Evangelicals tell Northern Ireland leaders to stop the blame game

A gardener waters flowers in front of Northern Ireland's parliamentReuters

With Stormont on the cusp of reconvening, evangelicals in Northern Ireland have called for an end to "political posturing and blame games".

Late on Thursday, three years to the day since the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, Secretary of State Julian Smith and T├ínaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney announced that a draft deal had been struck to restore power sharing in the province. 

The deal, entitled New Decade, New Approach, could see the assembly reconvene on Friday.

David Smyth, head of the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, said it was a "critical moment" in the talks process as he called for "sustainable form of good governance" to ensure the long-term wellbeing of the province and the delivery of basic services like health, education and justice.

"It's time for the political posturing and blame games to stop," he said. 

"This may well take a new and radical kind of leadership, a re-orientation towards humility and each other. May new risks lead to new relationships rewarded with trust.

"Today we pray for wisdom and bravery for all our elected leaders, that they would earnestly pursue our collective well being."

The lengthy suspension of Stormont came under particular criticism last year when the Westminster Government passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill that included sweeping changes to the province's marriage and abortion laws. 

Northern Ireland had the most conservative abortion provisions in the UK, permitting terminations only if the mother's life was in danger or there was a serious risk to her physical or mental health.

That changed on October 22, when the provisions of the Bill permitting abortion up to the point of viability came into effect.

The Bill had specified that the changes would come into force only if Stormont failed to reconvene by October 21 last year. 

At that time, repeated calls by pro-lifers for Stormont to urgently reconvene in light of the new regulations were unsuccessful.