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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
Protest as moderator installed
Picket led be Rev Ian Paisley
Picket was led be Rev Ian Paisley
Free Presbyterians staged a protest ahead of a ceremony to install the new Presbyterian moderator in Northern Ireland.

More than 1,000 people gathered before the general assembly in Belfast on Monday to officially elect the Reverend Ken Newell as Moderator.

Among the guests were the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, and the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady.

The protest, led by the Reverend Ian Paisley, was at Archbishop Brady's presence at the event.

He was there, along with the other main church leaders, at the personal invitation of Dr Newell.

It was the first time the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland had been invited to the ceremony.

Dr Newell was installed as Presbyterian Moderator

About 60 people holding placards denouncing ecumenism staged a protest. They left after the ceremony got under way.

In his address, Dr Newell said the wave of hope created by the Good Friday Agreement had given way to a ''trough of despair'' because paramilitary groups had failed to disarm.

He was highly critical of paramilitary groups which he said had "undermined" the peace process.

He spoke of trust being "mugged and left bruised" in the street.

"In holding on to their arms they keep political progress at arm's length," he said.

"Paramilitarism still burdens our communities with its interface tensions, internal feuding and rising criminality."

Dr Newell said that with confidence "draining daily" from the political process, the potential to make life better for everyone in Northern Ireland should be grasped before it was too late.

"We want our young people to choose here for their future, elderly people need to feel safe in their homes, those from different ethnic and religious backgrounds long for a warm welcome, not the cold shoulder of racism," he added.

He added that whether people chose to embrace it or not, the future would be shared with "those who have caused us hurt and who have been hurt by us".

The leaders of the other three main churches attended Monday's installation where the new moderator outlined the theme for his year in office, Living a Life of Love.

"Imagine the difference it would make if tonight each of us made a big investment choice," he said.

"To invest the remaining years of our lives in living a life of love in this country agitated for centuries by animosity."

BBC NI's Malachy McCourt:
"Dr Paisley said elders never got a chance to vote on whether Archbishop Brady should have been invited"

Church elects new moderator
02 Mar 04  |  Northern Ireland
Moderator vote ends in tie
03 Feb 04  |  Northern Ireland
Moderator in unity plea
01 Jun 03  |  Northern Ireland
Politicians 'must deliver better future'
11 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland

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