In an open letter to politicians, the Archbishop of Armagh has advised government leaders to work together to maintain the peace in Northern Ireland.
Archbishop Eamon Martin’s letter was released after a snap election was called in Northern Ireland on Monday.
The current government collapsed after Sinn Fein formally announced it wouldn’t replace Martin McGuinness who resigned as deputy first minister last Monday over concerns about the Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster’s handling of an energy scheme scandal.
The pair held a joint office so McGuinness’s resignation meant that Foster automatically lost her job.
In the letter, Archbishop Martin, who is Primate of All Ireland, called on politicians to make wise decisions going forward.
He wrote: “Consider carefully your responsibility and noble vocation to work for the common good. The premature collapse of our political institutions so soon after the last election is a serious matter for all of us and cannot be taken lightly.
“The sense I am picking up from people on the ground is that it risks further disillusionment with the political process. We understand that it takes courage and generosity to stand for public office. But it also brings a trusted responsibility for leadership and integrity which can never be taken for granted.”
He added that the country needs to be able to trust politicians from all political parties to move forward with the peace process.
“We have all learned through bitter experience that wrong is never all on one side – too many families among us still grieve the losses, or nurse the wounds of sectarianism and hatred. We do not want that for our children and grandchildren,” the Archbishop wrote.
Archbishop Martin said that the rest of the world sees Northern Ireland as a “sign of hope that peace can be achieved” and that politicians must do all they can to maintain it.
He said: “Continue to work to sustain the painstaking progress which many of you and your predecessors helped to deliver. Help to bring us further along the road to lasting peace, a shared future and prosperity for all.
“Do not resort to predictable, wearisome slogans or denigrating, divisive language. Like many in the community, the churches are available to assist you in any way. We will certainly pray for you in the coming weeks.”