The head of the Anglican Church in Dublin has said it is “still terrifyingly unclear” what outcome Brexit will have for both parts of the island of Ireland.
In his presidential address to the Dublin & Glendalough Diocesan Synod on Tuesday, Archbishop Michael Jackson said what was clear was that the “obsession around the backstop has effectively stopped us from asking what, in fact, is the frontstop”.
Dr Jackson also stressed, “it is not the Irish Backstop; it is the European Backstop”. He added, “This is a European issue that cannot be ‘marketed’ as solely an Irish problem.”
Addressing people and clergy representing the parishes of the dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough, he said his thoughts were with the range of people affected by Brexit in many jurisdictions and in a very specific way in Ireland and in the Church of Ireland.
“People live and work on what is now changing from being a peaceable border to being a contested border. Peace in its day was courageous. Peace today remains a precious prize right across Ireland.”
Reminding delegates that the Good Friday Agreement secured peace as part of an international agreement, he said borders were liminal spaces, places of transformation and of transition.
The people of ‘The Border’, the Armagh-native said, are “people like myself with whom I have grown up, whom I greatly respect and with whom I subsequently ministered. They are fast becoming a pawn in a politics of cynical neglect and atrophy of understanding. They are our people too; however different they may sound”.
The Anglican prelate criticised the manner in which the debate and discourse around Brexit had “coarsened” and “hardened” and warned that, “Populism and parliamentarianism are both pitted against one another and conflated in charismatic, if less than attractive, personalities.”
Elsewhere in his address, Dr Jackson spoke about Anglican identity in Ireland today in light of the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869.
“Today, we have an enviable identity as members of a vibrant secular-style society; we have an identity as members of our own families and communities; and we have an identity as members of a church that in 1869 declared itself free to shape its future,” he said.
Recent scholarship had argued that Disestablishment was to move towards introspective self-protection and withdrawal from the public square.
While not refuting this, Archbishop Jackson said that allowing such a mindset of decline and demoralisation to continue to deepen did not bode well for the institutional survival of the Church or for individual engaged citizenship in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.
His said his request was “simple”.
“It is that you celebrate who we are; that you consolidate what we have done building community locally and from home. “Change and construction go hand in hand,” he added..