The Rt Rev David Bruce outside his Lisburn home.

Speaking into the ongoing tensions linked to Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol and its outworking, Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr David Bruce, has appealed to those with responsibility for finding the necessary solutions to work together, even if at times that means disagreeing well. He also condemned over recent weeks the use of threats against politicians and others, and urged his fellow Christians not to shirk their responsibility to pray for those whose job it is to find the necessary workable solutions.

In a statement issued this morning, Dr Bruce said,

“All of us in these islands have a responsibility to encourage the kind of dialogue that leads to fruitful engagement and resolution, and when this is difficult, and tensions are shifting, we have a responsibility to seek agreement and, where that is not immediately possible, to disagree well.

“Disagreeing well is an essential element of democracy. It means being careful with our words and use of language so as not to inflame any given situation. It also means being careful not to back other people into corners leaving them with no way out. To disagree well means being honest in our politics and gracious towards one another, even when we are not starting from the same place. Disagreeing well is part of the process that ultimately enables agreements to be made.

“Disagreeing well also means that people should never be intimidated or threatened. Tensions linked to Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol, for instance, over recent weeks, have led to threats against some of our elected representatives and others, which I utterly condemn. Tactics like these are anti-democratic and have absolutely no place in any society, more so in these days when people are working day and night to preserve life.

“Shifting tensions always make the ability to find solutions more difficult. I certainly do not underestimate the difficulties involved. However, I appeal to those tasked with finding solutions to do so thinking of the other, alongside their own deeply held positions, so that local tensions, or political strains between states, diminish. The challenges faced as a result of changing political relationships will be resolved because they have to be – none of us will emerge well if they are not – from the pensioner doing their weekly shop to the trader doing business across jurisdictions.  

“I appeal to those with responsibility for finding the necessary solutions to work together, even if on occasions that means disagreeing well. At the same time I, along with my fellow Christians, have a responsibility to pray for those in authority, something that cannot be shirked. We do so in the firm belief that prayer materially affects the course of human events. Prayer changes things, and as we are invited by God to tell Him what we think and how we feel, He hears our passion and our pain, our hopes and our fears.

“As a follower of Jesus Christ, and as a Church leader in these particular days, I want to encourage all my brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for the UK and Irish governments, the Northern Ireland Executive and the EU Commission, praying that they will find a way to move forward together as we work out these new political relationships. Disagreeing well, with all of its challenges, is an important part of that process, which will, I pray, eventually enable agreement to be found,” he said.

Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Ireland