In this week’s Church of Ireland Gazette there is a response from the Church of Ireland Working Group to criticism of Lord Eames and the Consultative Group on the Past (Eames Bradley). The Gazette’s article is in replying to a letter written by Dr. Hazlett Lynch, the director of victims support group, West Tyrone Voice. In that letter Dr. Lynch has called on the CoI to apologise for former Archbishop of Armagh Lord Eames role in the Consultative Group on the Past. Dr. Lynch has complained that the Bishop of Clogher (Rt Revd Michael Jackson) simply replied noting his letter but had “simply dismissed” what he had said and that the letter from the Bishop was a “non-reply”.
According to the Gazette Dr. Lynch told them: “For many people, Lord Eames equals the Church of Ireland,” and added that the Church therefore now had a responsibility either to disassociate itself from Lord Eames views regarding the CGP report, or to apologise. In response to that the Gazette asked for and received we received the following joint statement from Bishop Jackson and the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin:
“The response to Dr Hazlett Lynch, to which you refer in your enquiry, was neither dismissive nor a non-reply. The response sought to suggest that with regard to the Report of the Consultative Group on the Past, the entirety of the proposals deserves consideration as the proposals result from an extensive consultation process.
We deplore what we regard as a disgraceful personal attack on Lord Eames. He gave over 40 years service in the ministry of the Church of Ireland, serving as Primate of all Ireland for more than 20 years. His contribution to the Peace Process has been publicly recognised. His compassion during those years in ministering to many victims and survivors bears comparison with that of any other individual. He was given the task of co-chairing the Consultative Group on the Past. It is not for us, nor for the Church of Ireland, nor, perhaps, even for the members of the Consultative Group, to be called on to apologise for the gathering together of this material. They were officially asked and publicly appointed to do that.”
What this row shows, I suspect, is that Eames has utterly demolished his own credibility with this report (as I repeatedly predicted he would). All the damage limitation by leading CoI clerics will, I fear, merely make them seem almost as stubbornly foolish, naïve and out of touch with their own people as Eames has already done.