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It Happened To A Bishop
Far from boring but curiously incomplete that s Dr Edward Daly s autobiography
Eamonn McCann, 09 Nov 2000
Dr. Edward Daly s autobiography, Mister, Are You A Priest?, is that rare thing a book by a bishop which isn t boring.
It tells of a warm childhood in the fastness of Fermanagh (where his father, it turns out, was the local IRA commander), records life as a seminarian in the simmering years before the deluge, and paints a picture of the priest as social activist and pop entrepreneur.
The pity is, Mister, Are You A Priest? ends before Dr. Daly becomes a bishop. It would have been interesting to
have had first-hand reminiscence of how he accomodated to life as an unstuffy member of a puffed-up
power-block, and of the bishops' discussions, which must have been animated, of how to handle the shoal of scandals which engulfed the RC church in the 1990s.
By the way, there is, of course, no truth at all in the suggestion that the title of Dr. Daly s book was taken by the publishers from an entirely separate manuscript by a a totally different author which had landed unsolicited on their desk Why Have Your Got Your Hand Down My Trousers, Mister Are You A Priest?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, declares that Britain has become an atheist society. He thinks this a bad thing.
Addressing a congregation at St German's Cathedral on the Isle of Man, Dr Carey said that most British people no longer believed in eternal life and desperately sought to postpone death by medical means. Too many Britons had abandoned the Christian teaching that "death is not the end but the door through which life in all its fullness comes to us".
How come so many Christians show such reluctance to fling it open?
Why has the Vatican reacted to the frail health of the Pope by placing a team of doctors on 24-hour alert? Why was Mother Teresa surrounded by a squad of specialists, some flown to Calcutta from Los Angeles, throughout the 22-day period of her penultimate illness? Why did Carey himself go into hospital earlier this year for a "check-up"?
What's to check? How can it matter?
As ever with Christians, so many questions, so few answers.
I see that Bono has pledged support for the campaign to free Ann Harrington, 37, mother of two, jailed for six years in Cork on October 27th for defrauding her employers, Blackpool Credit Union, of #33,000 between 1993 and 1998.
No, that's not right. It's Charlie Haughey sentenced to no years in prison for defrauding the people of Ireland of 100 times that amount and kicking the poor in the teeth as he did so that Bono begs should be kept out of jail.
And fair play to Siniad O'Connor for speaking out in protest against the jailing of 23-year-old heroin addict Paul Henry of Rialto, sentenced to a year in Mountjoy on October 30th for possession of heroin for sale or supply..
Whoops! Wrong again. It was the possibility of Charlie Haughey going to jail, not the fact of the jailing of Paul Henry, that had so upset Siniad.
There were 3,091 citizens locked in our prisons as of September 30th. Almost all of them come from very poor backgrounds. As many as a thousand are drug-addicts. Some are sex abusers/victims of sex abuse. Overwhelmingly, it seems to me they are more decent and more deserving sort of people than Charlie Haughey. Obviously, Bono and Siniad see such issues differently these days.
If the Agreement collapses, democracy will be the main loser. Decisions won't be made in the local interest".
The leading SDLP Assemblyman was speaking (during a Derry City fund-raiser to find the Liar of the Year: I was eliminated in round one) a few days before the Ulster Unionists plunged the Process into crisis again. Or confirmed that it's still mired in the same crisis as ever.
I was reminded of meeting Muamar al-Gadafy in the Sahara desert, at an oasis south of Sirte, and addressing him as president .
He drew back in mock horror: I am not the president!
As a matter of fact, I am the leader of the opposition....
I could have told him that s nothing, where I come from all political leaders are leaders of the opposition.
Because contrary to the line of my Brandywell-regular, SDLP friend, since the Executive was set up, hardly anybody takes responsibility for anything. It was this which, last month, prompted intervention in debate on the NHS by the secretary of the Saul, Co. Down, division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians..
Bro. Brian Lennon had a message for Health Minister Bairbre de Brun Resign!
For good measure, he wanted local MP Eddie McGrady (SDLP) to take a powder, too.
What had gotten Mr. Lennon hot under the collarette was the future status, even the future itself, of the Downe Hospital one of those mundane matters which, we were told pre-Agreement, would be sorted out sharpish soon as we had functioning political institutions of our own. Indeed, it was widely suggested by pro-Agreement commentators at the time that the whole point of getting local hands on the levers of power was to ensure that issues like the Downe would be resolved in line with local wishes.
The campaign to Save the Downe was huge. Angry massive marches one in 1998 generally estimated at 20,000-strong, bigger than the total population of the town swamped the centre of Downpatrick. Representatives of all the pro-Agreement parties were prominently in attendance to hammer home the message: Devolution to Save the Downe!
So the hospital's status is safe now, then? De Brun, on her first or second day in office, issued instructions along the lines of her party's '98 demand?
Last month, she explained why not. A departmental spokesman revealed that the matter was more complicated than might have been imagined. Competing demands, scarce resources, and so forth. So: The Minister has commissioned an independent review of hospital facilities (in Downpatrick) which is due to report early next year .
Independent means here what it means everywhere when used in this context independent of all pledges or implicit assurances the minister s party may previously have given.
If the review recommends (as it's hereby predicted it will) that the Downe be stripped of its acute status, the Executive parties, led by Minister de Brun, with the support of Mr. McGrady, will sympathise with local dismay and wish things were otherwise and the Downe will be stripped of its acute status.
Last month, too, residential child-care workers in the Foyle Trust area met with members of Derry City Council to discuss the under-funding which has put some of the most vulnerable of our citizens at risk. Counselling is effectively available only to those too far gone to be able to benefit from it. Children taken "into care" because they are homeless as a result of family break-up share over-crowded rooms with children who are severely disturbed and in need of psychiatric help. The residential workers had launched a programme of rolling industrial action, and came to the council to explain their case. Among the parties which declared full support for the workers' demands were the SDLP (which holds the Ministry of Finance), Sinn Fein (Ministry of Health and Social Services) and the Ulster Unionists (Office of the First Minister.)
At the time of writing, there has been no indication of new resources being made available. Children at risk continue to be put in further peril.
How can this be, and the Downe still be endangered, when every party with input into the relevant areas is on-side?
It cannot be wholly explained by the banal general experience of political principles turning to dust upon the attainment of office. This is weirder.
On the day after the two Sinn Fein Ministers basked in praise from the mainstream media for their departments contributions the Programme for Government, Gerry Adams denounced the document as neither radical nor Republican.
The DUP's Minister for the Environment, Gregory Campbell, went further and called on supporters to reject the Programme which he'd just put his name to.. "Another step on the road to a united Ireland", he warned.
It is a unique feature of the Stormont set-up that, in order to eliminate the possibility of any mandated party refusing to work with another, coalition is compulsory. So, everybody, like it or not, is jointly responsible for everything. Which, when you turn it on its head, or rather on its feet, means that nobody is specifically responsible for anything.