BY A STAFF REPORTER
ONE hundred and eight priests working in the Archdiocese of Westminster have signed a statement on Northern Ireland calling for a massive programme of government investment in the six counties to reduce unemployment.
Among the signatories are Mgr. Bruce Kent, Chaplain to London University, Fr. David Konstant, Mgr. G. A. Tomlinson, Fr. Harold Winstone and Fr. Louis Thomas.
Dismayed at the conflict and continued violence in Northern Ireland, they say that they wish to associate themselves with all groups working for peace and justice.
For years, the statement says, Catholics in England did not trouble to find out about injustices perpetrated in Northern Ireland, and made no attempt to use their not inconsiderable influence on Parliament.
"Moreover, we have not done what we could have done to allay suspicions and fears of
Protestant groups about Roman Catholic ambitions and attitudes. As influential a Catholic as President Nyerere of Tanrania has said: 4... it is difficult to argue that the societies in which the Catholic Church operates and has most influence are organised for social justice . . .'"
With this in mind, the statement says, they pledge themselves to work peacefully hut determinedly for civil rights in Northern Ireland, whilst also assuring Protestants that the Catholic Church can, does and will respect the conscience of others.
The priests urge their fellow Christians to ask their members of Parliament and the government to accept that: The introduction of more troops and more repression can only escalate the violence; internment has proved to be unjust, and those accused of crimes should be brought to trial. Those not accused should he released and compensated; the Compton Report's distinction between ill-treatment and brutality is an effort to justify injustice; moderate and responsihle members of the minority in the North should be invited to share power at once, even if this meant the temporary suspension of Stormont and the setting up of a Commission; and there should he a massive programme of government investment, and public work programmes initiated and supported.
Drawing attention to the Vatican Council document, "The Church in the World Today," the statement concludes: "We should do everything we can to convince the parties to the present conflict that justice, peace and security do not come from the barrels of guns."