DUP leader’s refusal of papal invite would look ‘small minded’

DUP leader’s refusal of papal invite would look ‘small minded’ DUP leader Arlene Foster

A failure of DUP leader Arlene Foster to see Pope Francis later this month would promote negative images of unionism as well as enhance “fear and smallness of mind”, a prominent Protestant minister has said.

Dr Ken Newell, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland who played a significant role in the peace process, said that because of Arlene Foster’s position as First Minister, attending the papal event would be “making a gesture that Northern Ireland wants to be in a different than it has been”.

“We want the future where everyone is respected – not just freedom – but there’s parity of esteem, respect and a desire to engage with each other. I would be totally in favour of it,” he told The Irish Catholic.

The minister’s comments come after the Taoiseach’s department revealed plans to invite the leaders of all local political parties to the huge Mass in Phoenix Park on August 26.

Dr Newell added that politicians are “deeply concerned” about family issues, including how they’re being treated, excluded and mistreated, and Ms Foster must live up to this expectation.

“So, promoting healthy family life, promoting positive values in relation to the family, trying to enable people to get the best out of their family life and really caring for and valuing each other probably would be very central to any politician worth their salt.”