Do we hear faint stirrings of reform?

The Catholic abuse crisis is a pretty brutal reminder that Modern Ireland is not as modern as many people thought. Might it just be that the black North has something to teach the South re the relationship between Church and State? The veteran commentator Bruce Arnold seems to think so. Pre- crash sleaze dating back to the Haughey era, the unfolding of the financial crisis and bursting of the dam of child abuse are slowly stirring debate about a rebalancing of the powers between Dail and government and constitutional reform, says elder statesman Des O’Malley. We look forward hopefully to covering it. A bit worrying though if it’s left to the oldies to set the pace. Where are the young ‘uns – ( in this context, anybody under 40)? Here is fruitful territory for the northern centre ground to operate, if they have the drive and imagination.

Bruce Arnold

What we need is a commission of inquiry, with this brief: To look into the broken and ignored relationship between the pre-eminence of state law and the confusion in state law created by the widespread respect for canon law. Such a commission would need a short timetable and its remit confined. It should consist of a small group drawn from Northern Ireland and the Republic. Nuala O’Loan comes to mind as well as Maurice Hayes. The SDLP politician, Declan O’Loan is another sensible candidate. In recent criticism of the Pope’s letter he expressed disappointment that it did not address or analyse “what went wrong and why it went wrong”.
He repudiates “the very unhealthy culture of centralised clerical power within the church and the attendant secrecy. If that is not even admitted, what hope is there of correcting it thoroughly?”.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London