Group stresses need to win NI consensus

 

An all-Ireland inter-church group has said that the will of the majority in Northern Ireland is not the only democratic consent required there. In its New Pathways document the Faith and Politics group says that in a divided society "the winning of consent and the development of cross-community consensus must have a high priority."

Any enduring settlement in the North would have to have the consent of both communities, it says, and this could be measured on how issues such as paramilitary prisoners, decommissioning, and the peace process itself were handled.

The viability of the peace process, and the need to create a new future, required that the position of political prisoners be looked at "in a balanced way", it says, preferably in ways where "the seriousness and moral weight of the offences committed" are acknowledged. It believes, therefore, that this should not be through amnesty.

It also feels that "some decommissioning of weapons" is important. Recognising the reality that no armed movement handed in its weapons before a settlement and that weapons could easily be replaced, they believe that "a gesture on decommissioning" would build confidence nevertheless.

The group argues that a peace process "is more than politics". It has social, psychological, cultural and spiritual dimensions, which must be addressed and which were central to "the constructive transformation of the conflict."

An important aspect of this "is how people remember and deal with the past". The past needed to be addressed, "symbolically, ritually, and liturgically."

The pamphlet is available from Corrymeela House, 8 Upper Crescent, Belfast, BT7 1NT, and costs £1.50 sterling.