Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry has stated that current leading parties in Northern Ireland will miss out on votes in the next election if they fail to come to an agreement and restore the government.
“People are more concerned about hospitals than politics,” he said, emphasising the fact that the Northern Irish government hasn’t sat in three years, and the effects of this showed in the last Westminster election.
“I think there is an awareness on the part of the two large parties that they both suffered in the Westminster elections, and I think that’s being interpreted as a criticism of their stand on various issues.”
This comes after the New Year Homilies of Bishops Kevin Doran, Noel Treanor, Donal himself and Archbishop Eamon Martin calling for efforts to maintain peace and against the worries of Brexit and a hard border. “We have elected politicians…and it’s their job to sort the problems out, that’s what they’re paid for.”
We need the local representatives making those decisions and I think the church will be very keen to push them in that direction”
He said that at the meeting with Church leaders in September it was “admitted by the parties that it was the first time they had sat down together for eight months”.
McKeown said that the talks themselves are a great progression but Northern Ireland needs a local government now in order to stop the worst outcome for the North in Brexit.
He said: “I think that in a sense some people want the British government to take all the flack for that, and then we can sit back and let them take the blame and us not be involved.”
He welcomes work by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland and the recently announced European Peace Plus funding, but said they need a government to work with.
Projects like the plans to open a graduate medical school at Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derry and the A5 between Derry ad Tyrone have been delayed due to the absence of a minister: “We need the local representatives making those decisions and I think the Church will be very keen to push them in that direction.”
The health service, social housing and the education system are coming under strain due to the lack of governance, confirmed David Sterling Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) by Speaking at the Northern Ireland Economic Conference in Newcastle, Co Down, last November.
Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK with five people dying every week as of September 2019. “The last thing any of us from a pastoral perspective is that ordinary people would suffer, in terms of unemployment or more stress for our young people,” said Mc Keown.