Comment & Analysis

Shared values in a United Ireland
A United Ireland is "the most practical and sensible way to resolve headaches over Brexit" writes Mary Kenny

It’s being suggested in a much-discussed new book by Kevin Meagher that one of the solutions to current political problems is – a united Ireland.

In A United Ireland – Why Unification is Inevitable and How it Will Come About, the author, English but with Irish roots, suggests that it’s simply the most practical and sensible way to resolve headaches over Brexit, worries about “a hard border”, and the dysfunctional element in the Belfast administration which is giving all the appearance of falling apart right now. 

The solution is staring us in the face. Make Ireland one country again.

Not new

It’s not a new idea – why, none other than Sir Edward Carson believed that the whole island of Ireland would be better off as one nation (although, for him, a nation within the United Kingdom of nations). 

And it is indeed entirely practical from the economic viewpoint. Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU. Once reunited with the rest of the country, no more Brexit for the North!

And although this aspect is never discussed in political or economic debate, a North-South confederation – let’s call it a confederation – would be a terrific boon for the strengthening of Christian values in Ireland.

Although Catholics and Protestants have certainly had political, historical and sacramental differences, in recent years they have drawn closer together on broader issues of “values”. 

A strong injection of Northern influence over the administration of the whole island would be a real obstacle for those advancing an ever more secular Ireland. 

‘Atheist Ireland’ would soon feel the thunder of the Bible against their agenda of removing faith from the public square. 

What a fascinating prospect lies before us! 

 

Mr Obama’s record comes under the microscope

If President Obama (still president until January 20 – and he will always have the right to be addressed as ‘Mr President’) visits Ireland again, as he has apparently promised to do, I hope he will receive the Céad Míle Fáilte for which this country is renowned. The visitor must always be welcomed.

But in terms of the Obama political record, Tim Stanley in the Daily Telegraph reported on an aspect which deserves highlighting: “To get his health reform bill passed in 2010, Obama said federal funds would never be used to finance abortions. But when the law was implemented, the government found a way around this: employers would pay for them instead.

Employers

“Catholic and other religious employers suddenly faced the prospect of providing insurance that would give their workers access to abortifacients, prescription contraceptives and surgical sterilisation. 

“For refusing to comply, the Little Sisters of the Poor, which cares for the elderly, faced up to $70 million a year in federal fines – so its plucky nuns took their case to the Supreme Court and, thankfully, won. They beat a naked attempt to overrule the separation of Church and State and make society more liberal by decree.” 

It will be remembered that this administration tried to subject an order of nuns caring for the elderly to compulsory compliance with abortion provision. 

 

Adhering to a moral compass

In the midst of a horrible spate of knife murders in Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took to the airwaves to suggest that some of the youths involved in these crimes suffered, essentially, from “anger issues”, and required a course in “anger management”. 

A youth who plunges a knife into his victim and kills him certainly is angry. He may also suffer from ‘drug issues’, ‘drink issues’ or ‘family dysfunction issues’. 

But whatever the problem, the victim ends up dead. The victim has been unjustly robbed of his life.

Of course there is a place for compassion and an intelligent understanding of why a young person commits homicide. But leave therapy language to the therapists, the shrinks and the counsellors. The role of a pastor is to show moral leadership and to adhere to a moral compass. 

First things first. Killing people is wrong. However angry you are, it’s against the moral law, as it is against the civil law. (And last year, indeed, Dr Martin did condemn the “despicable” killings involved in gangland murders.) 

Respect

But here’s something that has stayed with me. I remember Maeve Binchy talking about the great respect she had for the first editor who employed her, the legendary Douglas Gageby in the Irish Times. Gageby was encouraging, positive and amiable, but he also had a strong sense of standards. 

If somebody made a mistake in the newspaper, he would hold up the error for all to see and say sternly: “This will not do.” It was, Maeve said, utterly mortifying. You desperately wanted to do your best and correct your ways. 

And you respected Gageby for his exacting standards.

Compassion is of the essence, but we also need spiritual pastors to say, sometimes: “This will not do.” Whatever the reason.