Derry bishop Donal McKeown

Derry bishop says Northern Ireland needs Government now to avoid worst-case Brexit

The Bishop of Derry has said that Northern Ireland needs a Government as soon as possible to avoid a worst-case scenario Brexit.

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“I think that in a sense some people want the British government to take all the flack for that [Brexit], and then we can sit back and let them take the blame and us not be involved”, Bishop Donal McKeown said in comments reported January 9 by the Irish Catholic.

“We have elected politicians…and it’s their job to sort the problems out, that’s what they’re paid for”, McKeown said.

The bishop warned that efforts by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland as well as new European Peace Plus funding to minimise the effects of Brexit will amount to nothing unless there are representatives on the ground in Northern Ireland to work with.

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“We need the local representatives making those decisions and I think the Church will be very keen to push them in that direction”, McKeown insisted.

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Three years ago this Thursday the Northern Irish Executive collapsed after the power-sharing coalition between the two major parties – the Democratic Unionist Party and the Sinn Féin – fell apart after a bitter row.

If the two parties don’t reach an agreement on devolution by Monday 13, fresh elections could be called, and Bishop McKeown warned both parties could lose votes in a new poll.

“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”, McKeown observed.

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The bishop added that “people are more concerned about hospitals than politics”, in reference to the collapse of the Northern Ireland health service, social housing and education system due to the political impasse.

“The last thing any of us [want] from a pastoral perspective is that ordinary people would suffer, in terms of unemployment or more stress for our young people”, McKeown concluded.

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