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Power to the Irish

VATICAN CITY (CNS): If Catholic and Protestant political parties in Northern Ireland form a power sharing government it would be “a very powerful Christian witness” for other areas where conflicts include a religious component, Pope Benedict XVI told Ireland’s President.

Irish President Mary McAleese, meeting reporters after her March 23 audience with the Pope, said she told him about efforts to ensure that Northern Irish political parties form a Catholic-Protestant governing administration.

The political parties agreed on March 26 to start sharing power from May 8.

The papal quote came from Ms McAleese.

The Vatican said only that her meeting with the Pope included a discussion about “the development of the peace process in Northern Ireland”.

The power sharing arrangement was proposed in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to end the violence between unionists, who are mainly Protestant and favour continued British rule, and nationalists, who are mainly Catholic and want Northern Ireland reunited with the Irish Republic.

While power sharing governments have been established, agreements have fallen apart several times, most recently in 2004.

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