September 25, 2022

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Church leaders from across the island of Ireland have criticised politicians for failing to produce anti-poverty strategies as society’s most vulnerable prepare for an autumn of soaring prices.

In a joint statement, the various denominations warned that those already struggling to afford essentials such as food and fuel and are now “in real danger of losing their homes, health or lives”.

The Church Leaders’ Group Ireland comprises the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church and the Irish Council of Churches. Collectively they appealed for direct action to ease the burden of increasing living costs.

“We are also deeply concerned regarding the Government response in both jurisdictions, in meeting immediate needs and also in relation to longer-term strategy,” they said.

The statement notes how the Belfast Agreement created a statutory requirement for the Northern Ireland Executive to produce an anti-poverty strategy, but that this has not been agreed or produced almost 25 years later.

In the Republic, they said there is a need for a cross-party anti-poverty strategy to address issues in a comprehensive and effective manner.

“As leaders of churches with a presence across the island, we are deeply concerned by what we are seeing on the ground, with the increasing energy and food prices disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, often leaving people with impossible choices to make, missing meals and falling into arrears on bills.”

While appealing for more practical supports through direct government initiatives in both jurisdictions, and via charity and community partnerships, they said such efforts must be accompanied by longer-term official policies.

“Followers of Christ have always been called to serve the poor, not just through acts of charity, though these continue every day in ways large and small, but through the pursuit of justice and mercy,” the statement said.

“It is our shared vocation to witness to Christ and to protect the dignity of those made in God’s image, and so we are compelled to speak up in this moment, out of concern and in hope, for the good and flourishing of everyone in our communities.”

Ireland’s church leaders have met regularly to address urgent political developments since the formation of the group in the late 1960s.

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