs not only to the people of Northern Ireland, but to the British and Irish people and Governments, with the support of the EU and friends in the United States".
“At the heart of the Good Friday Agreement is an acknowledgement of our interdependence," they wrote. "The Covid-19 pandemic has further heightened our awareness of the need to manage risk collaboratively, not only between Britain and Ireland, but on a European and wider international level. There are other major challenges on the horizon that are global in nature and will require nations to coordinate their responses and demonstrate a shared vision in their leadership. Trade agreements cannot be separated from this wider network of relations because they have vital social and ethical dimensions.
The future relationship between the UK and the European Union, the clergy noted, will be "the focus of debate and negotiation for many years to come".
They concluded: "We appeal to the negotiating parties to act with urgency and generosity to secure the best possible foundation for that evolving relationship by giving much needed certainty on the economic and social implications, and providing a framework within which future challenges can be addressed on the basis of relationships of trust and mutual respect.”