Irish church leaders have welcomed a long awaited agreement between Northern Ireland's two largest political parties over transferring control of police forces from Britain to local authorities – a measure that was first introduced in the country nearly 12 years ago.
Finalized last Friday between representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Sinn Fein party - supported by the country's Protestant and Roman Catholic communities respectively –the agreement provides for the devolution of Ireland's police systems on April 12, with a cross-community vote scheduled to take place on March 9.
In response to the agreement, the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady said, "My prayer is that everyone in our society will reflect on what has been agreed today with a spirit of generosity and concern for the good of the whole community."
"I want to express my particular hope that efforts to address the issue of parades will be met with generosity, sensitivity and a willingness to go beyond old ways of approaching each other on all sides," he added.
Bishop Alan Harper of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland commented, "I most warmly welcome the news that agreement has been reached on a way forward on the devolution of justice and policing powers to Northern Ireland, together with the other issues that have been taken into account in the recent protracted negotiations."
Coming nearly 12 years after the original proposal for the measure was signed, the policy's delay came because of difficulty in achieving the "broad support of the political parties" in the country, with division occurring mostly over issues of unity with Britain.
Other dividing issues include a traditional summer parade commemorating the victory of a Protestant king over his Catholic counterpart, an event that many Catholics find offensive.