WASHINGTON (May 26, 1998) -- Religious leaders in the United States today offered their "heartfelt congratulations" to the people of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic following Friday's overwhelming ratification of the "Good Friday Agreement," which seeks to end nearly 30 years of violence.
"They have taken an significant risk for a future of peace in an effort to put aside generations of past conflict," said Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA, and Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark (NJ), Chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference International Policy Committee.
The full text of their joint statement follows:
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick
Presbyterian Church, USA
May 26, 1998
The people of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have taken an historic step forward in approving the Good Friday agreement. The results of the two referenda demonstrate that the majority of unionists and nationalists, Protestants and Catholics have made a decisive choice of dialogue over violence, compromise over intransigence. They have taken a significant risk for a future of peace in an effort to put aside generations of past conflict.
Following their consciences, they have ratified a political agreement which, the Church and Government Committee of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland points out, "does not represent defeat or assimilation but is rather a political accommodation which could be a way out of the darkness of the last 30 years into a better future." In the words of Archbishop Sean Brady, president of the Irish Bishops' Conference, in approving the agreement the people of Ireland "have chosen the path of cooperation, equality and mutual respect as a basis for future relationships."
The people and political leaders of Northern Ireland and the Republic have taken a courageous step, for which they deserve our heartfelt congratulations. Critical challenges lie ahead, however. American support, which has been so significant for the peace process, will remain important as the agreement is implemented, and as the arduous process of healing and reconciliation proceeds. As people of faith, we pray that Catholics and Protestants on the island of Ireland will find that their shared Christian values offer them a firm foundation for the new future which, with God's help, they have now begun to build.