The Church of Ireland has welcomed the Belfast Agreement reached by Unionist and Republican leaders to end the impasse over the route of an Orange Order parade through North Belfast.
The Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Connor has welcomed the Belfast Agreement reached last week by Unionist and Republican leaders to end the impasse over the route of an Orange Order parade through North Belfast. In his Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod on 28 Sept 2016, the Rt. Rev. Alan Abernethy said he prayed that the 1 Oct 2016 parade would “be something that helps us move to a better tomorrow.” Last week the facilitators of the dialogue between Republicans and Unionists, the Rev Harold Good and Jim Roddy, said loyalists would dismantle their protest camp following a parade by the Ligoniel Orange Lodges along Twedall Avenue. The lodges would then “instigate a voluntary moratorium on applying for a [future] return parade” while negotiations were conducted with local residents. In July 2013 the Parades Commission declined to permit a loyalist march along a section of Crumlin Road and Twedall Avenue in North Belfast, a nationalist stronghold. Unionists built a protest camp the government reports has cost over £20m to police over the past three years. Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire: “commend[ed] the representatives of the Orange Order and Cara [local residents group] for their efforts in negotiating a solution. This is a clear demonstration that local dialogue can work, and offers up the best chance of resolving disputes like this.” Bishop Abernathy told the Connor Synod, meeting at the Carrickfergus Methodist Centre that there remained “a real difficulty in dealing with the past.” He added: “I do believe that the legacy of the past is something we cannot avoid as we seek to build a better future. It will need courage, grace and wisdom but we must find ways of living with the past that can honour all and recognise deep and unresolved pain.” The Archbishops of Armagh and Canterbury also applauded the agreement. In a statement released on 26 Sept 2016 the Most Rev. Richard Clarke and the Most Rev. Justin Welby wrote: “We have been aware that various people and groups have been working hard to reach an agreement which would bring to an end the parading stand–off in North Belfast, a part of the city which has borne economic hardship and carries a heavy legacy from the Troubles. The news of this agreement is to be warmly welcomed and we commend all who have taken risks and found a way to serve the common good in the journey towards a peaceful and reconciled future. Our prayers and continued support are with those who now carry responsibility for making it work.”