Email Us My Blog


Attacking Phantoms Is Not Brave, Taoiseach

Irish Times July 29, 2011 by John Waters

THERE WAS nothing particularly “courageous” about Enda Kenny’s speech. It might have been brave 30 or 40 years ago, when the swishing soutanes and swinging thuribles did indeed rule the roost.

But not now, when the rulers are the secular-atheists and pseudo-rationalists who foist their nihilistic formulas on our children, while pretending that John Charles McQuaid is still breathing down their necks from Drumcondra.

The speech played that odd trick with time that has become the hallmark of much contemporary politics and commentary: purporting to confront some immense power in the present while challenging only phantoms. Anyone with the slightest grasp of reality knows the Irish Catholic hierarchy is a sorry sight, terrified of standing up to the new ascendancy, and that the Vatican is all but irrelevant to the running of the Irish church. But let us not let the facts cramp our style.

Some elements of Enda’s speech were welcome, mainly because the position of Taoiseach has been devoid of rigour and inspiration for so long. It was, fundamentally, a catch-up speech, compensating for the silence and equivocation that has characterised Irish politics down the years, with the crozier and Christ treated as synonymous. Its main strength was its sense of an exasperated venting, which may do some good. The Vatican does not comprehend the extent and nature of the crisis in contemporary Irish culture, and has been guided by the worst possible advice. Now, perhaps, it has awoken to the smell of coffee.

Some elements of the speech were reprehensible, especially the attack on Pope Benedict, which indicated gross ignorance, perhaps even malice. It is a sad day when the Taoiseach seems to have been trawling the internet for quotes – any quotes, regardless of context – to undermine the spiritual leader of the vast majority of his own people. I merely record this as a passing observation, having long understood that, in these matters, the truth is irrelevant.

Everyone associated with the Taoiseach’s speech knew that this unjust and dishonest attack would pass largely unchallenged, for who now cares to defend the Pope? Much has been made of the Taoiseach’s references to the fact of his own Catholicism. But, no more than his predecessors who bent the knee to Rome, Kenny did not outline what Catholicism means for him, speaking as if he regards the church mainly as a social force, to be dealt with according to the prevailing political climate. He seems to think of the church in the way shareholders regard their company’s board. He did not resort to throwing eggs, but it seemed a close call.

From rumblings otherwise, it seems he is now ad idem with the atheist ayatollahs of the Labour Party, preparing not merely to remove the right of Irish Catholic children to a Catholic education, but, in proposing laws to override the confessional seal, to attack the confidentiality which is at the core of pastoral relationships.

Ostensibly, Kenny was addressing the Dáil, but his words were directed at the invisible new regime, which has the power to make or break him as Taoiseach. He knows that he is in office on sufferance and that the regime, operating through the soft tissue of the Labour Party, will pull the plug the moment his all-hat-and-no-cattle Government shows signs of outliving its usefulness. Government politicians know they must take every opportunity to do the regime’s bidding, accumulating brownie points for the lean days to come. Sticking it to the Catholic Church is guaranteed to meet with the regime’s approval.

It would be delusional to imagine that we have left behind us the kind of Ireland in which those holding public office were answerable to forces or interests behind the scenes. Nowadays, power does not vest itself in soutanes, but operates over dinner tables and putting greens, making its imperatives known and reinforcing its world view through a media culture as malleable and compliant as in the allegedly dark days of the 1950s.

Power nowadays can be tracked in the cruder levels of public sentiment, drawing close those whose interests correspond to the objectives of the regime and banishing those deemed to represent some outmoded form of authority.

The moral content of this culture is overwhelmingly a matter of posture. Facts alone do not matter, but must be considered within the ecology of victimhood, which decides everything in advance. The truth is another planet. By claiming to represent the children of the nation, you acquire licence to say or do what you please.

But there are many ways of abusing children. You can sit them in desks and subject them to the knowing nonsense of cynics who steal their hope and joy so as to demonstrate repugnance of some derelict or decomposed authority. You can sell them false versions of freedom to make yourself rich. You can fill their heads with nihilism and wonder why they attempt to obliterate themselves with chemicals.

But, not to worry: the wreckage of present-day swishing and swinging can be left for the next generation, just as we now belatedly deal with the consequences of the sins and abuses of a time from which we are separated by time and the collateral innocence it has conferred on us.