April 21, 2009

Irish Catholic Church leader to meet loyalists

by David Masters

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, will today meet with loyalist leaders for the first time.

Cardinal Brady is meeting a delegation from the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG), linked to the paramilitary UDA.

Inviting the delegates into his own home in Armagh, the Cardinal will urge the group to ‘reject violence once and for all’.

Tackling social disadvantage will also be high on the agenda for discussion, said Fr Tim Bartlett, who helped to arrange the meeting.

Bartlett said the Cardinal will ask delegates to ‘liberate’ Northern Ireland from the fear of violence, and to “work with everybody else to free our whole society from criminality, from drugs, from alcohol abuse, and improve our social conditions.”

It will be the first time that Cardinal Brady has had face-to-face talks with loyalist paramilitaries, and comes just weeks after attempts by dissident republicans to re-ignite violent conflict in the region.

A UPRG representative described the talks with Brady as ‘significant’ and evidence of the progressive nature of loyalism.

In 2006, Cardinal Brady became the first Catholic leader to meet with leaders from the Orange Order, and together they worked out ways to reduce tensions during the marching season.

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