'I believe that Ireland should be united,' says Archbishop of Armagh
Published 27/05/2016 | 02:30
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said he believes there should be a united Ireland and he would like to work to bring it about.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh described himself as a nationalist but repudiated the use of violence as a means of achieving a united Ireland.
"I do believe that Ireland should be one. And I would like to continue to work for that by peaceful means and by persuasion, recognising that there are many people on this island who do not want that. At no point whatsoever would I have believed in the use of violence in order to achieve that."
In a wide-ranging interview in 'Hot Press', the archbishop recalled growing up in Derry during the Troubles. He said he was constantly searched on his way to school or the shops and that as a 12-year-old he came face to face with horrors, such as the aftermath of a bomb.
On Brexit, the 54-year-old prelate said he saw a united Europe as something positive.
He believed this vision of a united Europe had meant that the Border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland had become less and less important. "I would like to see that trend continuing," he said.
The archbishop explained that his own diocese of Armagh straddles the Border, with 60pc of its parishioners in Northern Ireland and 40pc in the Republic, "but we see ourselves as one".
Warning that peace can't be taken for granted, the leader of the Catholic Church said there were "people who want to drag us back, who feel that you can still bomb people into a united Ireland. There are still people in our communities who think that the peace was a lie and that it was too early to make peace.
"I don't agree. I think it was too late. I think far too many people lost their lives and far too many people were maimed and injured for life - and that's only talking about the physical injuries, not to mention the psychological injuries."
On clerical celibacy, the archbishop admitted that he had dated a number of girlfriends before joining the seminary and thought that he was in love a few times.
Even since becoming a priest, he has "met many women to whom I'm fairly sure I would be attracted and in another life might have considered, 'Would I like to be married to this person? Have children with this person?'" But, he said, he had made a commitment that he had to try to be faithful to.
On gay marriage, he said that being "a homosexual person is not a sin" but the church believed that the right place for sexual relations is within marriage, between a man and a woman.
Archbishop Martin hit out at the push for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which he described as a "powerful expression of the equality of the right to life of all people" including the most vulnerable.