In their election advice, the bishops said Westminster politicians should be sensitive to the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland

Catholics in Northern Ireland are being urged to consider the positions of individual candidates in next week’s general election, and to “maximise the common good and diminish objective moral evil”.

This was the message from the Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland at the weekend, who also suggested questions to be put to candidates.

“It is regrettable that so many citizens today seem alienated and disheartened by the experience of politics, especially our younger people,” the bishops said. But it would be “regrettable if Christians and other citizens disengaged from the political process by not voting in the forthcoming Westminster election”.

The bishops said: “A fundamental responsibility of every follower of Jesus is to transform the world with hope. Every vote in favour of a more just, peaceful and caring society is a concrete and personal expression of that hope. That is why we strongly encourage all citizens to vote in the forthcoming election.”

They highlighted the fact that thousands of children live in poverty, and that schools and hospitals are facing huge pressures. Brexit is another issue. “The on-going negotiations about Brexit, led by the Westminster Government, will have a profound impact on the social, economic and political future of this part of Ireland. It is vital that the government formed in Westminster following the election is sensitive to the potentially destabilising impact of Brexit on so many aspects of the lives of our citizens here,” they said.

The environment should also be “a key consideration”, the bishops said.

“Pope Francis has highlighted our fundamental need as Christians, and as citizens, to care for the future of our common home, the earth. He asks, ‘what kind of planet do we want to leave to future generations?’ (Laudato Si’). Westminster plays a key role in influencing legislation and policy about the future sustainability of our planet both locally and internationally. This should be a key consideration for those concerned with the common good in the forthcoming election, including continued commitment to the agreements reached at the recent Paris summit on climate change,” they said.

The bishops suggested Catholic voters should ask individual candidates:

· How will you and your party best develop the employment opportunities and good housing necessary for individuals and families to lead prosperous and fulfilled lives?

· How will you and your party achieve a more environmentally sustainable society through effective public transport, the promotion of renewable energy and the reduction of waste food and packaging?

· How will you and your party protect and promote the value of every human life from conception until natural death?

· How will you and your party develop an education system that promotes the best outcomes for all young people?

· How will you and your party ensure that government commitments to resettle refugees are kept and options to expand these initiatives are considered?

· How will you and your party ensure that the developing Brexit process does not damage our society and ensure that Ireland, North and South remains an outward looking country within the community of nations?

· Regarding our constitutional status, how will you and your party promote a consensus-led society for all people?