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Kevin Myers: There's never been a safer time for children

Irish Independent, 19 July 2011

As the next step in the current calm and rational debate on child protection, what about this: why don't we kick a Catholic priest to death every day? To be sure, there aren't many of them around any more, and most are over 60: all the more reason to start kicking, before they're all gone! And then who will we kick? Oh who would be in a lynch mob when there's no one to lynch? Stupid question: mobs always find someone to lynch.

The Government is now effectively handing a legal charter to every hysteric, every troublemaker, every malcontent and every evil-doer, with its insane proposals effectively to make it a criminal offence for anyone not to disclose "information" that a child is being sexually or physically abused. What is information? What is abuse? How long is a piece of string? And where does this nonsense stop? When the last garda disappears on the latest paedophile wild goose chase, as the streets of our cities are surrendered to violent thugs and urinating drunks?

Let's be clear. There has never been a safer time or place for children than modern Ireland. A Catholic priest is as likely to sexually abuse a child today as he is to organise bullfights in a confessional. Introducing major legislation to prevent fresh child abuse is like revisiting the Repeal of the Corn Laws.

And no, I'm not going to declare my loathing of child-abuse, or of cannibalism, or slave galleys, or human sacrifice or suicide bombers. Few things are quite so witless as the loud-mouthed morality-contest between street-corner preachers denouncing the obvious. And who amongst that forlorn group that passes for the Dail opposition is ever going to dare oppose the Government's "child-protection" lunacies that will soon masquerade as law?

Children are already grotesquely overprotected. Childhood is not childhood anymore but a permanent padded cell, in which obese mothers in randomly-halted cars collect their obese offspring outside the colleges of corpulence that our schools have become. This is before a shrieking Frances Fitzgerald, "Minister for Children", enters the fray. Listen to her please: "Let me declare again that the days of voluntary compliance are over when it comes to child protection. The new legislation I am bringing forward will provide for a strong system of inspection and oversight and the need to provide demonstrable evidence that the guidance is being implemented correctly across all sectors."

"A strong system of inspection and oversight": in other words, a paradise for snoopers, snitches and, most of all, government bureaucrats. So which branch of the public service is to be the model for this "strong system of inspection"? The HSE, and its 35-hour week social workers? The banking inspectorate? FAS? The senior civil servants who exempted themselves from pay cuts? Go on, Frances: who?

And focus is now falling on to the secrets of the confessional, in a way it never did when the IRA was blowing the bejasus out of people, and when I KNOW some priests were acting as chaplains, counsellors and professional pardoners to murderers. Confession is a sacrament of the Catholic Church, which has its own rules. Yes, the State has the power to make adherence to certain religious rules illegal -- like it did during the Penal Days. It can certainly do so again. But will those who argue that the confidentiality of the confessional is not sacrosanct extend this same logic to include journalists, lawyers, doctors and psychiatrists? And what is knowledge and what is tittle-tattle? Best inform, just in case: and so enter Big Brother, now in the guise of child protection. For is not the "Greater Good" always the argument for every totalitarian intrusion in the lives of citizens?

Now in the toxic Post-Catholic Politically-Correct Pseudo-Consensual culture that has emerged in PC3 Ireland, one may be as loudly anti-Semitic as one likes about Israel, even as one makes a great posturing display show of not being "anti-Semitic" in domestic politics. This is Phoney Liberalism at its most unprincipled. Fear of unjustified allegations of anti-Semitism should not prevent us considering some difficult -- that is to say, adult -- issues that will probably violate all the dogmas of PC3ness.

Here goes. It is now very possible that a state law governing private Catholic sacramental practices will be introduced by a Jewish Minister for Justice. This raises the question of whether it is ever prudent for a member of any minority to introduce laws affecting the private religious practices of the majority. Moreover, is it acceptable to have a rigorously-enforced state law over children and Catholic priests, but not one concerning Jewish babies and rabbis? How, otherwise, would the rabbinical removal of a baby boy's foreskin, a deed that by definition involves a non-consensual and irreversible injury and which results in a permanent reduction of the sexual-sensitivity of the glans, be allowed under the proposed new child-protection laws?

You no doubt find these questions uncomfortable; well, believe me, not nearly as uncomfortable as I do in asking them. And I genuinely do not even begin to think that I know the answers. I suspect you don't either. In which case, do not pass laws on such matters in the first place.