The Church of Ireland Board for Social Theology has expressed dismay that Alex Atwood, Minister for Social Development, is pressing ahead with a consultation on Sunday opening hours.
The Board has issued the following statement. “The Church of Ireland Board for Social Theology is disconcerted and dismayed to find that the Minister for Social Development has pressed ahead with a consultation on Sunday opening hours despite previous calls for him not to.
“Although stating that he wishes to see Sunday preserved as a family day, both his statements and the discussion document on this subject seem to suggest this initiative is based around the economic concerns of large retailers. Minister Attwood has presented five options for consideration; of these four assume that the current Sunday trading regulations will be relaxed and no option is allowed for the public to voice its opinion on reducing opening. It is difficult to view this as anything other than a fait accompli.”
The statement continues: “The hours on Sundays when employees are not compelled to work are very important for families to spend time with each other. Furthermore, given the significance that Sunday holds for the 45 per cent of people in Northern Ireland who regularly attend church, it is surprising to note that church is not mentioned in either of the Minister’s statements or in the discussion document.
“The Board is also dismayed that the Minister seems to be attempting to downplay the importance of Christmas Day and Easter Day by inviting comment on the regulations for these days. We reiterate our commitment to enter into useful dialogue with the Minister on this subject, and would encourage him to meet with us to address the concerns of church members who seem to have been ignored as key stakeholders so far.”