Thursday 13 April 2017

A liitle less god please

What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.
Christopher Hitchens 
(it's his birthday today but he, of course, is six years dead)

I bought petrol in Tramore yesterday (€1.31/lt, supposed to be the cheapest in Ireland) and was able to complete the transaction by 'tapping' my plastic card against a gizmo. It's a further level of disconnect between the money I earn at The Institute and the short stack of folding money which I dispense [Bob of the Liberal Hand] from my wallet. 20 years ago, when we bought the farrrrrm, we each set up an account with the local Credit Union so that not all our eggs were in the same banket. I used to attend CU AGMs occasionally and was stunned to have them opened with a prayer from the Parish Priest; who was - of course - on the board of management. Father Trendy, The Institute's ecumenical RC chaplain pops up in situations at work which would in another country be treated as strictly come secular. Because our News is wholly parochial [ooops, another ecclesiastical word that has winkled itself our day-to-day language] we only hear from secular France when some unfortunate woman is bullied into hiding her crucifix at work or another town bans burkinis on their secular beaches.

Those bidding prayers were in the news here this week because, it transpires, every session of the Dáil begins with the recital of a prayer by Ceann Comhairle / Chairman. There has been a recent shift to shake the political establishment across the democratic West: Brexit and Trump being the most obvious shifts from the status quo. In the 2016 election in Ireland a raft of Lefties and single issue campaigners were elected to the Dáil: "keep a proper hospital in County Roscommon" "my daughter has Cystic Fibrosis" and "Water is free because it falls from the sky" have been sufficient statement to secure election. The traditional parties have seen their support haemorrhage to the Left. They couldn't really lose much support to the Right because Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are there already. When property developer and soccer manager Mick Wallace stood for election in 2011, the establishment of Wexford snickered at his long hair, ear-stud and open-necked pink shirt. He was elected nevertheless, topping the poll. The members of parliament tried to enforce a dress code in the Dáil chamber - gentlemen wear ties - in a vain attempt to shore up the foundations of the state which were clearly crumbling if a long-haired scruff was allowed in the chamber.  Here's Enda Kenny, former school-teacher, bullying schooling Mick Wallace a fellow TD. Kenny only able to dispense humiliation to small children for 4 years in the 1970s.

The Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, has proposed a new [= same old same old] order of business that "All members present shall stand while the prayer is being read, and when it is concluded, members shall remain standing for 30 seconds of silent reflection.". Sorry, but that's not how things are in Irish politics this weather - all the unconsidered certainties are up for re-evaluation. And at least one of the micro-parties, now called Solidarity, formerly [last week] called the Anti-Austerity Alliance, far from being willing to stand for somebody else's prayer are pushing to remove the praying itself. The government wanted a straight vote on the matter because it wasn't seen as worthy of Dáil time. But Solidarity have won time to debate the issue, so that the reasons, the evidence even, for the current practice can be exposed to public scrutiny.  It is not really sufficient reason that Eamonn de Valera, drafter of Our Constitution [all he had to do was look into his heart], liked a bit of a prayer at the beginning of his working day.

It's the sort of flurry that gets onto chat-shows on the wireless and I heard two conservative talking-heads trying to interview members of Solidarity about their position. The Establishment position is 'it's only a little prayer, sure what could be the harm in that" and The Other is running with the implications - clerical sex-abuse, Bishopsgate, the ownership of hospitals and schools by the Church. For them, and indeed for me, a little prayer is the thin end of a wedge which is driven firmly into the bedrock of our society. The dreadful George Hook, elderly and spluttering talk-show host on NewstalkFM, got Mick Barry on the wireless at lunchtime yesterday. With the brilliant rhetoric of people asking vegetarians "Ha!" whether they are wearing leather shoes, Hook wondered whether Barry, avowed atheist, ever said "thank God". "Of course", I paraphrase Barry "I grew up in Ireland and I learned the language . . . but it not does mean that I want to have prayers in the Dáil. He represents the future. 10% of respondents to last year's census claimed to have 'no religion'; that's the largest grouping after Roman Catholic and indeed a larger bloc that all the other religions put together in one meeting house.

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