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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Politicians 'must deliver better future'
Dr Russell Birney:
Dr Russell Birney: "Politicians need to build up trust"
The politicians must deliver the community's dreams "rather than pursing policies rooted in fear," the leader of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant church has said.

Moderator of the Presbyterian Church Dr Russell Birney was commenting on the latest political crisis which is expected to lead to a suspension of the assembly.

The crisis follows unionist demands for the political institutions to be suspended or Sinn Fein expelled following a police investigation into IRA spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

He said the vision of creating a stable and equitable society in which diverse people could feel at peace and at home had to be sustained "whatever the setbacks and problems".

"Our politicians need to pursue strategies that would be mutually helpful, rather than strategies which would weaken one's opponent who is also one's partner," he said.

Stormont Assembly is expected to be suspended
Stormont Assembly is expected to be suspended

Dr Birney, speaking following the October meeting of the Presbyterian Church General Board in Belfast, said: "The immediate cause of the current political crisis has highlighted that the issues of mistrust and division in our society remain a significant challenge."

He added: "Many people in both parts of Ireland have reason to feel betrayed, especially those who took a leap of faith in supporting the Good Friday Agreement."

He said the 2,000 prison officers and their families who were warned their details may be on a list in the hands of a paramilitary group, following last week's raids as part of an investigation into alleged IRA intelligence gathering.

He said: "I would call on everyone on all sides of the community to totally reject this appalling activity against ordinary people."

'Suspicion'

It was regrettable that continuing loyalist and republican activity and the manner of the decommissioning of some illegal weapons "eroded trust rather than sustaining and increasing it", he said.

"If some people find themselves treated with suspicion, it is for them to demonstrate why the suspicion ought to be lifted."

Dr Birney said many people had shown constructive leadership despite the various constraints which made what was desirable difficult to achieve.

"The reality of the stubborn and persistent existence of diverse people living in contested space in a divided society, is a fact of life which has to be taken into account in any suggested political solutions to our problems," he said.

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Presbyterian Moderator Dr Russell Birney:
"The crisis shows that people must continue to work to overcome mistrust and division"
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11 Oct 02 | N Ireland
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