Church of Ireland Canon Alan Irwin spoke to the News Letter yesterday, after the hidden discussions in Lambeth Palace – one of the headquarters of the global Anglican communion – came to light last week.
The talks involved the PSNI, UK and Irish governments, and Sinn Fein – with unelected former IRA figure Spike Murray among those present.
There were no representatives from any of NI’s unionist parties; in fact, the parties said they were unaware such talks were even happening.
Likewise, some observers have been critical of the lack of representation of innocent Troubles victims at the talks.
Rev Irwin’s uncle Fred (a council waste worker and part-time UDR soldier) was killed by the IRA in 1979, and then his father Thomas (a sewage plant worker and also a part-time UDR volunteer) was killed in 1986 by the group.
Rev Irwin, who ministers in Lack, Co Fermanagh, told the News Letter he worries the archbishop (who is the de facto head of the entire worldwide Anglican communion) will “fall into the same snare as clerics here and actually turn aside from the Biblical model, set aside the Scriptures, in relation to justice, truth and forgiveness”.
His reaction to the news was “anger”, and he described the situation as “sickening”.
“This is happening again, and innocent victims have been overlooked,” he said.
“Surely we’re the first port-of-call to be spoken to as to how we see it – at the end of the day, it’s affecting our lives.”
He believes that the archbishop is “being used”, and it amounts to a “bit of a betrayal to his flock and certainly to the innocent – no attempt has been made to engage with us”.
Rev Irwin worries that the talks represent an effort to “placate or appease” those involved in terrorism.
Specifically, he said that “there seems to be nothing there about acknowledgement of wrongdoing as a basis to start off with”, adding that not just “repentance” but “restitution” is required before true reconciliation can happen.
Some lay people he had spoken to were “disgusted”, saying “the church doesn’t seem to be in touch with the grassroots membership”.
Lastly, Rev Irwin thanked the News Letter, saying it is the “only voice” for innocent victims.
Some lay people he had spoken to were “disgusted” adding “the church doesn’t seem to be in touch with the grassroots membership”.
Lastly he thanked the News Letter, saying it is the “only voice” for innocent victims.
Mervyn Storey, former DUP social development minister (who is a Free Presbyterian) said: “I can’t speak for the Church of Ireland. But I’m certain it’ll raise concerns that there’s been this type of clandestine approach.
“There are many members of the CoI, particularly in border counties, who suffered at the hands of terrorism – and sadly many CoI churches were locations for the funerals of those who were the victims. I think if you asked those families about this process, I’m sure their answer would be much the same as mine.”
He said the news of the talks “smells like” the government trying to “circumnavigate the political process”.
He also voiced strong objection to the idea of “paying off paramilitaries” – including all those on the loyalist side.
The News Letter asked the Church of Ireland its response to news of the secret talks.
It said: “We have no comment to make.”
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