Opinions & Ideas

Category: Uncategorized Page 3 of 14

CHARLES THE SECOND, A FLEXIBLE MONARCH

Antonia Frasers biography of King Charles the Second was first published in 1979 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, and it has been sitting on my book shelf, unopened, for a long time. I finally got around to reading it last month and it was well worth the time. By ancestry, Charles Stuart was a quarter Scots, a quarter Danish, a quarter French and a quarter Italian, and yet from 1660 he was King of England, Ireland and Scotland. Both his mother, his paternal grandmother, his only brother James, and his wife were all Catholics but, until he became Catholic himself on his death bed, he was a member and head of the Church of England. 


THE FATHER OF THE PRESENT BRITISH ARISTOCRACY

He was married to Catherine of Braganza, but they had no children. He had numerous mistresses, and six of his illegitimate sons became Dukes. In fact his descendants make up a big portion of the English aristocracy. Apparently the late Princess Diana, as well as both the current Duchesses of Cornwall, Camilla, and also the Duchess of York, former wife of Prince Andrew, are, all three of them, directly descended from King Charles the Second in this way. When Princess Diana’s son, Prince William, becomes King, a direct descendant of Charles the Second will finally be on the throne , over three hundred years late! When his father, King Charles the First, lost the Civil War to Oliver Cromwell, and was subsequently executed, the younger Charles had to spend a great deal of time in exile in continental Europe, often leaving unpaid bills behind him, and living in the homes of supporters, like Thomas Preston, Viscount Tara, whose family still live in County Meath. 

RELIANCE ON FRENCH SUBSIDIES

Mainly, he was subsidized during his exile by King Louis the Fourteenth of France. He eventually was restored to the throne in 1660 because Richard Cromwell, successor to his father Oliver as Lord Protector, was unable to maintain order and security, and the head of the English Army, General Monck, felt that order could best be secured by the restoration of the monarchy. Even after his restoration to the throne, Charles had to rely on subsidies from King Louis the Fourteenth, because the English Parliament was inclined to impose unwelcome conditions on any money it might vote to cover the Kings military and other expenses. This, of course, constrained Charles’ foreign policy. 

LINKS TO IRELAND

It was during the reign of Charles the Second that Oliver Plunkett was condemned to death on trumped up charges. Charles did not do anything to stop this happening, despite his private Catholic sympathies. It was also during his reign that the Phoenix Park in Dublin was set aside as a public park. Apparently one of Charles former mistresses wanted it for herself, but she was blocked by the Earl of Essex, who was the Lord Lieutenant of the time. Antonia Fraser’s book is an entertaining account of Charles’ relationship with his wife, his mistresses and with his brother James. He managed to keep them all reasonably happy. It also brings out how central religious questions were in seventeenth century politics, notwithstanding the disorderly private lives of many of the leading protagonists. Charles was forced to accept a Test Act which excluded from public office all who did not attend Church of England services. The persistent attempts to exclude James from succession to the throne, simply because he was a Catholic, were a recurring theme in Charles’ reign. James did succeed when Charles died, but was overthrown by a military coup d’etat led by his son in law, William of Orange. As with Charles, Louis the Fourteenth came to James’ aid, sending an army to Ireland to fight in his behalf along with James’ Irish supporters. They were finally defeated at the Battle of Aughrim, in Co Galway, in 1691.

LESSONS ON GOVERNMENT FROM A NEAR NEIGHBOUR

I have recently finished reading two books on the Labour Government in Britain, which held office from 1997 to 2010.
They are both by the same author, Andrew Rawnsley.
The first is “Servants of the People, the inside story of New Labour” and covers the first term of Tony Blair.
The second is “The End of the Party, the rise and fall of New Labour” and covers Tony Blair’s second and third terms, and the premiership of Gordon Brown.
New Labour held office during a period of strong economic growth, with plenty of resources available to facilitate reform.  They were remarkably good at winning elections, better than Labour had ever been before. But what has Britain to show for these 13 years?
Their achievements include the completion of the peace process in Northern Ireland, the establishment of devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales,  and an increase  the comparative   incomes of the  least well off 20 per cent of people in British society.
It is difficult to identify much else that stands out.
On the debit side, the proportion of national income absorbed by Government services rose from below 40% to almost 48%, with little evidence of increased consumer satisfaction with the performance of either of the two big services Government provides, health or education .
Tony Blair wanted to introduce more far reaching reforms to the health and education services, but was frustrated by his Chancellor, Gordon Brown. As Rawnsley puts it,
“Gordon was not necessarily against reform. He was against any reform proposed by Tony. It was all a question of authorship”.

Gordon Brown controlled the domestic agenda from the Treasury, expanding the power of that Department far beyond taxation and normal public expenditure control. And Tony Blair acquiesced in this, in a way that weakened the position of the Cabinet as a whole.
Labour added 3600 new criminal offences to the statute book and brought the British prison population to new highs. Interestingly, it is a Tory Minister, Ken Clarke who is now looking for ways to reduce the prison population.

New Labour engaged Britain in two new wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first on what proved to be false pretences, and the second without having learned anything from history.
Tony Blair is portrayed in these two books was well intentioned, vacillating, and short termist on domestic policy. But, on the issue of Iraq, he was passionate, coldly determined, and almost messianic. Importantly, when Blair was at risk of being toppled because of Iraq, Gordon Brown rallied to his cause and helped him win over MPs, whose votes were critical.
Tony Blair wanted to bring Britain into the euro, but in order to be sure to win the 1997 election promised to have a referendum on it. A referendum on a currency matter is a dubious idea.

Gordon Brown then invented five, supposedly scientific, “tests”,  that would have to be passed to determine when, or whether, Britain might actually join the euro. These tests were, in reality, not scientific at all, but subjective and political, but, because the analysis was to be done in the Treasury, they served to give Gordon Brown a veto on the topic. 
It is hard to understand how Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, allowed Gordon Brown to overrule him on an issue which was so important to him personally. As a result of Tony Blair’s failure to lead his own Government on this question, Britain is now further away from the rest of the EU, than at any time since the 1950’s, and may indeed leave the EU.

 Rawnsley claims that, on domestic policy, while Blair  had  many ideas, and favoured new ways of doing things, he  “lacked sustained interest in the mechanics of delivery” and was “almost wholly uninterested in civil service structures”, which Ministers need to understand if they are to translate policies into results.
Ministers did not stay long enough in any job to master it. The average term of a Minister was just 18 months. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, perhaps because it is a coalition, seems to be avoiding that mistake.

These two books are very long, one is 508 pages and the other 761 pages, but they are worth the time.
They show how different Government is from Opposition.
In Opposition, a party need to roll out new initiatives every few weeks to ensure it is not forgotten.
In Government, it needs to stick to a few priorities, and relentlessly hound the civil service machine to ensure that these priorities are  translated into results on the ground as quickly as possible.

POLITICAL UNION IN EUROPE—-is it the binding cement that is needed, if countries are to be willing to take responsibility for other countries’ debts?

The big enemy of economic growth is uncertainty.  Particularly uncertainty about the value of money.
If people do not feel the value of their money is safe, they will not invest, and they will not put their savings to work in a form that will create jobs.

Securing the euro is about securing the value of people’s savings, so that they will be willing to invest them productively. That means assuring them that there is a solid and workable political structure standing behind their money.
Now that the financial crisis has spread to Spain and Italy, the problem has become too big for the step by step approach to EU reform, that has been followed since 2008. Now we need an integrated package where the short term elements are linked to credible long term commitments. That is what will be considered at the EU Summit at the end of this month. Failure to come up with a credible package could set off a downward spiral, like the one that followed the Lehman collapse, from which  everyone would lose.

An article in “Der Spiegel” has recently given details of the radical shakeup in the way the European Union works, that is now in prospect, as part of a permanent to sustaining the value of the euro, and solving  the sovereign and banking debt crises.
A key goal is to make the currency union believably “irreversible”.

As long as markets think there is a possibility that a country can leave, or be forced out of the euro, there will be a reluctance to lend to the Government, or banks, of that country. As it stands, it is legally impossible under EU Treaties for a country to leave the euro. But, somehow, markets have ceased to believe that, in extremis, that law could, or would, be upheld.

 This disbelief  is at the core of the entire problem, and it has been aggravated by two factors
 1)    commentary in the English language press,, on both sides of the Atlantic,  which  was always disinclined to believe the euro was permanent, and

2)   the inaction of some euro area Governments, who allowed their relative wage and price competitiveness to deteriorate, as if the option, of curing that loss by a quick devaluation still existed, even though they knew it did not.

The Der Spiegel article suggests that the four EU Presidents, Van Rompuy, Barroso, Juncker and Draghi are preparing proposals for the EU Summit at the end of the month which would include

1)    a fiscal union under which Member states would  cease to be able to borrow, without permission of a fulltime EU Finance Minister, who would  chair a group of national Finance Ministers. This constraint would apply to all states, including Germany. There are suggestions that this rule might only apply if a country was proposing to borrow more, in any one year, than 3% of it GDP for that year.

2)    All members to be liable for new debts undertaken by member Governments under this scheme, but old pre existing debts would remain the responsibility of member states themselves. This particular formula would be difficult for Ireland, a quarter of whose Government debts derive from bank recapitalisation, some of which benefitted non Irish bondholders ,who had  unwisely lent to Irish banks during the bubble. On the other hand, it would also be very difficult for Germany, which would have to pay a much higher interest rate on its government bonds than it pays at the moment, while it enjoys a sort of “safe haven for money” status within the euro zone. This additional charge for Germany will arise in the case of all the various proposals including  those for euro bonds, blue bonds, red bonds, or  a redemption fund.

3)    An EU wide deposit guarantee, and bank resolution, regime. This would mean a pooling of the deposit guarantees of all existing states, but would also require some form of tax base as a back stop. This would reassure savers that their money was safe.  It would also require that there be a single rule book for banks, and the supervision of bank behaviour by a European authority. I hope this would also help in dealing with the “too big to fail” problem, and make it easier for bank customers to shop around for the best banking service anywhere in the EU.

4)   This centralisation of power would have to be accompanied by greater democracy. To achieve greater EU wide democracy, Der Spiegel says the four Presidents are contemplating proposing the direct election, by the people of the EU, of either the President of the Commission, or of a new President, who would preside over both the Commission and the European Council. This is a proposal I have long advocated myself, including when I was Taoiseach. I believe European currency will not be fully viable until European voters think, and vote, as Europeans as well as, as citizens of their own states.

While individual parts of this package could be brought into force without Treaty change, it is hard to see the whole package being adopted on that basis. There is also the possibility that Germany itself might have to amend its own constitution to accommodate some of the changes.

Britain would face some difficult choices. If the package includes some form of Eurobond, these would tend to be issued, and traded, from a financial centre in the euro zone itself (eg Frankfurt, Paris or even Dublin) rather than London.
If Britain opted out of the EU bank guarantee schemes, and opted to have different banking rules, it might have difficulties in playing a full part in the EU financial market. This could hit employment in London. Banks headquartered outside the euro zone, but with big operations in the zone, could be a special difficulty, particularly if they were so large, that they posed a potential  systemic risk to the euro zone banking system as a whole.

The package involves a series of interlocking pieces.  Each country will want other countries to make the first concession. Germany will want to hold back on any commitment on debt mutualisation until it is satisfied that the countries that would benefit from debt mutualisation are fully tied in to controls that will ensure debt repayment. But other countries will not want to give up powers until they  are sure they are getting significant security in return.
These ideas will lead to intense debate in Ireland, where there will be a tension between a  desire for financial security on the one hand, and for  fiscal sovereignty on the other.

There also are problems of timing. Markets do not always have the patience that would necessary to accommodate a multidimensional diplomatic negotiation between 27 countries, each with differing interests, electoral cycles, and constitutional obligations. 
Leaders will have to give their word, and keep it, if we are to get through this difficult time. Trust and trustworthiness will be vital.

Leaders will also have to prepare their electorates to think on a European scale, and , just as we had to do in Ireland  during the peace process , begin to see things, as the people on the other side of the negotiating table do . 
The challenge is political, even more than it is financial. 

WE NEED THE HELP OF OTHERS

I was asked to speak at the Eucharistic Congress last week in Dublin. This was a rare honour.
The Congress was last held in Dublin in 1932.  It is a gathering of Catholics from all over the world. Apart from the religious ceremonies, the Congress consisted of a series of workshops, at one of which I spoke.  Here is what I said.
According to the Holy Father, anyone who
“ in search of truth, trusts only his individual actions, and does not recognise the help of others, is deceiving himself”
 In this light, I would like to look at what the Eucharist means in the modern world, what it might tell us about how we should live our lives, in families, in local communities, and about how we should engage in politics.
 Secondly, I will argue that believing Christians have both a right, and an obligation, to bring their faith to bear in their engagement in politics and
Thirdly, I will ask what believing Christians can bring to politics that will serve the interests of everybody, believers and non believers alike.
IT ALL STARTS WITH THE EUCHARIST
For us, as Catholics, it all starts with the Eucharist that is the source of our belief and should be the motive for our engagement with others.
Catholic Christianity is Eucharistic Christianity. For the Catholic in the street, so to speak, it all starts with the Eucharist. That is the source of our belief, and should be the motivator of our engagement with others. The Second Vatican Council put it this way
“the Eucharist is the  SOURCE and SUMMIT of Christian  life. ……it casts light on how we are to live”
The very word “Communion” means a coming together of people.
The words said at the consecration in the Mass, “This is  my  body”, “This is my blood”,  and the invitation  to take and eat, to receive Christ into ourselves,  are found in St Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians in 1/ Chapter12.  That is where we might go to understand the meaning of Communion.
These words, used in the consecration every day, are immediately preceded,   in the letter of St Paul, by a reproof to the Corinthians about the way they had started to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in Corinth.
 The Lords Supper, in Corinth as elsewhere, was as a common meal, to be eaten together by all the faithful. But divisions had grown up among the Christians of Corinth.  Because of these divisions, some better off members of the community did not want to share their food with others. St Paul had learned that they went ahead and ate, without waiting  for all-especially for  the less well off- to arrive and take part.
St. Paul had no time for that.
Referring to the evidence of class distinctions among the faithful in Corinth in the way they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, St Paul said
“Or have you no respect for the church of God, and would you humiliate 
those who have nothing?…
Shall I commend you?  In this matter I do not commend you”
St Paul thus reproved the faithful of Corinth for this lack of community and mutual respect, their lack of communion, in the way they celebrated the Eucharist.
 Later in his letter to the Corinthians , just a paragraph or two after the words of the consecration, with which all Catholics-and all Eucharistic Christians- are so familiar,   St Paul called on the Corinthians to examine their consciences  .
He said
“But let a person look carefully at himself and in that spirit eat the bread and drink the cup”
 and later on he adds
 “If, however, we scrutinize ourselves, we should not be judged”.           
THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
For Paul, the celebration of the Eucharist is a social act, not just an act of individualistic piety.  It is also an occasion for putting things right in the way we live our own lives, and the way we treat others. This thought has been developed by modern theologians.
 Monika Hellwig, a Professor of Theology in the Jesuit University at Georgetown  in Washington DC  has described the Eucharist as
  
“a celebration of divine hospitality in the  world”. 
 She saw the second Vatican Council as a turning point in the church’s understanding of the Eucharist. There was a shift from a pre Vatican II emphasis on what she described as
 “the cult of an unquestioned mystery, reinforced by the use of a sacred language ( namely Latin)”
 before a passive congregation,  to an additional emphasis on  a vigorous quest for deeper understanding, through the  active involvement of the congregation that we  take for granted at Mass today.
There is an echo here of what Pope Benedict has written about  evangelization , when he said that evangelization is not simply to preach a doctrine, but to proclaim it in ones words and actions.
 The Holy Father added that we must come together with others for this, and that   
 “spiritual individualism isolates the person”
Returning to the celebration of the Eucharist, the emphasis is, of course, centrally on the presence of Christ in the celebration, on the transubstantiation of the bread and wine on the altar into the body and blood of Christ, a belief that is central to our faith, and indeed  a conviction that is so radical, that, if we truly accept it, it MUST change our lives.

COMMUNION WITH OTHER PEOPLE…..AN APPROACH TO POLITICS
But, in addition to that, there is now Professor Hellwig says, a new emphasis on
“the outward looking  expectation  and explanation of our worship, and the  effect it is   supposed to have on our lives and actions”.
With the Second Vatican Council, there is a formalisation of something Christians had known from the beginning, but of which they had lost sight. The Eucharist, and Christianity,is all about the quality of our relationship with each other. Is it a relationship of trust and respect, or is it something else?
The absence of trust and respect in the relationship between Christian nations was forcibly  rediscovered in the horrible first half of the  twentieth century.  
To formulate this in terms of the Eucharistic Congress-Eucharist is Communion with Christ AND with one another,
As we can see from reading the  full text of his letter to the Corinthians, this emphasis  on the impact that participation in the Eucharist has, on the way we come together with other people,  was in forefront  the mind of St Paul when he reminded  the Corinthians of the words Jesus had used at the Last Supper, which are  repeated every day at the consecration of the Mass.
That is where the link can be made between the Eucharist and politics and political institutions.
Politics is one of the ways by which Catholics, Christians and people of faith generally, come together with other people.
Is the  relationship we forge with one another and with other people, through politics, one of justice and respect, or does it fall into some of the errors of disputatiousness and class division ,that St Paul found  among the  faithful living in the city of Corinth?
Likewise, do we feel free to bring some of the sense of justice and mutual respect,that we derive from sharing the Eucharist together, to bear in politics for the benefit of the wider community? 
These are some of the questions I will talk about in this address.
SHOULD POLITICS AND FAITH BE KEPT SEPARATE?
 First of all, it might be wise to address a word to those  who argue that  Christian  belief should be kept out of politics, that politics should operate in  a separate sphere from religious belief, which  should  neither  influence, nor be influenced by , political institutions
The European Convention on Human Rights, guarantees to every European the right, in its words, to
 “manifest his religion, with others in public or private , in teaching, practice , worship, and observance”.
 The Convention does not confine religion to the private sphere. It confers a right to practise religion, but also a right to manifest religious belief in public.
A ban on Christian religious processions in public places, like the ban that applied in Germany under Bismarck would be illegal under the Convention. 
I believe a “separationist “ view of keeping religion in the private sphere, and out of politics,  is artificial.  It misunderstands human nature. It also refuses to accept religious faith for what it is, something that informs every aspect of ones life.
First, Voters do not divide their minds up into compartments, one  marked “religious”,  another  marked “political,” another  ”personal, and  yet another marked” family” and so forth. Faith is not just one compartment of life.
What goes on in one part of their mind influences what goes on in the other.
Second, everyone agrees that ethical beliefs can, and should, influence the actions of political institutions.   But, for many people it is impossible for them  to separate their  ethical beliefs from the religious source from which they spring. 
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs said that, in modern society, we need to be bilingual, we need to be able to speak the language of faith in our religious community, and the language of the common good in the wider world. And learning another language usually enriches our use of the one we already speak!
Third, Humans are social beings. They do not live atomised lives. They live in overlapping communities of families, of neighbourhoods, of workplaces, political parties, nations, sports clubs, and for many….in the community of a church.
All of these communities, including churches, help form a society’s ethos. Religious education has shaped the ethos of Irish society in so many positive ways. Ones heritage of religious belief shapes ones ethos, even in ways one does not acknowledge.  A shared ethos is part of the social capital of any state.
SHARED ETHOS…A BASIS FOR TRUST IN SOCIETY
Without a shared ethos, it is difficult for a society to function, or to be governed.
Common sense tells us that laws are obeyed not only out of fear of  retribution, but also out of respect for the shared  ethos, the   ethos  that forms a basis  for trust in society , and which  makes   government, governance, and states possible.
A shared ethos is also important to the working of the economy
As the Pope puts it in the Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate
“Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function. And today it is this trust that has ceased to exist, and the loss of trust is a great loss”
This is a very important insight. All markets depend on trust. Without trust, we would find ourselves spending so much on lawyers to check one another out, that trading with one another would become incredibly expensive.
But where does trust come from?
It comes from a shared ethos or belief system in a society, on the basis of which one can anticipate how people one has never met will behave. And where, for many people, does that shared ethos come from?

To a significant degree, it comes from their shared religious beliefs, from their religious heritage, from their religious education.
It is simple. Markets need ethics, and, for many people, ethics derive from religious belief.
There are, of course, clear distinctions of function between the roles the state performs, and the role churches perform. These must be respected even though the boundaries will shift slightly from time to time .
A SENSE OF PROPORTION IN POLITICS
That said, what is the “added value”, to use a piece of business jargon, that  Christian believers can bring to politics.
Here is how the participation of people of faith can enhance the quality of political discourse
Faith in eternal life, helps one to be humble in all things, including in ones contribution to politics, to accept that we do not know it all.
Because our faith tells us that there is a God, and are not alone in the universe, we should not be arrogant.  Just as our religious life should be a ceaseless search to come closer to a truth we will never fully know, so should our political life be.
We should not act as if this generation, with all its technologies, has all the answers. Faith  tells us that, no matter how hard we try,  we are not going to create a heaven on earth, and that totalitarian or materialist philosophies that pretend to do so, are just plain wrong.
But Faith also tells us that there is such a thing as fundamental truth, for which we must seek,  by the use of our reason, informed by the teachings of Jesus Christ passed  down to us through our  church.
 Christianity does not offer a specific political programme.
“My Kingdom is not of this world” Christ said.
FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS,  AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
 But if we believe there are certain fundamental truths, then, in approaching political questions, we cannot claim that what is right or wrong, what is true or untrue, is to be determined solely by  the political consensus in a society at a particular time.
Opinion polls are not the determinant of truth, nor, for that matter, is the “latest scientific research”. Opinion polls are just opinion polls, and research is essentially what it says it is, research.
Both can and will be superseded by other polls and other research. Meanwhile fundamental truths remain true.
Truth and right are not contingent. Majorities can be wrong, and often are.
As the then Cardinal Ratzinger put it in   a chapter of his collected writings  entitled “The Problem of the  Threats to Human Life”
“In a world in which moral convictions lack a common reference to the truth, such convictions have the value of mere opinion”
In that, Christianity is in agreement with the approach of framers of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, who also held that there were certain fundamentals, that were antecedent to the opinion of the majority at any given time.
These fundamentals are formulated as enduring human rights.
CONSCIENCE
In approaching political questions, a Christian must be influenced by his or her conscience, as St Paul recommended we should be when participating in the Eucharist.
Our reason is a gift from God, and we must use it to examine our own lives, our faith and our failings, to examine our conscience, to use a very old fashioned phrase
Maybe a more frequent, formal, public, and private, examination of conscience by individuals and organisations would reduce the need for so many regulations and regulators.
As St Paul said to the Corinthians “if we scrutinize ourselves, we should not be judged”. I have, in some of the work I have been doing in business, come across some excellent work on how best to promote ethical behaviour in large business organisations. In a real sense, it is it is a systematic application of what St Paul recommended so long ago.
Our faith, and our conscience, also tells us we should respect God’s creation. We should leave the earth in a better condition than we found it.  That should influence our politics .
Our faith tells us that God created each one of us as individuals, that we are not mere accidents of genetics, and that He cares for each of us, as individuals. Our life comes from Him, and it is not ours to manipulate, or to take away. That is not a belief we can simply leave aside when approaching politics. Just as basic human rights are not contingent on the vagaries of opinion, nor are questions about the value of a human life.
EVERY PERSON COUNTS
I think the whole concept of Human Rights really has a Christian root.  Every person counts. If one believes God created each one of us as individuals, that makes it easy to understand  why  we should  respecting the human rights of all other people, who , as  Christians, we believe were also individually created by God.  That is why every person counts.
A belief that we are each a creation of God  for  makes it  reasonable  to respect the  right to Life from conception to natural death,  and, equally importantly, to  help  eliminate easily curable diseases, like malaria, that cause  children to die prematurely.   Just because a human being has not yet been born, or lives out of our sight on another continent, does not mean that they have no call on us to vindicate their human rights. It is not a question of taking a moralistic position,  but rather a question of what we do, and how we live our lives
Our faith tells us that there a life after our death, we do not simply pass away into nothingness. We have to give an account of ourselves.
Pope Benedict said “Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile”.
Science, and material progress, are only means to an end, no more. They are not why we are here on earth.
The GDP does not measure the success of a society.
The pursuit of knowledge is an expression of the creative gift God has given each one of us.  But it is not an end in itself. We are not on earth, simply that we may know more. That is why it is right that scientific experimentation be limited by ethical considerations.
ANSWERS TO THE MOST DIFFICULT QUESTIONS
Our faith helps us answer the really difficult questions, questions which, if left unanswered can, when we face some unexpected setback in our lives,  lead to depression, nihilism  and sometimes, as I say,  even  to despair.  
Faith answers questions like
“Why are we here? 
“What is the meaning of my life?”
Inability to answer those questions, leaves people with a great emptiness at the heart of their lives.
An ability among citizens to satisfactorily answer such profound questions of existence for themselves has a social value, even in purely secular terms,  if  it helps people  to cope with crises in their lives.
CATHOLICISM AND NATIONALISM
Our faith, as Catholics, helps us in our relations with people of other nations.
The very word “Catholic” reminds us that our obligations are universal, to all humanity, not just to our own family or our own nation. That is what the word means. In literal terms, it is hard to reconcile Catholicism and Nationalism. They are opposites.
Pope Pius the eleventh reminded the world in 1922, even patriotism, must be “kept within the laws of Christ”. 
And the laws of Christ forbid murder and theft, even when committed for supposedly patriotic motives.
FORGIVENESS
We must never think we know it all. Our faith also tells us that God sent His only Son to live, and die, on earth, so that our sins would be forgiven, and that we might live.
Our faith tells us that we should follow the example of Christ, and forgive others who have wronged us. Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally. In fact it almost goes against nature. But we do it, because we believe that Christ died, so that we in our turn may be forgiven, and because He told us to forgive. 
We must deplore the sin, but we should not shun the sinner.
Vengeance does not cure the injury to victims. Sometimes it makes it worse. 
Retribution is not Christ’s way.  No, that hard and unnatural thing, forgiveness, is Christ’s way.
It would help Modern Ireland, with its record prison population, and it’s culture in relentless search for someone  to blame , it would help it a great deal, if it could  remind itself, of  the true meaning of Christ’s life, and  of the  meaning of His death, namely
forgiveness,  
letting go,    
and rising again.
Penalties are necessary to ensure that laws are respected, and may involve terms of imprisonment, but these penalties should be calculated by reference to the need for deterrence and restitution, not as a form vengeance or catharsis for victims.
And once a penalty is paid, offenders should be forgiven. 
I will back up this point by quoting from a recent article by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post on the  death of former Watergate convict, Chuck Colson, who went on, after imprisonment for the obstruction of justice,  to devote his life  to Christianity and to the improvement of prison  conditions
“Prison often figures large in conversion stories. Pride is the enemy of grace, and prison the enemy of pride. “How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?” wrote Oscar Wilde after leaving Reading gaol.
It is the central paradox of Christianity that fulfilment starts in emptiness, that streams emerge in the desert, that freedom can be found in a prison cell”
Gerson concluded
GLOBALISATION AND INEQUALITY
These are some of the insights that Christianity can bring to political life.
Christian belief is, I contend, as important to the living of a good life now, in the twenty first century in Ireland, as it ever were at any time in our country’s long history.
It is also important to understanding how best to live in a globalised world.
In his Encyclical  “Caritas in Veritate”,  speaking of the world economy, His Holiness said
“The principal new feature has been the explosion of worldwide interdependence, commonly known as globalisation”
He went on to say that, without the guidance of charity in truth, globalisation could cause unprecedented damage and cause new divisions in the human  family. He is right.
Thanks in part to globalisation, modern western society is afflicted by growing inequality in incomes, reversing a period of relative equalisation following the  Second World War.
 Money and talent can now move freely than ever before across frontiers, and this reduces the possibility of individual states using progressive taxation to mitigate inequalities of income between people.  
Remuneration policies within companies are also driven by the fear that “talent” will be stolen by competitors. This can lead to big differences between what people at the top of a company can earn, and what is earned by others, who are less well known and less likely to be  headhunted by competitors.
To change this, will require a change in the ethic by which capitalism operates.
That is something than can be influenced for good by religiously inspired ethical principles, whether these principles are applied in Government, in company boardrooms, or among the investment community, or by individuals in their daily lives, as shoppers, voters, or as contributors to public debate.
No, Christians, and Catholics in particular, should not be afraid to bring their beliefs into the public square.
TRUST AND RESPECT
Drawing on their faith, they can help society to work out, and maintain, a strong ethos of mutual trust and respect,
trust and respect within religious communities,
between religious communities,
between people of faith and non believers,
trust and respect in business and economic relations, and
trust and respect  between nations.
That is what we have to offer the twenty first century, and we should not be behind the door in putting it forward, with pride.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Remarks by John Bruton, former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland (1994/7) ,at 7pm on Thursday 14th June,  at a meeting in The Eucharistic Congress, held in the RDS Dublin.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    
        

PADRAIG FAULKNER RIP

“I wish to pay tribute to the memory of Padraig Faulkner, who died last week.
We represented neighbouring counties, but different political parties, and we had many friends in common.
Padraig Faulkner always impressed me as a man of sincere principle.
As he describes well in his excellent autobiography, he came from a politically divided family, his mother being a republican, and his father being a constitutional nationalist.
I believe this made him especially attentive to points of view other than his own.
He was a progressive and tolerant Minister for Education, who understood the value of technology, and also that  of ethos and tradition.”

33,000 IRISH JOBS THAT ARE BUILT ON CONFIDENCE

The International Financial Services Industry provides 33,000 well paid jobs. In the past 10 years employment in the industry has risen by 400%. No other industry can match that performance. It  contributes 1 billion euros in Corporation Profits Tax and 0,7 billion in payroll taxes to the Irish Exchequer.
It consists of 500 separate firms in range of different sectors . These a mobile jobs. They are here by choice. And they can leave by choice. They are here because we have built a talent pool in Ireland, in the relevant specialist fields, that is second to none.
Basically these jobs are here because people feel that their money is safe here. They have confidence in us.  That confidence is not something one can put in the bank. It has to be earned  over and over again, every day, as people in this industry travel the world selling  this country, and their business here in this country.
One of the reasons this country has succeeded is that it is in the European Union. In fact the biggest single component of the IFSC in jobs terms is the funds industry, and the funds industry has developed here around a special, EU devised, product, the UCIT.  Without that EU devised product , the funds industry here would have much fewer employees.
So staying on top of our game in Europe is very important to IFSC.
THE ONLY NOVEL ELEMENT IN THE FISCAL COMPACT WILL NOT IMPINGE ON IRELAND
In that context, I would like to say a few words about the referendum on the Fiscal Compact Treaty.  The only really novel element in this Fiscal Compact Treaty , the only element that is not provided for in EU Treaties the Irish people have not already endorsed, is the requirement to have a structural budget deficit of no more than 0.5%.
This will be an important discipline on other countries who may be tempted, at some time in the (probably distant) future, to embark on boom and bloom economics, of the kind Ireland engaged in from 2002 to 2007. 
But the 0.5% limit will make no difference to Ireland itself for the next 20 years, because we will have to run structural surpluses every year anyway, simply to get our debts down to levels we agreed to long ago in the Maastricht Treaty ….a debt to GDP ratio of 60%.
A NO VOTE IS   A VOTE FOR  SHARP AUSTERITY
 Advocates of a NO vote are falsely claiming that a No vote is a vote against austerity.
The direct opposite is actually the case. 
A NO vote would be a vote for more austerity, not less.  It would be a vote for cuts and tax increases. It would be a vote for higher interest rates.
 Because a No vote would deprive us of a right to apply to the European Stability Mechanism for funds, we would have to borrow, if  at all, at higher interest rates from private investors, unless of course market perceptions of Irish public  finances improve significantly. 
As it stands, even if we had no debts at all, and thus had no interest rates to pay on past debts, we are today spending about 10 billion euros more per year on public services, than we are taking in this year in tax.
 In economic jargon, we have what is called a primary deficit.   Having a primary deficit makes a country vulnerable.
Because it would drastically reduce our borrowing options, I believe that a NO vote could, if global lending conditions for Governments were to disimprove for reasons that could be completely beyond our control, put us in a position where we had to eliminate that primary deficit almost immediately, because of the general loss in confidence in lending to Governments with financial problems.
If we deprive ourselves of eligibility for the ESM, we could then find ourselves having to manage or finances, as a nation, on a cash basis. We could only spend on any given day, the cash we had in hand that day, so to speak.
That would require devastatingly sudden tax increases and expenditure reductions to get our cash outgoings down to level of our cash incoming.
A CHALLENGE TO ADVOCATES OF A NO VOTE
I challenge the NO advocates to say where they might find that 10 billion euros, to eliminate our primary deficit, if we have to, because we have rejected eligibility for the ESM, and cannot borrow anywhere else, other than at exorbitant interest rates.
 Because a No vote would deprive us of a right to apply to the European Stability Mechanism for funds, it would certainly mean that we would be forced to borrow at higher interest rates from private investors.  Because of our self inflicted ineligibility for the ESM, the risk premium on lending to Ireland would be increased because those lending to us would know that we had no fall back position.
I ask those who advocate a NO vote how they would explain to people on waiting lists, that they would have to wait longer for their operation, because the money that should have been there to pay for their operation, is instead having to be diverted to pay extra interest rates on loans, extra interest rates which had been brought about by our NO vote.
To use the analogy of a household, advocates of a NO vote are asking us as a household to take our custom away from the Credit Union, of which we are a longstanding member and which is helping us through a bad patch, and to place our fate in the hands of the moneylenders and loan sharks.

Speech by  John Bruton, President of IFSC Ireland, at an IFSC event in  the Stock Exchange, Dublin  at 5pm on Thursday 25 April

WOODENBRIDGE COMMEMORATION

When John Redmond spoke here in September 1914, he was speaking to his friends and neighbours, the men of the East Wicklow Volunteers. He probably would have been personally acquainted with a majority of the men in the parade, and their families.
 He was on his way to his home in Aughavanagh.
 He had left London a day before, having succeeded in the great task of his life, seeing the Home Rule Act passed into law, after over thirty years of patient parliamentary work and public  peaceful agitation.
He had taken the boat from Holyhead and was passing here by car and  saw the parade taking place under the captaincy of the local schoolmaster and  friend of his, a Captain McSweeney, who, in addition to his work as a local teacher and captain in the Volunteers, was a keen activist in the Irish language revival movement. 
Having told the men on parade that he knew they would make efficient soldiers,  referring to the German invasion of Belgium, John Redmond urged his friends to support the Allied cause  as follows;
“Go on drilling and make yourselves efficient for the work, and then account for yourselves as men, not only in Ireland itself, but wherever the fighting line extends in defence of right and freedom and religion in this war”
 Under the Home Rule Bill ,that had passed into law two days before John Redmond  spoke here, a united Ireland of 32 counties would have enjoyed a devolution of  the powers of legislation and domestic administration, but without control over foreign and military affairs and without control of customs duties. Any exclusion of Ulster counties was to be purely temporary.
 Some have minimised Redmond’s achievement in getting Home Rule passed,  criticised  the  speech two days later in Woodenbridge,  and blamed him for Irish  casualties in the Great War.
I believe such critics are mistaken.
WHAT JOHN REDMOND ACHIEVED
 John Redmond’s achievement was enormous. Relying on wholly constitutional and parliamentary methods, he had succeeded where O Connell, Butt and Parnell   had all failed.  He actually got Home Rule onto the Statute Book.
 After an intense political struggle, in face of vetoes by the House of Lords, threats of mutiny within the military, and threats of physical violence by the Ulster Volunteers, the Home Rule Bill was finally passed into law on 18 September 1914, two days before he spoke here. 
This was a month after the war had broken out with Imperial Germany. When the War first broke out in August 1914, the Asquith led  Liberal Government initially wanted to postpone the final passage of the Home Rule Bill, which  was still strongly opposed by the  Conservative party, as part of a  wartime political  truce,   which was, in Asquith’s words, to be “without prejudice to the domestic  and political positions of any party”.
 But John Redmond insisted that Home Rule be brought into law. He got his way. The law was passed, and assented to by the King, but its operation was suspended for twelve months, or until the end of the war, whichever was to come later. This postponement was seen as reasonable in the circumstances. It allowed the energies of all concerned to be concentrated on winning what was expected to be a short  War.
I believe John Redmond was right on the issues at stake in that War and in his support for the Allied cause .
REDMOND WAS RIGHT ON THE ISSUES AT STAKE IN THE WAR…….
The German invasion of neutral Belgium the previous month was entirely unprovoked.
 Germany had  found itself facing a war with Russia, over Germany’s support for excessive demands the Austro Hungarian Empire was making on Serbia. Germany was worried that France might go to war support Russia. But France had not yet done that.
 Imperial Germany it did not wait. It decided to attack France first, hoping it could quickly knock out France like it had done in 1870. And the best route by which to attack France   was through Belgium. Belgian neutrality was to be treated as an irrelevance.
 Some believe that ,as an Irish Leader, John Redmond was wrong to takes sides in such a war to defend the territorial integrity of a neutral state. This is a strange position to take, given that we make so much of our own neutrality today. Or perhaps the view is that only our own neutrality is important, and other people’s neutrality does not matter. That is hardly a sustainable position in international relations.  
Redmond was criticised at the time, by a minority in the Volunteers who later seceded, for not waiting for an Irish Government first to be formed in Dublin before taking sides. But they did not say it was, as such, wrong for an Irish leader to take a side.
The rebels of Easter Week 1916, did not wait for an Irish Government to be formed or for a mandate from the people,  before taking a  side,  the opposite side to the one chosen by John Redmond, when they explicitly stated, in their Proclamation , that they were  allied with what they described as  their “gallant  allies” in Europe.
 These “ gallant allies” were Imperial Germany, the Austro Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.  The morality of this “alliance” has never been seriously questioned or debated in Ireland in the past century, and perhaps it is time that it was.
Looking at the facts as they were in September 1914, the unprovoked invasion of neutral Belgium, the excessive demands made on Serbia, and the atrocities committed in Belgium by the invaders, I believe Redmond’s position on the War holds up better   than does the self proclaimed alliance of the 1916 men with the German, Austro Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires.
  I do not believe that the maxim that your neighbour’s difficulty is your opportunity, is necessarily a good one, or one that trumps other considerations. Irish people had then, and have now, a sense of justice, not only for ourselves but for other countries too.
UNITY BY CONSENT WAS HIS GOAL
Leaving morality aside, was Redmond tactically foolish to call for Irish men to join the Army in September 1914?
This question has to be judged by what Redmond was trying to achieve at the time.  He was trying to persuade Ulster Unionists to voluntarily come in under a Home Rule Government in Dublin.
All the concessions he made, including accepting Home Rule as a final settlement and accepting a reduction in Irish  representation in the House of Commons , were made to achieve that  goal, free acceptance of  Home Rule by Unionists, or ” unity by consent”.
 Redmond believed it was attainable, but only if he could demonstrate to Ulster Unionists that  Home Rule did not mean abandoning their British loyalty.  Redmond believed that one way of making Ulster Unionists see Irish Nationalism in a different light, would be if Irish Nationalists stood shoulder to shoulder with them in a common endeavour to defend Belgian neutrality, and the rights of small nations. Rather than being opponents, as they had been in the previous four years of bitter domestic political struggle, they would thus be  on the same side.
Redmond knew he was taking a risk in his call at Woodenbridge. But it was a calculated risk. He took the risk in an attempt to achieve genuine Irish unity by consent.
THE METHODS TO ACHIEVE UNITY USED BY REDMONDS CRITICS FAILED OVER AND OVER AGAIN
 Given that all subsequent attempts, including terror, boycotting Northern goods, and  demanding that the British  deploy the threat of coercing Unionist into a  united Ireland, have  failed to achieve  voluntary (or any other kind of ) unity, one should be slow to criticise Redmond, unless one has, or had, a better plan.
 Of course, if a united Ireland by consent was never a serious goal, was more of a necessary piety, and if  maximum  separation of just 26 or 28  counties  from Britain was the real  goal, one could take a different view. 
  But that was not John Redmond’s position. He believed he could  win over Unionists, but  he did not believe that would be  possible, if  he stood aside from a conflict that Unionists regarded  as existential, and he could show was inherently just, on its merits anyway.
WAR WAS LONGER THAN ANYONE PREDICTED
 One might accuse Redmond of making a miscalculation in his speech here 98 years ago, because he did not foresee that the war would  go on so long,  that there would be so many casualties, and that it would  bring down the Liberal Government whose dependence on Irish party parliamentary support after the 1910 election support had made Home Rule possible in the first place. 
At the time most people, including most military experts , expected that this war, like most of the wars of the nineteenth century, would be over within  a year or so. Unfortunately they were wrong. Improved defensive military technology, like the machine gun, which made it harder to advance, and easier to defend ground, meant that the war dragged on for four and a quarter awful years.
IRISH WOULD HAVE JOINED ARMY ANY WAY

It is wrong to make Redmond responsible for the terrible price that was paid in the trenches. Large numbers of Irish men would have joined up anyway, especially now that Home Rule was passed, whatever Redmond said or did not say at Woodenbridge. All the historical evidence suggests points in this direction.
 After all, just fourteen years after the passage of the hated Act of Union, 40% of Wellngton’s army at Waterloo was Irish. Large number of Irish fought in the Crimean War. In his book on that war, Olando Figes states that in the parishes of Whitegate and Aghada in East Cork, almost one third of the male population died fighting in the British Army in the Crimea.
 So to say that Redmond’s stance is responsible for the “terrible price” that a  generation of  young Irish men paid in the trenches is  unhistorical .
 The only way Redmond could have affected the issue would have been if he had campaigned for Irish men NOT to join up. But if he had done that, he would have been saying goodbye to Irish unity, and would  have run the risk that the Home Rule Act, he had worked  so hard to pass, would have been repealed ,on the  ground that Home Rule, in those circumstances, would have been a threat to British security.
It is right to commemorate the introduction of the Home Rule Bill 100 years ago, in 1912. But introducing the Bill was one thing, passing it ,and implementing it on an all Ireland basis  was another. That was what Redmond achieved in September 1914, ninety eight years ago, something which subsequent generations have yet to achieve, a united Ireland.

Speech  at a ceremony in Woodenbridge Golf Club, Co Wicklow, on Sunday  29 April 2012, at the unveiling of a stone commemorating the speech of John Redmond MP, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, in Woodenbridge in September 1914 to a parade of the   Irish Volunteers.

THE IMF, DEMOCRACY, AND EQUALITY………..A NEW WASHINGTON CONSENSUS?

Understanding the way the IMF thinks is important for countries  like Ireland which depend on  funds provided by the IMF to pay for  public services. 
I attended some meetings in the IMF in Washington recently to discuss the impact the economic crisis is having on fairness within societies, and in particular the impact of the  type of measures the  IMF recommends to countries to help them get, or  keep, their  finances in order. In the past the IMF has been criticised for imposing programmes that focussed simply on  balancing a country’s books, and ignoring the impact on jobs, equality or growth.
Everyone understands, of course,  that the poorer people are, the more they depend on the Government to pay  for their basic health, educational and other needs. So the poorer people are, the more it is in their interests that Governments are, and remain, solvent, because insolvent Governments cannot help anybody.  An insolvent Government cannot provide any  healthcare, education , or unemployment assistance.
But the IMF is increasingly coming to realise that, in helping countries back to solvency, it also has to take account of the social impacts of the inevitable austerity measures it proposes.
 Badly designed programmes, that cause undue social hardship, undermine essential political support. If some groups suffer much more than others, or if inequality is increased, that makes it harder to restore financial health quickly.   The IMF has to design its proposals so that they   allow the economy to return to growth as soon as possible because growth increases tax revenues, and that helps balance the books.
I was told that the IMF has recently set up a “Jobs and Inclusive growth” working group to work out how best to  ensure that  fairness and growth  are incorporated into austerity programmes.
 
 A PARADOX…..INEQUALITY HAS BOTH REDUCED, AND INCREASED
 
Inequality WITHIN most countries has increased in recent years, although inequality BETWEEN  countries has dramatically reduced .
 Inequality between countries has become less because emerging economies are catching  up, and economic  growth has at last returned to  Africa .
 In some senses, growth in poor countries has contributed to inequality in  richer countries because  has led to additional demand for the  limited amount of  food and  fuel available in the world  This   has driven up prices, which in turn has added  to problems for less well off consumers in traditionally better off countries .
There are some exceptions. In Brazil, inequality has reduced because the Government has  transferred cash  direct to families on condition that  they send their children to school. This has reduced poverty, and dramatically increased duration of school attendance from an average of four, to an average of nine, years by each Brazilian child.
 In contrast, despite the enormous strides forward by everybody, inequality has greatly increased in China. Other developing countries spend more on indiscriminate fuel subsidies that are enjoyed by rich and poor alike than they spend on health services.
Income inequality has many causes.
 There is a “celebrity “effect.  A firm will pay extra to recruit a high flyer from a rival firm, and that adds to inequality. 
Certain specialised skills can command premium pay rates.
 Incentive schemes boost production, but they also add to inequality.
 But too much inequality undermines the consensus on which a successful capitalist economy rests. These are issues that the IMF understands and this should help countries find the right balance  for their own countries.

A REFLECTION AT EASTER TIME

I was invited to give a short reflection on what my faith means to me as a lay person in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar, Co Westmeath on Holy Thursday evening. This is the text of what I said;
“The faith was one of the great gifts afforded to my generation, who were born in Ireland in the years after the Second World War. It is a gift we have an obligation now, to pass on.

Our faith tells us that there is a God, that we are not alone in the universe. We should not be arrogant. We should respect His creation. We should leave the earth in a better condition than we found it.  There is something out there much bigger than us, so we must keep our troubles in proportion.

Our faith tells us that God created each one of us as individuals, that we are not mere accidents of genetics, and that He cares for each of us, as individuals. Our life comes from Him, and it is not ours to manipulate, or take away.

Our faith tells us that there a life after our death, we do not simply pass away into nothingness. We have to give an account of ourselves.

But our faith also tells us that God sent His only Son to die on earth, so that our sins would be forgiven, and that we might live.

These beliefs are, I contend, as important to the living of a good life now, in the twenty first century in Ireland, as they ever were at any time in our country’s long history.

As Pope Benedict said “Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile”. Science, and material progress are only means to an end, no more. They are not why we are here on earth.

Our faith helps us answer the really difficult questions, questions which, if left unanswered  can lead to despair, nihilism  and sometimes even  to suicide 

“Why are we here?  “

“What is the meaning of my life?”

Inability to answer those questions, leaves people with a great emptiness at the heart of their lives, and that is why faith is such a gift. It enables us to answer the truly important questions.

Our faith, as Catholics, reminds us that our obligations are universal, to all humanity, not just to our own family or nation. As Pope Pius the eleventh reminded the world in 1922, even patriotism must be “kept within the laws of Christ”  

And we must never think we know it all. Our reason is a gift from God, and we must use it to examine our own lives, our faith and our failings, to examine our conscience, to use a very old fashioned phrase. Perhaps if we did that more often, we would not need so many regulations and regulators.

The whole concept of Human Rights has a Christian root. If we believe God created each one of us, that provides us with a solid basis for respecting the human rights of all other people, who , as  Christians, we believe were also created by God.  We thus  have a solid, and rational basis, for , for example, respecting their  right to Life from conception to natural death,  and also for helping to eliminate easily curable diseases, like malaria, that cause  children to die prematurely. 

Above all our faith tells us that we should follow the example of Christ, and forgive others who have wronged us. Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally. In fact it almost goes against nature. But we do it because we believe that Christ died, so that we in our turn may be forgiven, and because He told us to forgive. 

We must deplore the sin, but we should not shun the sinner.

Vengeance does not cure the injury to victims. Sometimes it makes it worse.  

Retribution is not Christ’s way.  No, that hard and unnatural thing, forgiveness , is Christ’s way.

It would help Modern Ireland, with its record prison population, and its media in relentless search for someone  to blame ,   it would help it a great deal, if it could  remind itself,  this Easter, of  the true meaning of Christ’s life, and  of the  meaning of His death-forgiveness, letting go, and rising again.

AN IRISH CENTURY…. ’STUDIES’ , 1912-2012

 Remarks by John Bruton, former Taoiseach, in Newman House, St Stephens Green, Dublin 

 

I am delighted to have been asked to speak at the launch of this beautifully produced volume, which is an exceptionally well chosen, and contemporarily relevant, selection of essays, published  over the last 100 years in the Jesuit journal “Studies”.


“Studies” first appeared in March 1912, exactly a century ago. 
In the time since receiving an advance copy of the book, I have read most, but not all of Bryan Fanning’s selection of essays.
Undoubtedly the most startling essay in the book is “The Canon of Irish History,   A challenge” by Father Francis Shaw SJ.
It was intended for publication in 1966, but was deemed too controversial for publication by the then editor of Studies . It was eventually published in 1972 under the courageous editorship of Fr Peter Troddyn S J , who happens to have  taught me at school. 
As we prepare to commemorate the enactment of Home Rule in 1914, the sacrifices by Irish soldiers in the Great War, and the deaths in and after rebellion of Easter 1916, the content  of Fr Shaw’s essay is as relevant, and probably as controversial,  today,  as it was 46 years ago, when it was first offered for publication.
Fr Shaw analyses the physical force tradition of Irish nationalism and , in so doing, quotes extensively from the writings of Patrick Pearse.
He questions Pearse’s identification of Nationalism with Holiness , his  hatred of England, and his  glorification of   death and violence.
Writing in December 1915, when the horrors of the Great War were already all too well known in the homes of Ireland , Pearse said
“The last 16 months have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth.  It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields”

On another occasion, Pearse sought religious vindication for such a view. He said
“The Christ that said   ‘My peace I leave you, my peace I give you’,  is the same Christ that said  ‘I bring not peace but the sword’”
Pearse expressed the view that Ireland would not be” happy again”, until she recollects the “laughing gesture” of a young man going into battle, or “climbing to a gibbet” for  his  hanging.

All commemorations serve an educational purpose for the future. It is important that such sentiments as these not be glorified in 2016, and that their consequences be fairly assessed.
They were misleading to people 100 years ago, and they are just as misleading today.
Warfare may sometimes be necessary as a last resort in self defence, but it is never glorious or holy in the way Pearse, and many others of his generation, apparently saw it.
The wonderful thing about this volume is that it enables us to read what authors thought, at the time, without the opportunity for selective reinterpretation in the light of subsequent events .

Yet much of the writing is remarkably up to date and pertinent.

We have John Maynard Keynes 1933 critique of what we now call globalisation, George Russell (AE)’s 1923 critique  of the negative cultural impact of   what we now call Armed Struggle, and a controversy in 1938 about Daniel O Connell and his view of his Gaelic heritage.
We have interesting insights from Tom Garvin and Raymond Crotty about what people thought about economic development in the time before the Celtic Tiger and the Celtic Bust. 

There is an essay , written by 1983 ,by John Sweeney on Social Inequality, something that has not  diminished in the intervening years, and which may  have been contributed to by  the globalisation that Keynes had written about,  50 years before.
We have Sean Lemass’ recollection of the 1916 rebellion, and excellent biographical essays on John Redmond and Tom Kettle.

Kettle, who died  at the front in the Great War, had a different attitude to war to Patrick Pearse. 

He said
“I want to live to use all my powers…..  to drive out of  civilization the foul thing called war, and put in its place  understanding and comradeship”,
And he regretted the 1916 rebellion, because he felt it spoiled his dream of a”free united Ireland, in a free Europe”.  
 
I hope Tom Kettle will be remembered in 2016, which will be the centenary of his death, because his message has great relevance to our times.
Stephen Collins essay on John Redmond deals with the career of a man whose memory he says was “systematically buried” when the new state came into being in 1922.
It is important to say that Home Rule was enacted into law in 1914 as a direct result of John Redmond’s work. I also believe that  the institutions of the state, that became operational in 1922,  owed much to the civil service work done in the  1912 to 1914 period, in preparation for Home Rule .  
As befits a Jesuit publication, there are interesting essays on religious practice in Ireland, on the theology of Dr Paisley, and the response of the Catholic Church to the abuse scandals.
I congratulate Studies, and the UCD Press, on an excellent publication.

Page 3 of 14

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén