Northern Ireland

Archbishop Alan Harper apologises over CGP comments

Firemen damp down shops destroyed by a firebomb in Armagh, County Armagh
Image caption The Consultative Group on the Past report said there should be 'no hierarchy of victims'

The Church of Ireland Primate has apologised to members of the Consultative Group on the Past over a Church of Ireland Gazette editorial.

The editorial had criticised comments made about the CGP report on Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence.

The Gazette said CGP members Denis Bradley and Rev Lesley Carroll "came across rather as spoilt children who had not got their way".

Archbishop Alan Harper said he was "genuinely shocked" at the comments.

"Lesley Carroll and Dennis Bradley, children they are not, spoilt children they are definitely not, they are people of considerable integrity, considerable stature in the community, and I regret very much that such an epithet should be thrown at them," he said.

On Sunday Sequence, Dr Carroll said that if she were doing the CGP report again she would not do anything differently, including recommending a £12,000 recognition payment proposal.

Mr Bradley said on the programme that the CGP report, which had not been adopted by government after a public consultation, had not been considered in a sufficiently "rational" way.

The Gazette, for which the Church has no responsibility, said: "Dr Carroll's comments were challenged in the editorial by reference to the fact that the Northern Ireland Office had conducted a public consultation on the recommendations of the CGP, and by stating that the CGP report had been rejected as opposed to shelved [which the editorial said Dr Carroll had suggested on the programme]."

The Gazette also said the editorial described Mr Bradley's comment as "an affront to the public".

It said the criticism of Dr Carroll and Mr Bradley was "not a personal attack and was fair comment upon an issue of considerable public interest".

The archbishop said that while the Gazette was "not an organ of the Church of Ireland, it does trade under the name of the Church of Ireland".

"And so the Church has a right to expect that any comment it expresses should be expressed appropriately and if I may say so, courteously, and that just wasn't what I saw," he said.

"I have apologised, I personally phoned both Denis Bradley and Lesley Carroll, whom I've known for many years, to express my regret."

The Consultative Group on the Past report, which was published in 2009, said there should be "no hierarchy of victims" with regard to the Northern Ireland Troubles and that everyone should be treated in the same way.

It also proposed that families of all those killed during the Troubles should receive a one-off "recognition payment" of £12,000.

This story was updated on 15 December 2014 to better reflect the position of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

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