Lord Eames raises issue of youth suicide for debate at Westminster
Following a recent debate on youth suicide which he initiated in the House of Lords, former Archbishop of Armagh Lord Eames has told the Gazette that while the Northern Ireland Government devotes a much greater amount of funding to suicide prevention per head of population than England, and together with Scotland has “a more enlightened approach”, he remains concerned about the response to the problem.
He said that it was the statistics from across the United Kingdom that had led him to raise the subject.
Lord Eames told Westminster’s Upper House that, despite a UK-wide decrease in the number of people under the age of 35 who took their own lives during 2012 compared with the previous year – 1,625 compared with 1,746 in 2011 – there was concern in England on the part of charities when comparisons were made with Scotland and Northern Ireland.
WHISTLEBLOWING IN THE GARDA SÍOCHÁNA
The Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations, 2007 make provision for Garda Síochána employees to report in good faith concerns of corruption or malpractice in confidence and without fear of disciplinary action, harassment or intimidation.
This is an important provision because organisations easily come to place their own interests above those whom they serve, thus not welcoming what has come to be known as whistleblowing. Such is the power of established administrations that a culture can arise in which a whistleblower’s life can be made very difficult indeed. The Church itself is far from immune from this kind of scenario – to think otherwise would be to delude ourselves. Questioning the ‘system’ of any institution, let alone those who run it, can be extremely difficult in all sorts of ways.
As far as the recent Garda Síochána dénouement is concerned, in 2012, two garda members, John Wilson and Maurice McCabe, contacted the Confidential Recipient – the person formally appointed to whom concerns should be reported under the 2007 provisions – to report what they believed to be serious allegations of corruption in the operation of the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS), relating to the cancellation of Fixed Charge Notices by the Garda Síochána, resulting in the non-payment of fines and the non-application of penalty points to offenders’ driving licences.
Last year, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter requested the Garda Inspectorate to examine the FCPS and to make recommendations. Last month’s subsequent report into the matter by the Inspectorate, The Fixed Charge Processing System: A 21st Century Strategy, found “consistent and widespread breaches of policy” by those charged with administering the system and made no fewer than 37 recommendations, which have been accepted by the Government.
The report opened with a quotation from Section 117 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005: “The objective of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate is to ensure that the resources available to the Garda Síochána are used so as to achieve and maintain the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in its operation and administration, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services.”
This whole affair is about standards and it necessarily raises the question of the independence of the Garda Síochána. Last week, the Irish Examiner reported Taoiseach Enda Kenny as saying that recent controversies had exposed shortcomings in the management of the Garda Síochána and that the Justice Minister would be making recommendations on reform. It is now surely clear for all to see that the Garda Commissioner should be appointed independently of the Government and that there should be an independent Garda Síochána authority. The independent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, which has also been at the centre of recent controversy, is no substitute for an independent authority. The independence of policing from the operation of government is important as a guarantee of confidence in policing, as well as of healthy democracy itself.
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Letters to the Editor
The ‘listening process’
CANON MAUREEN RYAN’S report of the tripartite conference on sexuality in Co. Mayo (Clogher, Limerick and Tuam; Gazette, 7th March) provided welcome coverage of what is happening in the dioceses. However, I wish to express my dissatisfaction at the conduct of the ‘listening process’.
The Standing Committee, in its ‘Next Steps’ document of February 2013, written by the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, was “reluctant to direct dioceses on the content of these discussions”.
However, it did recommend that “the study of Scripture should be an important focus and involve hearing the views of those who understand the texts from conservative and liberal perspectives”.
No liberal perspectives on Scripture were heard in my diocese of Derry and Raphoe.
Furthermore, in Derry and Raphoe, the extent of the ‘listening’ amounted to two gay members of the Church being invited to dinner with the Bishop and two other clergy.
The two gay persons requested that an openly gay Church person be invited to address a meeting of Diocesan Synod, but this has not happened. Nor have I, as the parent of a gay daughter, been afforded an opportunity to speak to Diocesan Synod.
As regards the tripartite ‘listening event’ involving Derry, Armagh and Dublin held in Armagh last October, no openly gay member of the Church attended or spoke in that capacity.
Fortunately, this omission was rightly criticised in the secular media such that a gay member of the Church was invited to attend and speak at the two subsequent tripartite meetings, including that held in Mayo.
However, even where openly gay members of the Church of Ireland are invited to speak, some bishops feel that they must balance this with an invited speaker who describes himself as ‘reformed post-gay’ (Mayo tripartite) or as managed by Christian counselling not to be gay (Clogher diocese).
This ignores the fact that the views of the ‘ex-gay’ movement have been condemned by the major psychiatric and counselling bodies.
How can the Standing Committee allow such latitude in arrangements for listening events when it was perfectly clear that some bishops would misuse their discretion?
At this stage, I invite the Standing Committee to request an audit by diocese of the extent of listening to gay members of the Church and to publish this in time for this year’s General Synod.
Paul Rowlandson Londonderry BT47
Help sought with Mission to Seafarers major ‘fundraiser’
THE MISSION to Seafarers NI will be holding a fundraising Auction on Saturday 26th April at 1.00pm (viewing from 10.00am) in the lovely setting of The Old Rectory, Whitepark Road, Dunseverick, Bushmills (on A2 to Ballintoy) by kind permission of Val and Roger Denny.
We are on the lookout for contributions, especially collectables, oddities and niknaks.
We are discouraging large items due to transport difficulties, but are happy to collect boxed items.
Will Gazette readers in the area please raid attics and cupboards – and lean on family and friends?
When items are ready for collection please contact: Colin/Doreen, telephone number 028 9075 1131 or email: colin.hall-thompson@mtsmail. org or doreen@missiontoseafarers-ni. org for further details.
This is a very important fundraiser for us, so we will be very grateful for any support and/or presence on the day.
There will also be refreshments and a Charity shop (which is open every weekend throughout the year). Funds raised will assist our ministry to seafarers and their families. Many seafarers are working in difficult conditions and under threat of piracy.
Colin Hall-Thompson (The Revd) Senior Chaplain, Northern Ireland The Mission to Seafarers The Flying Angel Seafarers’ Centre Prince’s Dock Street Belfast BT1 3AA
Canon Neill on Original Sin
CANON STEPHEN NEILL quite understandably says that Article 9 (of Original Sin) should be open to discussion (Gazette, 14th March) and that his article (7th March) was an expression of “faith seeking understanding”.
It is a time-honoured principle of interpretation that, for Christians, discussion, faith and understanding will be shaped by a plain reading of Scripture.
In his original article, Canon Neill suggests that we should celebrate Eve for her bravery rather than condemn her for leading Adam astray. However, would he also suggest that we celebrate the cunning of the devil who deceived Eve into taking the action she did (2 Corinthians 11: 3)?
Canon Neill questions how what was fundamentally good in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis can become so fundamentally flawed in chapter 3. The answer, according to Scripture, is the devil in the form of the serpent (Genesis 3: 1-5).
Nevertheless, the devil and his part in leading Eve and Adam astray from God is completely absent from Canon Neill’s interpretation. That’s quite an omission!
Discussion that leads to a greater understanding and a maturing of our Christian faith is a good thing, but the plain reading of Scripture is a fundamental principle that checks us from reaching interpretations that are contrary to Christian doctrine and belief.
Lynn Anderson (Mrs) Alex Grey Jones (Mrs) 26 Ballyregan Road Dundonald Belfast BT16 1HY
IN RECENT correspondence in connection with Canon Stephen Neill’s 7th March ‘Rethinking Church’ column, the 39 Articles of the Church of Ireland were mentioned and the oath sworn to adhere to them.
When I look at the state of the Church – empty pews, people not believing in all that stuff any more (as I overheard a parent say outside our local National School) – I know that we absolutely must take a long hard look at everything we think we are. When God is in something, it prospers – and how are we doing?
Lent is a time for inward reflection, to contemplate the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the Cross. Christ gave up everything for us so we might in turn learn from his example and give up everything for God, as we are asked to do in the first and greatest commandment. The fundamental principle of being a Christian is not to attach yourself to traditions, pew positions, 39 Articles, etc., etc. It is not to hold anything above God.
Of course, a great lesson to learn from Christ’s sacrifice is that one leads most effectively by example. The world is sick and tired (literally) of being preached at. It needs to see action that reveals the message we Christians should be conveying.
It is hypocritical to preach “do not judge others” and have as our foundation Articles that criticise practices of our neighbour, the Roman Catholic Church. I was quite shocked to learn this was the case. The General Synod’s 1999 Declaration does not change the offending Articles themselves. We absolutely need to look at ourselves in the light of God’s sacrifice for us and ask ourselves whether we measure up.
We must dust off everything we hold dear and examine it in this light. I think we will find that there is a lot to be discarded and only after we do so will we see ourselves turn a corner and really make a difference in the world for Christ.
Ghandi said: “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” I think we can be more ambitious than just India, but it needs to start here and now.
Jonathan Pyle Crinkill House Birr, Co. Offaly
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