Posted By: October 03, 2014


IT WAS to be about Enda Kenny. The article was going to say some critical things about our present Taoiseach.

It was going to complain about the little interest he has shown in the affairs of Northern Ireland. It was going to point to the pathetic number of speeches he has made about the North and the even fewer times he has set foot in the place at a time when the blocks holding our institutions together were crumbling.

It wasn’t going to spend any time on Kenny’s current woes where he is accused of cronyism and stroke [crafty] politics by the media and by some in his own party. The focus would stay on the North and the insipid leadership of Fine Gael and Kenny around what should always be one of the most important items on the agenda of any Taoiseach.

That was until I walked into a local church and read an article about Kenny in a religious newspaper at the back of the church that made me want to kill dead things.

But before I get to the dead things, I should explain that it is the Taoiseach’s office that really deals with the North. Even though publicly it might appear that Foreign Affairs [ Department] leads, when it comes to the big policy issues it is the Taoiseach who is the boss.

It is the same on the British side. Theresa Villiers may do the day-to-day work but nothing substantive is decided until the two premiers are involved. During the past number of years,  Foreign Affairs were very concerned about the deteriorating Northern politics. During the same period the Taoiseach’s office showed as much interest in the North as Downing Street showed in Scotland during the two years lead-up to the referendum.

And now that the two premiers have finally decided that they are going to sanction all-party talks chaired by their officials, something I have been barking about for longer than I can remember, you would think that I would be in a mellow mood with the Taoiseach. But, like most commentators, I have little confidence in the outcome.

All the evidence points to an attitude among both governments that the North should live in Purgatory. For those who have forgotten, it is a state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to Heaven. And there is no sense that the talks are going to get us to Heaven. At best there might be a few agreements around the edges and a number of mechanisms to explore difficult issues that cannot presently be resolved.

Theresa Villiers will continue to trot out the political lie, she repeated it again at the weekend, claiming that the resolution to the difficult problems lay in the hands of the local political parties. Enda Kenny will not even see the need to challenge that lie. But even that enormous and dangerous lie pales in comparison to what I read in the Catholic newspaper Alive that made me want to kill dead things.

That it appears monthly and is free would lead most thinking people to conclude it has the imprimatur of the Irish Church and the hierarchy. On the front of the September issue is a photograph of the Taoiseach and a question ‘Is Enda Kenny a Christian? Inside there is an article headed: ‘Enda Kenny reveals he is not a Catholic’. What follows is a hotchpot of twisted theology and selected quotations from a programme that Kenny did with Gay Byrne about faith.

The article is a disgrace. It is a vicious, personal attack about a man’s faith and, like the rest of us, his stuttering attempt to explain that belief and his attachment to the religious structure he was born into and continues to identify with.

What type of theological pomposity and religious dogmatism allows anyone to question the Christian standing of another? To show no appreciation of the difference between political, philosophical and even ideological argument and debate and personal, ad hominem judgment is unacceptable in most forums. But at the back of a church?

I can’t say I know Enda Kenny well but I appreciate and am grateful for his contribution to the Irish nation over long years. I will most probably severely critique his ongoing contributions. I just wonder will any bishop or priest critique the so-called religious newspaper that is free at the back of their church.