MPs must represent all communities in the North – Bishop McKeown

MPs must represent all communities in the North – Bishop McKeown Bishop Donal McKeown

Derry’s Bishop Donal McKeown has urged the North’s newly elected MPs to serve all those in Northern Ireland, calling them to focus their efforts on those most in need.

“The politicians, whatever their party, have been elected to look after the people, especially the weakest, and it doesn’t matter what party they come from: that is their responsibility,” he told The Irish Catholic, continuing, “It’s important that care for the weak is their prime priority, and not just the party or other interests.”


Describing the election result as “democracy in action”, Dr McKeown said, “these are the people whom the populace have chosen and it’s important for all of us to accept that political reality, whatever reservations somebody might have about it. On the other hand, I think we from a Church perspective have to call our political leaders to offer wise leadership, rather than just party political statements.”

Dr McKeown’s comments followed the June 8 general election, which saw the DUP and Sinn Féin winning 10 and seven seats respectively. The SDLP lost all three of its seats, while the Ulster Unionist Party lost both its seats.

The election has left Britain’s Conservative Party needing DUP support for a narrow majority in Westminster, while the North’s nationalist community is without any representation, as Sinn Féin ran on its traditional abstentionist platform.

Describing this as “very serious”, Stranmillis College historian Dr Eamon Phoenix said this would be the first time since the 1870s that Westminster had been without a Northern nationalist voice.

“That is serious,” he told The Irish Catholic, continuing, “It is a problematic issue, because it means now that not only does Arlene Foster hold the balance of power, with outworkings that we still await, but it also means that it’ll be down to the DUP to put the Northern Irish case, whereas before you had three SDLP MPs led by Mark Durkan putting a very sensible soft-Brexit critique.”

The SDLP faces an immense challenge in regaining ground while distinguishing itself from Sinn Féin, he said.

“As Unionism has moved bodily towards the DUP, you have the same phenomenon in nationalism,” he continued, “People don’t feel they have the luxury anymore of voting for a moderate alternative.”