Paisley holds ‘useful’ talks with Catholic Primate
Paisley holds ‘useful’ talks with Catholic Primate

The first ever face-to-face talks between DUP leader Ian Paisley and the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland were very good and useful, Mr Paisley has said.

But Mr Paisley, also the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, was at pains to stress the meeting with the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Sean Brady, was political and not religious.

“It was not an ecumenical meeting of any kind and that was made clear at the beginning of the meeting,” said Mr Paisley.

Though after decades of having nothing to do with the Catholic Church, branding the Pope ‘The Anti Christ’ - and being thrown out of the European Parliament on its first day for the comment - the event was seen as a breakthrough.

Social, political and economic matters relevant to both were discussed, he said.

“I welcome the opportunity that this meeting has provided,” Mr Paisley said afterwards.

“We have had a very good and useful exchange of views across a range of issues. It is in the interests of everyone to develop the foundations for stability and prosperity for all the people of Northern Ireland.”

The meeting was one in a series Mr Paisley and party colleagues have held with church leaders in the run up to this week’s hothouse political talks in Scotland aimed at trying to restore power-sharing Executive in the North before the November 24 deadline set by the Dublin and London governments.

The Archbishop said said the discussions had been very helpful and constructive.

“Today’s meeting confirmed to me that all of us have a part to play in creating a more stable and prosperous future for Northern Ireland,” he declared.

“I firmly believe that such a future is within our grasp if each one of us can find the courage to take account of the needs of the other and not just those of our own community.

“I think that real peace will come only when we focus on the common good of all of our society and not just on sectional interest.”

Archbishop Brady also confirmed he discussed with Mr Paisley efforts to revive devolution and unionist attempts to ensure Sinn support the PSNI police.

He said: “Northern Ireland is fast becoming a more diverse and dynamic society.

“I hope and pray that coming months will also see it become a more democratically accountable and stable society.

“Perhaps then we will be able to unlock the great potential that undoubtedly exists within the people of Northern Ireland and set this place free to become one of the safest, most welcoming and most prosperous parts of the world.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the meeting.

“I think it is important that the leader of the largest Unionist party should meet all sectors of opinion and that includes the Catholic hierarchy,” Mr Adams said.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News