A statement from the Most Revd John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland:
‘A few months ago, I wrote an article in the Belfast Telegraph pointing out that the difficulties arising from Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol and the looming cost of living crisis were coming together to create a moment of real jeopardy for these islands and for Northern Ireland in particular. I had also suggested that working together, rather than pushing for more extreme remedies, would provide the basis of a longer-term solution and longer-term relationships.
‘I mentioned then, that there were people of ill will who, insofar as they represent anything, represent drug dealers and extortionists, whose only contribution to civic life is to exploit people’s fears and concerns at a time of crisis. Although such people may fly under old paramilitary flags of convenience, they are simply criminal gangs, seeking to shore up their influence in the communities which they terrorise. They form no part of a democratic society, nor are they part of the democratic culture which is the foundation of all stable democracies. “Sound and fury, signifying nothing” as the world’s greatest dramatist reminds us.
‘At a time of such sensitivity, it is of ultimate importance that those in government or in any elected office distinguish which voices (no matter how forcefully reasoned) carry a sense of responsibility and hope, and those which offer only unprovoked malice and fear. Not only what we decide and do, but the voices we listen to in arriving at our decisions mark us out as either an evolving, civilised society or a morally empty and broken polity.’