...Was the resounding message to our correspondent from supporters after recently losing his seat at Stormont. Plus reflections on the Tuam scandal.
A number of supportive phone-calls came in as soon as the returning officer for Foyle finished totting up the votes and told me I wouldn’t be needing the bus-pass for Stormont anymore. But no expression of solidarity warmed my heart as much as my pal Helen Deery’s apt and exquisite instant message:
“Ach Jesus Eamonn I feel cat the day. I didn’t know what to say to you, but chin up mucker, get yourself a good smoke, a wee glass of wine and chill for a while. Fuck the begrudgers and all belonging to them, you’ll feel grand as soon as ye realise you don’t have to put up with that lot of pompous fucking bastards any longer.”
Balm for the wound, Helen, balm for the wound.
A number of people have stopped me in the street over the past few weeks (this is true) and asked me to explain the Oxford Comma.
Who gives a fuck? has been my standard reply. Much appreciated by fans of Vampire Weekend, a 10 times better band that they’re generally given credit for. Don’t take my word for it: Google “Vampire Weekend Oxford Comma.” You’ll thank me.
This column continues boldly to go where good grammarians gather. Our once-safe syntactical redoubts are under siege. We are ambushed everywhere by aberrant apostrophes. Even the BBC (!) routinely refers to “the 1860’s” or “1970’s”. I’d horsewhip them.
(Without the Oxford Comma: “I love my children, George Best and Bridie Monds-Watson.” With the Oxford Comma: “I love my children, George Best, and Bridie Monds-Watson.)
The Oxford Comma made it into the news columns after delivery drivers in Portland, Maine, picked up $10 million in back wages on account of its absence. Maine law refuses dairy workers overtime pay for “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution.”
The drivers do distribute but don’t pack goods. A comma after “shipment” would have saved the company 10 mill.
Next time: the Stradbally semi-colon.
Latest Big Bang bon mot - Howard to Bernadette: “If you don’t back me up when I’m lying, what’s the point of us being married?”
It’s nothing but the same old story. Since the lid was lifted on the cesspit at Tuam we’ve been told not to make judgments by the standards of today. Actions now regarded as sickening were seen in a less judgmental light in deferential days gone by.
The bishops know this is nonsense. They have a keen and complete understanding of the moral and theological assumptions which will have animated the minds of the Bon Secours sisters as they crept along stony hallways in the dead of night towards the dumping ground, cradling babies in bundles.
To the Catholic Church, the tiny inmates were not innocent children at all but sin-diseased souls whom it was the Church’s purpose on earth to save from the fires of hell. The conditions of their mortal existence were of no account compared to the eternal life of the soul.
The key concept of Original Sin has been absent from almost all coverage and comment. The doctrine, formalised at the Council of Trent in the 16th century, declares that Adam and Eve brought evil into the world by having sex (her fault) despite God telling them to stay out of one another’s knickers. All human beings since have been conceived in sin and born bad.
The only route to salvation lies in giving oneself over to God. And only the Catholic Church has a hotline to heaven to interpret God’s will. This is the source of the Church’s claim to a monopoly on matters of morality. Original Sin isn’t a quirky footnote to Catholic teaching, but lies at its very foundation.
The Church is marbled through the Irish State. Centuries of colonial oppression lent plausibility to the precept of conservative nationalism that the freedom to be Catholic was a natural component of freedom from Empire. Independence gave the hierarchy free rein. It used its untrammelled power to clamp control onto schools, hospitals and large swathes of public life.
Of course, the scandals and inexorable encroachment of rationality have taken their toll. Only a dwindling minority now bends the knee. But the Church itself marches on with undiminished arrogance. More than 90 percent of the Republic’s State-funded primary schools remain in Church hands.
Despite all the caterwauling of horror, the institution responsible for the physical and spiritual maiming of youngsters with nobody to stand up for them continues to be funded by taxpayers to sustain its power to pollute the purity of childhood.
The bishops have largely been booted out of the bedrooms. But they still control the classrooms. The Church has still not made a down payment on the first installment of what it owes to the children of Ireland.
Every atrocity like Tuam generates gales of distress, anger, pity, passion. Politicians of generally timid mien soar to unexpected heights of eloquence in excoriating the perpetrators and praising the courage of the surviving victims. The spin-doctors of divinity play-act in sackcloth before resuming disservice to society. What they are doing is covering their asses.
The conclusion from Tuam is that it’s not clerical celibacy or flaws in the nuns or the putative spirit of a particular age but religion itself which rots the world.
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