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Archbishop Robin Eames, primate of all Ireland
Archbishop Robin Eames, primate of all Ireland
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: ARCHBISHOP ROBIN EAMES PRIMATE OF ALL IRELAND and BISHOP PATRICK WALSH ROMAN CATHOLIC SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Now we come closer to home, the scenes outside the North Belfast school of Holy Cross this week brought home only too clearly how deeply those sectarian divides affect everybody in Northern Ireland and in particular the little girls on their way to school becoming the objects of hatred and violence as parents continue to resist calls for them to use a different route. Police carrying riot shields line the streets, terrified face after terrified face cowered in fear. Certainly the Good Friday Agreement this past week has seemed far, far away. Now will the tension recede this week? Joining me now from outside his Cathedral in Armagh the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Robin Eames, good morning Archbishop.

ROBIN EAMES: Morning David.

DAVID FROST: And from our Belfast studio the Roman Catholic Bishop Patrick Walsh who walked some of the girls to school just a few days ago. Bishop good morning.

PATRICK WALSH: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: Let me begin with a question for both of you which was you've lived close to the troubles and so on for many, many years, was this a shock to you or could you see it coming?

PATRICK WALSH: Shall I take it first?

DAVID FROST: Okay.

PATRICK WALSH: Well I've lived all my life in Belfast, I love Belfast, I've seen terrible scenes in Belfast but I must say that this particular week has been particularly horrifying. I think it's important for your viewers to realise what we saw this week was really, if you like, the final eruption of what had been taking place, particularly in North Belfast, during the summer vacation. The months of July and August were really horrible months in Belfast, particularly in the North of the City, we saw people being intimidated out of their homes, we saw homes being attacked with pipe bombs, one of our, one of our churches burned to the ground and this week was, if you like, the final eruption in what was a pretty hate-filled few months.

DAVID FROST: Archbishop, Archbishop Eames?

ROBIN EAMES: I find that what happened at the school, what is happening at the school as Bishop Walsh has said was in a sense inevitable. Over the summer both communities in North Belfast have had grounds for complaint, grounds for apprehension, grounds for fear. But having said that can I say what I've been saying since day one and which I know Bishop Walsh recognises as the view of the vast majority of Protestant people, we are utterly revolted by those scenes outside the school, there's a wave of revulsion across this Province and it's very important that viewers in England, Scotland and Wales realise the level of revulsion and the level of absolute dismay that there is in this community and from a church standpoint I believe we have two jobs. First of all to, to take the moral issue, the moral ground which says little children must never be subjected to this sort of attention and secondly to make sure that the under-lining causes of this, particularly in North Belfast, are now brought out as the Secretary of State has said, brought out and examined and to see, this didn't happen overnight, what is it that in both communities is causing it.

DAVID FROST: Now coming back to you Bishop, the, obviously most people see the Protestants in this case as having started it and so on, in this particular case though they would go back to past history and so on as well, but others say why, why are the Roman Catholic parents not willing to go in the back door, normally if you're told this way would be safe for your children and this wouldn't, you'd choose the safe way, is that partially because of politics?

PATRICK WALSH: When I visited the school myself on Tuesday I spoke with a number of parents who were there with their children at the school and I said to those parents listen it's your responsibility to take care of your child, you must do all that you can for the good of your child, for the safety of your child and I know also that the Board of Governors of the school did advise the parents to choose an alternative route. I think it's unfortunate the word back door was used, I think, I don't know who used that particular phrase, the back door, because that immediately said to people we're not going to go through the back door. But when the parents, and a significant number of parents decide no they wanted to go up their normal route to school then the Parish Priest who was also Chairman of the Board of Governors actually walked with them as their Parish Priest although he had, he and the Governors had advised otherwise, but he stood by the parents once they had made their decision. But I would hope now on Monday morning we're facing a new week, we have new hope, the Secretary of State is taking a grip on the situation and I would hope that on Monday morning that the residents of the Glenbryn estate who have these grievances, that they will say to themselves we have grievances, the Secretary of State has now put a, a process in place, we're going to use that process, we've no grievance against the children, we've no grievance against the parents accompanying their children and I would hope and pray that on Monday morning those children and their parents, no need for any supporters, that they will be free to walk in whatever way they wish to their school and that the other residents who have these grievances and feel these grievances, that they will say there's now a process and we're going to use it and I know that all of us in the churches, Archbishop Eames and the other church leaders and myself, that we'll all be saying to our people, use this process now, the process is going to be put in place and we've all got to use that process.

DAVID FROST: And Archbishop Eames, this week Cardinal Cormack Murphy O'Connor talked here in England about Christianity, religion being almost vanquished in England and so on, is this really a religious clash, I mean people say sometimes that, for instance, how many of the people actually go to church or care about going to church any more, is religion at the root of this or is this, is religion getting the blame for a tribal war?

ROBIN EAMES: Well in Northern Ireland David, as you know, over the years you can never separate religious labels from the political activists or the political consequences, there's an old adage that sometimes we don't like used but I feel it is very appropriate in the present situation, perhaps Northern Ireland needs less religious labels and a little more Christianity and I would want to join with Bishop Walsh in extending the hope and urging anyone who will listen to me to make use this week of the facilities that are now being offered for mediation and conversation. This should never have reached the point over the summer that we now face and it's never too late to tackle it but I believe the time is now right for that dialogue to begin.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you both for those eloquent words this morning, Bishop, Archbishop we thank you very much indeed.

ROBIN EAMES: Thank you.

PATRICK WALSH: Thank you, thank you.

END


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