Sunday, 22 August 2010

Northern Ireland

The recent upsurge in dissident republican activity is a cause for concern but we should try and keep it in perspective.

The people perpetrating this recent violence, and probably planning more, have no constituency. They represent no community and no strand of public opinion. They represent only the past and not the future.

The people of Northern Ireland have spoken and chosen peace, democracy and leaders who can work together for the common good. For those of us who love Ireland, north and south, we hope that all sides of the community will continue to reject these extremists who offer nothing but a return to dark passages and sad days.

A mosque at Ground Zero?

The question of whether a mosque should be built at Ground Zero in New York is not for me a moral question; it is one of pragmatism and sensitivity.

I believe that people should have the right to worship freely and without prejudice, but there can be little doubt that a mosque built at Ground Zero will cause upset and offence, not least to the families of those who were murdered by the 9/11 hi-jackers, who killed in the name of their twisted form of Islam. Those families and all affected by the events of that terrible day deserve to be shown some sensitivity.

I think that common sense should prevail and the mosque be built elsewhere.

The Pope’s visit

The build-up to the Pope’s visit to Britain has not been without controversy. I am hoping His Holiness’ visit goes well, not just because I am a Catholic, but because if it does, it will reflect well on our country and our values of tolerance, respect and openness.

The Pope is not just a religious leader but also a Head of State and as such is entitled to be welcomed here with the same grace and respect as any other world leader. He is also entitled to be welcomed and heard without some of the unpleasantness and intolerance that has been shown towards him and his forthcoming visit in recent weeks. Sadly, I expect to see this anti-Catholic, anti-Pope vitriol to increase over the next few weeks. This is regrettable.

I do not expect everyone in Britain to support the Church or the views the Pope takes, or to suppress their strong views in our free society, but I hope that they will be tolerant, respectful and fair to the Pope. I would expect other faith leaders to receive the same treatment; why should the Pope be any different?