The head of the Anglican Church in Ireland today appealed to politicians to show the courage needed to secure a political breakthrough in the North.
Archbishop Robin Eames made the call after he and the Bishops of the Church of Ireland had groundbreaking first talks with Sinn Féin.
The discussions at Stormont followed Democratic Unionist leader the Ian Paisley’s first meeting with the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady a fortnight ago.
After 90 minutes of talks covering a range of issues, the Archbishop emerged to say: “We are anxious to see progress. We are anxious to see movement and above all else we want to see Northern Ireland at peace with itself. “
He said the Bishops weren’t there to issue judgments or advice about what political decisions had to be made.
However Mr Eames said: “We did stress to Sinn Féin the need to seek agreement on the way forward. It is for politicians to have the courage and convictions that we believe they were elected to show.”
Sectarianism and the hurt felt in Protestant communities over events of the past decades were discussed as was policing.
Sinn Féin is currently engaged in a consultation exercise to see whether its supporters are ready to back the police service and structures of law and order in Ireland.
The Archbishop said his group understood the sensitivities of Sinn Féin over policing.
Adding: “We also put on the table the sensitivities of those who want to see Sinn Féin and all the parties supporting the police and reaching a situation of the stability that would come from that.”
He said it was yearned for by all the people in the North.
An historic first meeting between Mr Adams and the Ian Paisley at a Programme for Government Committee last week was cancelled when the DUP raised concerns to the oath.
The DUP made clear there would be no movement on power sharing with Sinn Féin until they supported policing.
Mr Adams said: “We have been working very actively and efforts to sort out this latest obstacle are ongoing.
“I am concerned it is over a week we left St Andrews and we have not even had the first Programme for Government meeting.”
Asked if he thought it was no more than a glitch – as suggested by secretary of state Peter Hain – or something more serious, he said: “I will answer that question at the end of the week.
“By the end of this week we will either have got this sorted out and moved to the next phase, or we won’t have.”
Mr Adams described his meeting with the Protestant churchmen as very important.
“This was a public event which sends its own positive signals.
“It is important we had this meeting, it is a sign of the times – long may that continue.”
He said the discussions had been open, transparent, positive and helpful and covered many issues. He said they had spoken of the desire to make political violence a thing of the past.
The Bishops revealed that they were going to maintain contact with all the political parties they had been meeting in recent weeks from parish level upwards.
The Archbishop said they were hopeful a date would soon be fixed for a meeting with Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists – the only party his group had yet to have discussions with.