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Ireland's Outbreak of Secular McCarthyism [RUAIRI QUINN]
- David Quinn, Irish Catholic, June 2009 Ryan Report has propelled Irish politics into a very strange place vis-á-vis the Catholic Church, and indeed the place of religion in Irish society.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Paul Colton, got it exactly right last weekend when he said: ''Some people in Ireland have used this report as a springboard towards a secularising agenda.''

Nowhere is this agenda more apparent than in the drive to push the Churches from education, starting with the Catholic Church.

Bishop Colton also drew attention to this when he said: ''Others have called unthinkingly for the withdrawal of all Churches from their modern-day engagement with education in a country, which, according to the last census, is still manifestly religious in its affiliation.''

In the Oireachtas last week, Labour's education spokesman, Ruairí Quinn, did his best impersonation of the notorious communist-hunter, US Senator Joe McCarthy, when he warned of the possible presence of members of the Knights of St Columbanus and Opus Dei in the Department of Education. Over in the Seanad, Senator David Norris said that any members of the Oireachtas who are also members of those organisations must admit to it.

A Knights of Columbus honor guard processes with a reliquary containing the incorrupt heart of St John Vianney at Cure of Ars Church in Merrick, New York This kind of thing isn't just ridiculous and bizarre, it's downright sinister. Joe McCarthy thought the US State Department (America's department of foreign affairs), had been infiltrated by communists intent on subverting the US government.

The attitude of Quinn and Norris is very close to that of McCarthy but instead of worrying about communists, they worry about infiltration of the arms of government and the legislature by shadowy right-wing Catholic forces.

This is also a throw-back to the fall of the Reynolds/Spring government when it was said openly that members of the Attorney General's office were members of Opus Dei.

Albert Reynolds subsequently said that no member of his government could be in Opus Dei and an Oireachtas committee, established to look into the circumstances of the fall of the Reynolds government (it was connected with the convicted sex abuser, Fr Brendan Smyth), also brought up the subject of Opus Dei.

This was the time when Pat Rabbitte said he had information that would ''rock the State to its foundations''. He has still to reveal that information to the rest of us.

The last time anyone checked, Opus Dei and the Knights were legal organisations that people can freely join.

Any members I've met don't seem hell-bent on subverting the Irish State. Many are engaged in very ordinary, very un-sinister charitable works.

McCarthyism is now widely condemned, especially by the left, as a horrible period in American public life, a period during when paranoia reigned and innocent people had their careers and reputations destroyed. Would Ruairí Quinn, the Irish Labour party, and the left in general, kindly rein in their paranoia, or are we about to witness an Irish outbreak of McCarthyism?

It's starting to look that way.