The leaders of the four main churches in Northern Ireland held a meeting with Tony Blair in Downing Street this morning. The president of the Methodist Church, the Reverend Harold Good, Catholic Primate of Ireland Archbishop Dr Sean Brady, Archbishop Robin Eames and Presbyterian Moderator Dr Alastair Dunlop spent an hour with the Prime Minister. On a later date they plan to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Dr John Reid to explore ways of reducing tension in the province. Speaking on behalf of the group, Dr Eames told reporters: "The prime minister wanted to get a briefing on how we have been working together and particularly to get an account from us of what the churches have been doing over the years at the ground level during the Troubles." "He wanted to emphasise his own commitment to the way forward in combating sectarianism and we looked in detail at how the churches could assist in this process. "The Secretary of State will be meeting us to look in greater detail at what we can do to assist that process, in view of the urgency of what is happening in Northern Ireland at the moment." He added: "We are going away greatly encouraged that he is taking very seriously the role that we have played." Archbishop Brady said they hoped the churches could play a part in the healing of hurts at local level. He said the church leaders' message to the people of Northern Ireland was "one of hope". He added that it was "too early" to talk about specific proposals, but said the peace process had already been a "great achievement." Dr Dunlop said: "This is all about relationship building and we have enjoyed building a relationship further with the prime minister." He added: "I think it would be unrealistic to think that after 30 years of the kind of violence we have experienced you can suddenly switch all that off. There is a legacy of lawlessness from all those years of violence but we want to move beyond that now."
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