Senior Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said yesterday that the proposal “is not so mad as it might at first seem. If a country like the Republic of Ireland joined the Commonwealth, what greater message could be sent to countries facing political upheaval and disputes on the other side of the world than an ancient country who had drawn a line under parts of its past, whilst promoting its future on the best parts of its heritage?” Mr Fabricant wrote on a website yesterday.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed the suggestion. “We have long supported the idea that the Republic of Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth,” he said. “After all, there are many republics including India who are a part of the Commonwealth and don’t feel in any sense that their sovereignty or independence is compromised.”
Sometimes, however, things fly in under the editorial radar. Martyn Turner’s cartoon [above] on Wednesday is a case in point. In making a legitimate argument about the debate over priestly responsibility for reporting child abuse and the concerns for the seal of the confessional, Turner also took an unfortunate and unjustified sideswipe at all priests, suggesting that none of them can be trusted with children.This has, unsurprisingly, caused considerable offence and we regret and apologise for the hurt caused by the cartoon whose use in that form, we acknowledge, reflected a regrettable editorial lapse.
Yesterday, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald published the Children First Bill which will make it mandatory for professionals, including priests, to report situations where they believe children are at risk.
Further to this, retired parish priest Fr Gearoid O Donnchu spoke to Chris O’Donoghue on Newstalk and explained why he won’t break the seal of confession under any circumstance.
Mr O’Donoghue started by asking Fr O Donnchu how long he had been a priest.
Gearoid O Donnchu: “Since 1957, so 57 years.”
Chris O’Donoghue: “So I’m guessing in that time you’ve heard thousands of confessions.”
O Donnchu: “I’d say so yes, at least. Many thousands.”
O’Donoghue: “Father, in those confessions have people ever confessed a crime to you?”
O Donnchu: “That’s not a question I can answer.”
O’Donoghue: “Ok. The reason I was asking about that is because of what is envisaged in the Child First, the Child First legislation which we got a look at but we’ve known a little bit about beforehand. And it is envisaged it would be a law (sic) not to report a crime. And say if a crime is about abuse of a child or neglect of a child was told in confession. What’s your reaction?”
O Donnchu: “As far as I’m concerned what I hear in confession, I have not heard.”
O’Donoghue: “Even if that is about a crime?”
O Donnchu: “Even, no matter how bad it is.”
O’Donoghue: “But what if it’s about something that’s ongoing?”
O Donnchu: “I would advise the person that they should make it known publicly or come to me outside of confession. But anything I hear in confession, it’s as if I have not heard it.”
O’Donoghue: “Ok, but Father, do you realise why some people would be angry with that stance? Given that, potentially, people could be at risk. You could be hearing about people that are at risk?”
O’Donnchu: “Yes, but if somebody comes to confession, they come with the understanding that what they say is entirely privileged, there’s no mention of it, ever.”
O’Donoghue: “But I deduce from that though the seal of confession takes precedence over the law?”
O’Donnchu: “The seal of confession takes precedence over everything.”
O’Donoghue: “Even another person’s safety?”
O’Donnchu: “Even my own safety. If someone came and told me that they poisoned the wine I was going to use for Mass, I would still use it.”
O’Donoghue: “But Father, in the incidences of, and I don’t know, I mean, obviously, I’m not a priest so I don’t know how commonplace it is but presumably people who are doing bad things have guilty conscience and, if they are Catholic, they might try to ease that conscience by going to confession and those things could be ongoing like neglect or abuse of a child.”
O Donnchu: “That’s correct. And I think it’s the duty of the priest there to insist with the penitent to do something about the activities that we’re talking about.”
O’Donoghue: “Yes, you can insist in your advice or your counsel that, ‘you should go to the Gardaí’ or whatever that is.”
O Donnchu: “But if they don’t want to go then there’s nothing I can do about it.”
O’Donoghue: “Well there is, but you’re choosing not to?”
O Donnchu: “Oh definitely, I’m choosing not to.”
O’Donoghue: “Are you at peace with that Father, that you could be leaving people in danger?”
O Donnchu: “Completely.”
O’Donoghue: “You’re completely at peace with that?”
O Donnchu: “Completely at peace with it.”
O’Donoghue: “Some people might be livid to hear that.”
O Donnchu: “[laughs] That’s possible. When I say that I’d be completely at peace, I suppose that’s not quite a full statement. I would of course be worried, personally. But I haven’t the liberty to divulge that to a single person.”
O’Donoghue: “You would be breaking the law from now on?”
O Donnchu: “I wonder would I?”
O’Donoghue: “Well I suppose it’s more of a question, would you be breaking the law in what is envisaged here?”
O Donnchu: “I don’t know, I haven’t seen the law. But if the law says that what I hear in confession I should go to the guards with, then I’m prepared to break that.”
O’Donoghue: “Even if, at the core of the issue here, Father, is something that I genuinely believe you would believe is strongly in: protection of the child in all instance.”
O Donnchu: “Definitely, I would do everything I could to protect a child.”
O’Donoghue: “But not to break the seal…”
O Donnchu: “But not to break the seal of confession.”
O’Donoghue: “So you are keeping one thing above the protection of the child then?
O Donnchu: “I’m keeping one thing above the protection of myself, the child, the protection of anything.”
O’Donoghue: “But you see Father, in say, the analogy you gave about the wine, that’s personal choice, you’re choosing not to protect yourself in that instance. A child can’t choose, a child could be in a harmful environment and, as an adult, you now have essential information.”
O Donnchu: “In a way I don’t. The priest with whom he’s in confession has that information but that priest is not allowed to divulge that information to anybody. That’s the way, that’s the way I was educated, that’s the way I’ve lived, that’s the way I intend to continue to live, please God.”
O’Donoghue: “Father Gearoid, is there any, and I understand you won’t tell me instances of confession, but is there any working around this? I mean can you act, based on something that you have heard in confession, I don’t mean tip someone off, I don’t mean something that blunt but can you act to remove people from situations in your other duties.”
O Donnchu: “No.”
O’Donoghue: “You don’t do anything based on what you hear in confession?”
O Donnchu: “Not a thing.”
O’Donoghue: “Even if that is breaking the law from now on, that’s what you’re willing to keep doing?”
O Donnchu: “I’m not sure if it is breaking the law but if it is breaking the law, then I’m prepared to do that.”
[Fine Gael Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, Labour Minister of State, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, Jan O’Sullivan and Fine Gael Arts Minister, Jimmy Deenihan at the launch of the programme for Limerick City of Culture 2014]
You may recall how Limerick city was chosen as the City of Culture without any open competition.
The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday [not online] how Finance Minister Michael Noonan – a Limerick TD – lobbied for €6million for the festival… before he signed off on the money for the festival.
John Lee and Ben Haugh reported:
“Michael Noonan made representations to a Cabinet colleague over funding for Limerick City of Culture months before he signed off on €6m for the project. On July 2, 2013, the Finance Minister passed on a letter from Limerick City and County Manager Conn Murray to Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan asking for €6m funding from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
On October 15, Mr Noonan allocated the exact money requested in Mr Murray’s letter to the City of Culture in Budget 2014 – more than half the project’s total budget of €11.4m…As part of a normal budgetary process, Mr Deenihan would have to seek money from Mr Noonan to grant Limerick City of Culture any money as he controls the Government’s purse strings. Mr Noonan also wrote back to Mr Murray to inform him of his intervention, saying he should be assured of my attention to the matter.”
[Scene of a crash on the Luas Red Line at the Jervis stop in January 2013]
Breaking News reports:
“…the Red Line saw 34 collisions last year compared with only four on the Green Line. The Abbey Street and Jervis Street junction has been the location of 11 accidents involving cars and trams over the past decade.”
This exhibition marks one year since the national day of action last year which called for an end to the institutional accommodation of people seeking international protection in Ireland…The main focus and aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness about the human cost of the current system, in particular the impact on children who are growing up within it.