The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady, was branded as a republican sympathiser by the DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr after he made a wide ranging speech on the peace process in the North of Ireland.
Mr Paisley said the archbishop “has set down his prayer book and Mass card for a copy of An Phoblacht to get his inspiration from”.
In his lecture in London, which provoked a mixed reaction, the Primate mulled over issues of policing, paramilitarism and acceptance.
He said it was is “more than just a perception” that unionist leaders, British politicians and the British media do not treat the existence of the loyalist paramilitaries with the same determination as that of republican paramilitaries.
“This not only leads to further resentment and distrust of unionists and of the British state on the part of Catholics (to whom their violence is directed), it also reinforces any ambivalence which nationalists might have to the presence of republican paramilitaries in their community as a line of final defence.”
Among other matters, he expressed concern at the slow pace of policing change, the ongoing role of Special Branch, allegations of state collusion in murder and the continuing failure of the British government to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
He said: “It is difficult to underestimate the impact of these allegations on the confidence of the Catholic community in the impartiality of the British government generally and in the new beginning to policing in particular.
“This is an area for which only the British government can take responsibility. The failure to honour the commitments given in relation to the Cory collusion inquiry reports and the call for a public inquiry into the murder of Mr Pat Finucane, are not only unacceptable, they have served to compound the sense of suspicion which exists about the extent of collusion and about the continued influence of these same elements of the security services right into the present.”
Dr Brady also called for an end to paramilitarism in all its forms, and for the governments to uphold the full implications of “that act of self-determination” by which the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by the Irish people in 1998.
Ian Paisley’s said Dr Brady’s comments were “outrageously intransigent” and would “send a chill down the spine of any decent-thinking Protestant”.
“They also send out a clear message to Roman Catholic police officers that your church is against you joining the police and has effectively abandoned you to the wolves of republicanism... I fear his comments will set back by years good police community relations.”
Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brun said Dr Brady had reflected a range of concern held by the broad nationalist and republican community.
“ Sinn Féin are absolutely committed to making this process work. It is our belief that this can be achieved if the other parties and the two governments keep both their focus and commitment in the time ahead.
“Archbishop Brady in the course of his lecture has identified a range of matters which need to be addressed. It is up to the two governments and all of the parties to address these outstanding issues in a positive way in any future talks.”