Amid rise in gang violence, Irish archbishop calls for new temperance movement

Archbishop Eamon Martin Credit Northern Ireland Executive CC BY ND 20 CNA Archbishop Eamon Martin. | Northern Ireland Executive CC BY ND 2.0.

An archbishop in Northern Ireland has called for the reigniting of a "temperance movement" to address the problem of alcohol and drugs, in the wake of increasing gang violence in the country.

"We see how addictions like this can devastate family life and social life...There is no future in a life of crime associated with drugs," Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, primate of all Ireland, told the Irish Independent on Sunday.

His comments were prompted in part by a spate of violence in Drogheda, a town 30 miles north of Dublin, which has included shootings and arson attacks, the most recent being a gasoline bomb attack on a house Tuesday morning. The attacks are thought to be the result of a feud between rival gangs.

Drogheda has seen around 80 violent incidents in recent months, including gasoline bombings, shootings and assaults in the town linked to the gang violence, the Irish Independent reports.

The archbishop spoke after Mass at St. Peter's Church in Drogheda to honor the martyred Irish saint Oliver Plunkett, who was hung, drawn and quartered on July 1, 1681 in England. St. Oliver gave up alcohol over concerns that it was damaging the priestly life of the clergy, Martin noted.

Martin said he has been discussing the problems of drugs and violence with priests and community leaders in Drogheda, and said many of them are "quietly working on the ground" to encourage peace.

In addition to gang violence, several arson attacks on Catholic churches have taken place in Northern Ireland in recent months. Sacred Heart Church in Ballyclare, about 13 miles north of Belfast, was desecrated with paint in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning April 21. Police arrested a 26 year-old man related to the "criminal damage."

A group of young people started a fire in a shed on the parish property of Holy Family parish in Derry the night of May 24. No one was harmed, but both the church and parochial house were damaged.

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