The Irish Times today described it as “strongly defended”, and RTÉ described yesterday as “a robust defence”, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spoke to the Association of European Journalists yesterday in response to Progressive Democrat TD Liz O’Donnell’s speech in the Dáil in which she criticised the deference shown by the State towards the Catholic Church in Ireland. In his response Bertie Ahern focused, in particular, on the role of the Church in primary education, as the Irish Times reports – “The State would not be able to manage the schools without the religious, he said, and he believed the State owed a great debt of gratitude to the communities.”[subs req]Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described the extent of the Church’s role in primary education –
After former PD minister of state Liz O’Donnell on Wednesday called on Catholic Church ownership of almost all primary schools to be “radically addressed”, Mr Ahern indicated yesterday that he was happy with the status quo.
On the role of religious in education Mr Ahern said there were 3,200 primary schools in the country of which about 3,000 were owned by the religious communities – the vast majority of these by the Catholic Church.
The State would not be able to manage the schools without the religious, he said, and he believed the State owed a great debt of gratitude to the communities.
And, also from the Irish Times –
Ms O’Donnell had called for an end to the traditional “deference” shown to the Catholic Church and to the “special relationship” between that church and the State.
She said the Ferns clerical sex abuse report had shown the church could not be trusted to tell the truth, that its finances should be fully audited, and that it had got off lightly in the deal on compensating abuse survivors.
However, Mr Ahern said the Catholic Church was an important part of civil society without which Ireland would not have come as far as it had.
Mr Ahern also took issue with Ms O’Donnell’s demand that “the cosy phone calls from All Hallows to Government Buildings must end”. He said this “could only be” a reference to him.
Addressing the Association of European Journalists yesterday, the Taoiseach said the reference to All Hallows was to the religious community of Vincentians based at All Hallows in his Dáil constituency.
He said: “I am very proud of All Hallows. Yes I do ring All Hallows. I will ring All Hallows, my father has worked in All Hallows or did for half a century. My house is called All Hallows. It is on the lands of All Hallows so I am going to make apologies to nobody including Liz O’Donnell for being in touch with All Hallows.”
But others were not impressed. Richard Delevan took particular issue with Bertie’s self-declared disappointment at the revelations of child abuse, as he says in an extensive and detailed post on the issue –
You know, I felt ‘disappointment’ when Ireland failed to qualify for the World Cup. I felt disappointed when my dog Charlie crapped on the kitchen floor at 3am when she was still training. I felt disappointed when SPACE: Above and Beyond was cancelled after one series.
When I can steel myself for long enough to get through part of the Ferns report, I don’t feel ‘disappointment’. I feel something very close to rage.
As Richard Delevan’s sicNotes advises – Read more