Archbishop of Dublin challenges terrorists to come forward
Addressing a Dublin City University (DCU) audience last week, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, challenged the perpetrators of the 1987 Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday bombing, which left 11 people dead and 63 seriously wounded, to admit their actions. He said that those for whom “this concentrated and iconic act of violence and murder meant so much have never publicly or sufficiently come forward to name it as their own act”. In a stark observation on the terror attack, Dr Jackson added that perhaps it had been so horrific that “those who ordered it and those who executed it could not actually face owning it”.
He said: “The Enniskillen Bomb leads us back to World War I and World War II.
Remembrance Day on 8th November 1987 was not an occasion when Protestant paramilitaries were, as they say, ‘strutting their stuff’. It was a group of people in a free country honouring war dead.”
Christians rightly pray regularly for those in government and in the coming days the future government in the Republic of Ireland will naturally be very much in everyone’s mind. The election results which gradually emerged last weekend show that a truly new situation has developed with Fianna Fáil, in particular, making up much of its lost ground. As we go to press, precisely what the composition of the new government will be is unclear, or whether a further election is in the offing. There is thus a political conundrum with regard to which parties might get together and which might not. However, it seems difficult to envisage a second election yielding much of a different overall result.
TCD Emeritus Professor Michael Marsh has referred to “the further dramatic erosion of the old pillars of Irish politics and the extraordinary fragmentation of the party system”. His words aptly encapsulate the new situation in which the country finds itself and highlight the challenge of forging a new kind of Dáil politics with an exceptionally high number of Independents.
While one voter with undoubted wit could express frustration with politics in general by spoiling a ballot paper with the words “none of the above”, it is clear that Irish politics has entered a quite historic time; the possibility of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil overcoming their historic differences to enter government together is a particularly intriguing prospect.
It is, however, ironic that the Fine Gael/Labour coalition, which has presided over a continued recovery of the economy, should suffer so clearly at the hands of the electorate, although the water charges debacle undoubtedly did much political damage to the coalition.
Last year, the European Commission said Ireland’s recovery appeared “resilient to weaker global growth”, noting record GDP growth and positive prospects for falling unemployment; from February 2015 to January 2016 the jobless rate fell from 10% to 8.9% and the European Commission has forecast 7.9% for 2017.
In fact, the Republic’s economy has been the fastest growing in the eurozone over the last two years.
While Sinn Féin has seen a major increase in Dáil representation, it is clearly not the ringing endorsement that the party had wished for. By contrast, Labour’s dramatic decline may be due to a considerable extent to the Micheál Martin’s somewhat left-of-centre positioning of Fianna Fáil and there is surely no doubt that many voters who had deserted the party in the last election have found their way back.
Mr Martin told RTÉ that the formation of a government had to be around the principles of change called for by the people, adding that it was not just a matter for the two big parties. He also made it clear that what must be sought at this time is not party political advantage but the overall good of the country. That may be a stock political ‘soundbite’ but it is nonetheless true.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has commented that he has the responsibility of seeing see how best a government can be put together in the new circumstances. The coming days will see much negotiation between the parties – and much public speculation – but it is certainly the case that strong government is what is needed to carry the country’s recovery forward and so help every citizen.
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Letters to the Editor
Irish Protestants and 1916 Rising
The messianic blood sacrifice character of the 1916 Easter rising and the proclamation of an Irish Republic certainly did nothing to discourage the emergence of a ‘Catholic State for a Catholic People’, quite the contrary.
The majority of the Irish people saw nothing inconsistent with being a Catholic state which claimed also to be a Republic. After all, the rebels led by Pearse regarded Irishness and Catholicism as synonymous.
This was amply reinforced by messages of filial obedience to the Pope, on behalf of the Irish people, sent both by Costello and De Valera on taking office on behalf of their elected governments. Therefore, to be truly Irish one had to be a Roman Catholic. Of course, there had to be some tokenism – the inclusion of some high profile Protestant like Hyde or Yeats – to give a more acceptable image to the wider community. The Southern Protestants for the most part felt they had to keep a low profile, not being seen as truly Irish. I well remember my mother’s warning: “Victor, keep off religion and politics or you’ll get us all burnt out”.
After 1916 and the Somme, the division between the Roman Catholic South and Protestant North deepened with two parallel ascendancies, the unholy mixture of politics and religion, the curse of Ireland, North and South.
During my ministry in the North from 1947 to 1969, when I took issue with the Protestant Ascendancy mentality and advocated a pluralist inclusive state, I was frequently attacked and accused of being a Lundy, a traitor to the Protestant faith.
On coming to the Republic as Dean of St Patrick’s in 1969 and likewise taking issue with the Catholic Ascendancy, I was accused in Dail Eireann of being an Orange bigot, another Paisley.
When I spoke of a pluralist and inclusive tolerant society, the majority had no idea of what I meant – except to get rid of Rome, thereby making me a Protestant bigot.
Thankfully, things have now improved but much remains to be done. The fact that the 1916 Rising is commemorated each year on the actual day when Christians celebrate the Resurrection is really tantamount to giving national recognition that Pearse was justified in regarding his violent messianic blood sacrifice as equivalent to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ on that first Easter Day.
Surely the Christian Churches should insist that if 1916 is to be commemorated, it should be done on 24th April, the day of the actual rebellion, and not identified with the Christian Easter, or at least commemorated on the Sunday nearest the actual date.
The Role of the Church Committee discussed the idea of pluralism during the 1970s and we subsequently had a meeting with the then Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, in Leinster House. This led to Garret’s widely publicised ‘crusade’ campaign to bring about a more tolerant, pluralist, inclusive society.
So the Church of Ireland can claim some credit for what has now become acceptable as the right model for a truly democratic Republic.
Victor G. Griffin (The Very Revd) 7 Tyler Road Limavady BT49 0DW
Easter Day C. of I. worship in central Dublin
Your report on the difficulties surrounding the holding of services in Christ Church Cathedral and six other Church of Ireland churches in the centre of Dublin, including their proposed closure, on Easter Day in order to accommodate the commemoration of a rebellion is most disturbing (Gazette, 26th February).
In contrast, Roman Catholic churches in the centre of Dublin will be open for worship. This surely sends a message to Protestants in the Irish Republic that they are are here on sufferance and should learn to take their place. They oblige, as they have done since independence, unlike Northern Catholics.
Archbishop Jackson has asked why the 1916 commemorations are taking place on Easter Day rather than Easter Monday. That is the wrong question. The commemorations should take place on the day the Rising took place, 24th April, and should not be blasphemously linked to Easter Day.
The Archbishop might show his opposition by not attending the commemorations in O’Connell Street on Easter Day but sadly he has made it clear that he has every intention of being there. Rob Bury
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