Author Archives: Dan Boyle

From top: The stoning scene in ‘Monty Python’s The Life of Brian’; Dan Boyle

Instead of my usual contribution I submit instead my Seanad speech on the Blasphemy section of the now Defamation Act. I do so to illustrate how ludicrous the offence of Blasphemy is, and why it imperative that it be removed from the Irish Constitution in tomorrow’s referendum.

Speech on Final Stage of Defamation Bill. Section on Blasphemy. July 9th 2009

Senator Dan Boyle: “The offence of blasphemy is archaic. It is borne out of a jurisprudence which saw the development of events in an era where church and State were seen as a single entity. It is an offence that should be made obsolete and has been made so in other jurisdictions. It cannot be confused with the right of people to believe and to have that right respected.

The difficulty in continuing to legislate in regard to an offence of blasphemy is that it is open to all sorts of reinterpretations and may be used for purposes that might not be the reasons for which those with strong religious beliefs would wish to see such an offence enshrined in legislation.

The concept of blasphemy was brilliantly satirised in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)” where a Pharisee was unintentionally stoned to death for repeatedly, although unwittingly, saying the word “Jehovah”.

Much of the debate on this issue is a political equivalent of repeatedly saying the word “Jehovah”. It is something we need to get out of our political system as soon possible.

I accept this Bill is a development of something that is included Bunreacht na hÉireann and that subsequently will be included in legislation.

The advice of the Attorney General is that because of the amending of the 1961 Act, it is necessary to have a clear offence in this legislation as regards the current provision in the Constitution.

Therefore, such provision is necessary in this legislation, although ultimately and in the short term the question of having such provision in the Constitution must be addressed.

As a member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, of which [Fine Gael] Senator [Eugene] Regan is also a member, I accepted the committee’s findings in this respect.

The Minister [then Minister for Justice, Fianna Fáil’s Dermot Ahern] pointed out that in the short term the committee recommended that the change does not occur, but in the medium and long term its members are of one mind that it must occur. It is also the view of the committee that legislation of any form in regard to this offence cannot work. It would be inoperable.

Not only did we see that in regard to how the offence has been defined in this jurisdiction and how it has been subsequently brought before our courts, but Senator Regan has quoted the City of Westminster case in England, and other legal advice given to the Oireachtas committee included how other blasphemy laws, for instance those in Austria, have not been seen to work. On that ground, we need to examine how we address this issue in the medium term.

The original amendment, which more strongly defined the offence and offered no defence on any grounds, was not an amendment I could or would support.

The subsequent amendment that outlines grounds of literary, artistic, scientific, political or academic defence makes a nonsense of the offence but it is an offence that is a nonsense.

I am prepared to accept that particular amendment nullifies the existence of blasphemy even though it is codified in our system.

To move forward from here, we need to address the wider issue. This measure is nothing but a legalistic repair job in regard to a short term political expedient. We need to examine the wider constitutional issue.”

Senator Ivana Bacik: “Is that a Government commitment to introduce a referendum on this issue?”

An Cathaoirleach: “The Senator is not allowed to interrupt.”

Senator Dan Boyle: “I am giving my view on these amendments and how I would like to progress this issue.”

Senator Dominic Hannigan: “Will the Senator insert that in a revised programme for Government?”

An Cathaoirleach: “No interruptions, please.”

Senator Dan Boyle: “Members can take that whatever way they like. Ultimately, while I accept the reasons this is being done in this way, the effect of it will be that we will codify an offence that most people do not believe in on grounds that people will not be able to bring actions and even if they were able to do so, it is unlikely there would be prosecutions on foot of such actions.

That makes a nonsense of our process of defining laws. I will be supporting the amendments. I will also be supporting the Bill, but I put down a clear marker that for me and my party this is not an issue that we can avoid and it must be dealt with in the medium term.”

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

From top: Climate change ‘Ecofeminist’ activists outside Leinster House last Tuesday; Dan Boyle

Thirty years ago, this week, I experienced one of the more significant weeks of my life. My grandmother died. The last of my grandparents to have passed away.

For a young adult, like me, it was a life marker, an acknowledgement of mortality if still a generation away.

I was offered a job, of sorts. Under community employment like conditions I became an Assistant Supervisor at a Glass Recycling Unit run by the Rehabilitation Institute.

It was called sheltered employment, but it was far from sheltered. We worked outside for most of the time, throughout the year.

It was all very low tech. We stood around a large riddle, armed with goggles, gloves and an awl, to take off the metal rings found at the top of bottles.

My manager was Conor Counihan, then also captain of the Cork Gaelic Football team. Conor was a hard man on the football pitch. At work he was firm but calm. From him I learned a lot about the art of grace under pressure.

As these things happen in threes, this was I also the week I joined the Green Party. I had engaged in a prolonged correspondence (handwritten letters) with the person who held the main officership in the party.

A party then, and still to a large extent, that had something of a distaste for leader figureheads, had one first among equals position known as the Co-ordinator. This position rotated every six months.

My correspondence with the then Co-ordinator was arrogant in the extreme. It went beyond me seeking from them reasons as to why I should join their party. To somewhat paraphrase myself I wanted to know how the party would make use of my obvious brilliance!

On the surface these three events would seem to have little in common, other than occurring at the same time in my life.

In retrospect they each represent significant signposts. It helped me recognise and deal with inevitability. It taught me the value of work, particularly physical work. It ingrained in me an invaluable lesson of working with other people.

And I have gained by being with those with whom I share values. Those values ever so slowly have informed wider public debate, and in some respects have helped change public behaviour.

Frustratingly the realisation that such change has been too little, needing so much more change to be made, hasn’t diminished the holding or strengthening of those values.

This week I attended a Climate Change Action protest outside of Leinster House. A whole new generation are now taking up the cudgels, being brilliantly led a cadre of young women.

They are asking the why of change with the same vehemence we had, but they are addressing the how of change in a far less circumspect way than we have done.

If I’m lucky, and if I achieve my Mother’s level of longevity, I may yet see another thirty years of life. I’m hoping that many life lessons lie ahead of me yet. I’m praying, to Gods of no particular religious denomination, that they can be collective lessons.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: Irish Ecofeminists Coven

From top: Activists highlight the government’s ‘attitude to Climate Change’ on Sandymount Strand, Sandymount, Dublin 4 in 2015; Dan Boyle

It’s no biggie. Only the most important issue of our time. A planet defining issue on which the long term, accumulated scientific research is ever more accurately and specifically describing what collective inaction will bring about.

The targets have become tighter and thus more difficult to reach. The timeline to be doing something is becoming ever shorter.

At a time when data has never been clearer nor the choices that need to be made known, we remain static continuing to give credence to those whose opposition is instinctive, irrational and strongly rooted in self interest.

Sometime I live in hope that Climate Change can be presented as it is and not how others want it to be.

This week I watched Evan Davies on BBC 2 eviscerate a former Trump ‘environmental’ advisor, Myron Bell. It made a pleasant change of approach to see a climate change denier being challenged strongly to justify their scepticism.

Certainly different than, for the sake of ‘balance’, pretending that that there has been some kind of intellectual equivalence between accepting the reality of Climate Change or not.

Listening to comments on Ivan Yates’ Newstalk radio programme, my mood become less sanguine.

One thing that became apparent is that the programme, and the station, seems to have wrapped up the audience of angry BMW drivers.

What about China and India?”, the texters shriek. “How can a small island like ours ever make a difference?“, is asked as if it represents some great wisdom.

In Ireland we consume more CO2 per person than either of those countries. With China, in particular, its population is equal to that of Europe and North America combined. The European/North American axis produces far more CO2 than China does.

We have a moral obligation to act first and act quickly. The Duke of York routine being shared by An Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance of marching up the hill of environmental righteousness, only to skulk back down again, is not only tiresome it is quickly becoming close to criminal.

Ireland has agreed to meet certain targets under an agreed EU programme of carbon reduction limits.

Despite being given very advantageous terms, Ireland will spectacularly fail to meet those targets. Ireland currently lies 27th of 28 EU countries in our response to carbon reductions.

This will result in Ireland having to pay hundreds of millions of euro in fines to the EU in lieu of our failure to live up to our climate responsibilities. These payments will make moot the raising of any carbon levy, or the establishment of any rainy day (pardon the pun) fund.

We get only one crack at this. We need leadership rather than political spinelessness. We need rigour and commitment in place of lethargy and indifference. We need long term decision making instead of short term contingencies.

At the end of it all, before the end of it all, we need to stop treating the issue of Climate Change as if it were all just one big inconvenience.

To paraphrase Bill Shankly when talking about football – It’s more important than that.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


Save Poolbeg

From top: Cork Simon Community’s emergency shelter day centre last month; Dan Boyle

I was surprised to be asked but flattered to be so. This week I launched a report titled ‘The Last Resort‘ put together by Joe Finnerty, of the Department of Applied Social Science in University College Cork, commissioned on behalf of the Cork Simon Community.

The study sought to learn more from the experience of homeless people in ’emergency’ sheltered accommodation.

The findings, in general, are not so surprising. They indicate a worsening of an already unacceptable situation. It is the intensity and prominence of particular variables that give rise to the need for future thinking.

Immediately a statistic that jumps out is that more than half of those who have been surveyed, have spent six months or longer in an emergency shelter.

That such a significant number of people are spending lengthy periods in what is meant to be emergency accommodation, belies the fact that it is emergency accommodation. It’s almost as if we are being made feel inured to the notion of shelters being settled accommodation.

The second set of variables show how the failure to provide earlier, and supported, interventions are resulting in continuing high costs for the State, whilst perpetuating the poor life circumstances of those in need of care and support.

While the circumstances of each homeless person is unique, a high proportion of those homeless already have undergone a series of debilitating negative consequences.

One third of those interviewed for this study had been in care while children. Many had been early school leavers having been offered little or no vocational support. Those who had been in prison have found themselves marked for life.

These conditions co-exist in parallel with more likely negative factors like damaged mental heath, social isolation, and for some family break up.

Those factors that many of us would have traditionally associated with homelessness, economic deprivation or substance abuse are consequences not triggers.

The vast experience of The Simon Community has shown that none of these issues can be dealt with in isolation.

Strategically there can only be a holistic and integrative approach. It needs to be a person centred approach, based on a whole life experience in which those without can dip into a series of interconnected services as need arises.

Yes resources have improved. Yes more infrastructure has been provided. Yes expertise and professionalism have also been developed.

But the scale of the nature and incidence of homelessness has increased far beyond the additional resources being provided.

Despite the crosses being carried by those who are homeless, the overwhelming number of them can and should be living independently in the private rented sector.

Many have become homeless having had their lives undermined by socially irresponsible landlords.

The solutions seem obvious but also are as intangible as ever. More and better focused resources; defined legislative responsibilities; but most importantly a change of culture that see the homeless as something other than an afterthought.

The Last Resort won’t be the last report. Let’s hope that those that follow might tell a more positive story.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

The Last Resort report (Cork Simon Community)

Top pic: Cork Simon Community

From top: A march in Dublin to promote the recognition of Travellers as a minority ethnic group, September, 2009; Dan Boyle

I attended an interesting meeting last Saturday. Organised by the Cork Migrant Centre along with the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Cork City Council, it was an event to encourage migrant participation in political life in Ireland.

We have had about twenty five years of inwards migration into the country. While it is difficult to disentangle clear statistics given our own history of migration out of, and back into the auld sod, it seems that one in every eight people come from non traditional ethnic backgrounds.

Quarter of a century on there is little sign that our new communities are being reflected in our political systems.

There has been the occasional interloper, viewed as curious oddities, stop starters in developing a political system that remains far from reflective.

The Spring Tide election in 1992 saw the surprising election of Dr. Moosajee Bhamjee in Clare. A South African of an Indian ethnic background.

He achieved high visibility during his term as a TD, but chose not to seek re-election, perhaps realising earlier than most that spring tides go out as well as come in.

Local government has had a far poorer return from new Irish communities. In 2004 two Nigerians were elected as independents to town councils in Portlaoise and in Ennis.

The first of these was Rotimi Adebari who became Mayor of the Town Council in 2007. He was elected for a second term as councillor in 2009, before Portlaoise Town Council, along with town councils throughout the country, was stupidly abolished.

In the 2009 elections, The Greens ran Tendai Madondo from Zimbabwe in Tallaght South. She won over six hundred votes but did not win a seat. Another Green candidate, Kristina Jankaitiene from Lithuania, was elected to Carrickmacross Town Council.

In 2014 only two candidates from New Irish backgrounds were elected as city/county councillors.

On Fingal County Council a Sinn Féin candidate, Edmond Lukusa, a Nigerian, was elected. On the new Limerick City/County Council Labour candidate, Elena Secas from Moldova, was elected.

Perhaps part of the answer for this low take up can be found in the parallel experience of the Traveller Community in Ireland.

Recently deceased Traveller activist, Nan Joyce, became the first member of her community to stand for public office when she contested the 1982 general election.

Ellen Mongan was the first Irish Traveller to achieve elected office when she was elected to Tuam Town Council in 1994. It was this same town council that made Martin Ward its Mayor in 2003.

15 years later there has been no apparent shift in the tectonic plates for either Irish Travellers or members of New Irish communities.

Coming elections are unlikely to see significant changes in the representation of Travellers or those from New Irish communities in our local government system. It would be nice if some progress could be made.

We need to identify and remove whatever obstacles exist to improve the unacceptable under-representation that exists in our systems of governance.

Some of these obstacles exist within the communities themselves. There can be a lack of awareness of the need of or the ability to, register to vote. There is an even greater reticence to subsequently put themselves forward as candidates.

This is the first and most important obstacle that needs to be overcome. The more Irish Travellers and more New Irish community members who can be encouraged to put their name on ballot papers, the more the law of averages can be used to ensure their election in greater numbers.

And don’t start me on the women.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


From top: Dan Boyle, with then Green Party leader Trevor Sergeant in 2004, is returning to front line politics; Dan today.

I have become a ratified election candidate again. I realise this may cue a torrent of sniggers and face palms among some, but I’m going to try anyhow.

This will be my sixteenth election. I’ve only been successful on three occasions, even though I have been competitive in most – fighting for a final seat, or more often than not gallingly seeing my transfers elect someone else.

Most elections I would have contested as profile raising or flag waving exercises, with little or no expectation of being elected.

Being a candidate for a small, under resourced, political party is bit like running a marathon with a haversack of bricks on your back. It’s hard, often making you wonder why you are doing it at all.

Over that time more than fifty thousand ballot papers have been marked giving me a first preference vote. Of course not enough of them together at appropriate times.

That support has been the incentive for me to try and try again.

So why now and why again? I like to think I still have something to offer. The experience I have gained, good and bad, puts me in a better position than most (I would argue) to try and make a system designed to frustrate, work.

I would be going back to where I started with Cork City Council. That was half a lifetime ago. I began as a naive, green in a more literal sense, twenty eight year old who believed he could change the World. All these years later I now realise that to change even the slightest part of it, would be something.

I’ve kept my toe dipped; in my local community association where we rent out the premises to give local people choices that may not otherwise have existed.

I’ve participated in shadow local government structures that have developed to give some say to voluntary groups; the PPN (Public Participation Network) and the LCDC (Local Community Development Committee), a well meaning but still to find its way sub-structure.

I’m part of a housing association and several arts groups. It has made feel that I’m involved in work that is useful.

I would be trying to get elected to a different council for a new city. A city with an additional 80,000 people, an additional population equal to that of the next largest Irish city, Limerick.

And there will be a conversation about trying to make local government (which in Ireland amounts to little more than local administration) more real.

Cork is to decide, along with Limerick, Galway and Waterford, whether their cities should have directly elected mayors with five year terms. I want to be part of that conversation.

I hope the voters of these cities will bring this about. The continuity and better accountability will make for better local government.

Leaving Dublin out of this experiment should be viewed as a deeply cynical decision. It’s as if the government and senior civil servants are pushing the idea to make it fail.

There are also big local Cork issues I believe could do with a Green perspective, from within the City Council. The cack handed way the Office of Public Works is seeking to treat the city’s quay walls is brutal in its intent and its likely effect.

Where we are all fortunate is to have a system of election campaigning, that obliges candidates for office to interact, on a large scale, with those whose support they seek.

Knocking on doors is one of the more enjoyable aspects of any election campaign. While there is often a lot of indifference, or an occasional hostile person, most people you meet are pleasant, polite, and often good humoured.

I’m looking forward to knocking on those doors again, to face whatever slings and arrows come my way. I’ll be offering a choice by advocating different (and hopefully better) arguments than others.

If I succeed I’ll work hard to meet the new challenges. If I don’t I’ll try to continue to contribute in whatever way I can.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboylÉ


From top: Sean Gallagher commiserates with Dana Rosemary Scallon during the 2011 Presidential election count in Dublin Castle; Dan Boyle

Seán Gallagher is back among us. Once again he is an officially ratified candidate for election to the Irish Presidency.

This, despite the fact, that over the subsequent seven years his only intervention in national debate (during a time of big issue, epoch changing debate) has been to brood that he was done in during the previous presidential election.

He has sustained a myth that he was ambushed during the final presidential television debate, and that this and this alone, was the reason for his ultimate failure.

He seems to believe that it was the nature of accusation against him, which he deemed false, that created the fall off in his support.

It wasn’t.

It was his bumbling reaction to the accusation that created an impression with many voters that he lacked the gravitas the office requires.

His was a curious campaign then. It was clear his was a particularly soft support, convincing voters to consider him because of what he wasn’t rather than who he was.

Over a ten day period his support increased by 18%, which provided no more clearer a sign of a fickle and indecisive electorate. Gallagher had done little during the campaign to create such a buzz.

There was no defining message he was seeking to impart, no stylised presentation to indicate he might be. He wasn’t a ‘politician’. At the height of what was then anti-politics, this appealed to many.

For most of the campaign Gallagher was to skilfully avoid the reality that he was in fact a crypto Fianna Fáil candidate, knowing that the party was then possessing its greatest level of toxicity.

Support for Michael D. Higgins was also rising, if far less spectacularly, during the 2011 campaign. The increase in his support between the last published opinion poll and polling day was larger than the decrease experienced by Seán Gallagher.

This indicates that even without the TV debate implosion, Higgins would have come close enough to Gallagher after a first count, to be able to eventually pass him out in transfers.

It’s unlikely that Gallagher’s shtick can work a second time. This time it will become harder to convince. There is no element of surprise now. Instead there is a new level of expectation that raises rather than lowers the bar.

Perhaps Mr. Gallagher’s sense of belief is higher than my pessimism about his chances. If he isn’t prepared to accept my arguments then he might be more willing to examine the salutary lesson of Dana/Rosemary Scallon.

Dana was the surprise package of the 1997 election. She won close on 14% of the vote. Her success kindled hope that the religious right may have found its champion, and that possibly a viable political party could be formed in her image.

She parlayed her near success into a term in the European Parliament. From there it was all about diminishing returns. Becoming a general election candidate in 2002, as a sitting MEP, she won under 4% of the vote in Galway West.

Believing herself to still be a viable presidential candidate in 2011 she scored less than 3% of the national vote.

Perhaps the biggest baggage Gallagher may now carry is that having preceded the advent of Trump, the actions of Trump in office have now irredeemably damaged the brand of can do business/politician.

Not even Michael O’Leary could get elected now.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboylÉ

From top: Donald Trump arrives in Shannon Airport in May, 2014; Dan Boyle

Few here in Ireland claim to like Donald Trump. Even fewer people would claim to admire him or support his policy approach.

He has some friends. Those who admire the red tooth and claw capitalism they see in Trump, who, while as inarticulate as themselves, is sufficiently in your face to ‘own’ the liberal left.

He exists, despite his obsession with building a wall, to metaphorically tear down walls of regulations produced through liberal democracy, in pursuit of a fairer World.

Despite having had nothing but centre right governments since the foundation of the State, Irish Trump fans see Ireland as a something of a Socialist bedrock.

Our current socialist government in the form of Fine Gael, have been constructing a ‘how many angels on the head of a pin’ approach to both welcoming and not welcoming Donald Trump at the same time.

By its thinking we are not welcoming Donald Trump per se. We are welcoming the holder of the office of President of the USA, and a failure to welcome him properly will be seen by our American friends as a collective snub to all other holders of the office, past and future.

Bollocks to that. The nature of friendly relations between countries is that one can tell the other when they are fecking up royally, or, in Trump’s case, bigly.

It is the current administration that carries the can especially for policy positions that have currency – policies on trade, migration and the environment. Policies, on each of which Trump and his administration want to take us back to some perceived feudal heyday.

In all likelihood Trump’s motivation for wanting to come to Ireland has nothing to do with wanting warmer relations with Ireland.

The probability is that he wants to visit his golf course at Doonbeg, County Clare, as part of his global business promotion tour, rather than make small talk with our Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The people in Doonbeg, especially those employed at the resort, will in all likelihood look on with disdain at protest made there. This is understandable. However Trump thrives in these islands of dependency, where silence and blindness is bought.

Others would argue that the best way to protest Trump is to ignore him. There’s a name for that – it’s every other day in Ireland.

Without a large scale, physical manifestation of protest, Trump could rightly claim that Ireland is on his side.

Trump is a complete narcissist. He reacts negatively to anyone who is negative towards him. Large scale protests in London, in Brussels and in Washington do get to him.

I remember being a part of the 2003 No to War march, where 100,000 filled College Green and Dame Street. We may not achieve that scale, but the protest to Thump should be, can be and will be an event of that type.

The difficulty is that several groups want to see this protest happen for a myriad of reasons. There are many reasons to do so, but let’s make sure it brings together as many as possible under a collective banner.

This is a circumstance where we should put aside ego and positioning. Let’s have a welcome in the hillsides. Let’s give Donald Trump the welcome he deserves.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboylÉ

Pic via YouTUbe

From top: US Republican Senator for Arizone, John McCain, who died at the weekend with Ted Kennedy, the late Democrat senator for Massachusetts, confide during a Senate hearing in 2009; Dan Boyle

In the black and white world of social media few participants seem to realise that it is possible, and that it should be necessary to disagree without having to impugn character.

There seems a similar lack of capacity when measuring the life achievement of a person.

No life is without error, yet in the bubble that is social media single individual error is often exaggerated and is taken to encapsulate who and what a person has become.

The nature of discourse, in particular political discourse, in these uncertain times seems to be that the more nasty, the more ignorant, and the less honest you can be, the better your political prospects become.

Trump has been has been the best, and most obvious, exemplar of this in recent times. His reaction to the death of John McCain shows how far his politics and US politics in general have fallen.

McCain death delivered a cascade of eulogies. Trump, as usual, stood aloof in his indifference, choosing to say nothing at all (which has been unusually disciplined of him).

Like Ireland, in the US political deaths are meant to carry with them a Marc Antony quality of mentioning only the good that is in men.

There would be many things that I would have found objectionable about the political positions and opinions of John McCain. He was a military and fiscal hawk, utterly wedded to a US interventionist view of the World.

There was also the question of his judgement which saw him select Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential running mate in 2008.

Although in his defence there is something of a tradition in US politics of choosing lightweight, risible candidates as running mates. It’s seen as something of an insurance policy.

And yet he was prepared to reach across the political divide (which is a relatively narrow divide in US politics) to seek and to reach accommodations.

Much was made of his friendship with Senator Edward Kennedy. During my time in Oireachtas a similar relationship existed between Michael McDowell of the PDs and Pat Rabbitte of Dem Left/Labour.

It’s hard to know whether such relationships are great beasts basking in each other’s egos, or are based on mutual respect.

Such is the cynicism now towards politics throughout the world, that for many the exhibiting of decency, civility or respect is a veneer that masks the everyday and ongoing corruption that many believe everyone in politics engages in.

It’s probably impossible to shift such a narrative, but in my experience whenever decency has been exhibited it has been real and sincere.

Therefore it is possible to believe in the innate decency of a person and be able to criticise any or every political position they hold.

Politics can be decent and it can certainly be principled. John McCain, however much I disagreed with his politics, seemed to possess that. Maybe he came to be seen as being virtuous when compared to Trump. Perhaps most of us would be seen as saintly if put into such a scenario.

It would be better if we could aspire to be more than Anti-Trump though.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboylÉ

Pic: RTÉ

From top: Bishop Eamonn Casey (left) and Fr Michael Cleary entertain the congregation ahead of a ‘youth mass’ celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Ireland in 1979; Dan Boyle

I was ‘encouraged’ to go. It was a few weeks after my 17th birthday, making me part of the key demographic to participate in an intimate audience with the Pope (along with a quarter of million others).

JP2 had a rock star quality. He was little more than a year in office. He had broken the centuries long stranglehold of Italians on the Papacy. He was still in his fifties.

His appointment seemed to be an attempt to place the Catholic Church into the twentieth century.

Later his deeply held adherence to Catholic social teaching, combined with an inconsistent approach to Church involvement in politics – good in Poland, bad in Central America – would bring a squandering of the potential his appointment had brought.

By the mid eighties I had given up on him, seeing his blind spot towards Liberation Theology as being a key factor that brought about the murder of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador.

But in Galway in 1979 it all felt very different. He was a man of considerable charisma. His visit was viewed by many as bringing hope.

The organisation of the event was quite impressive. Hundreds and hundreds buses arrived in Ballybrit [County Galway]. Those of us coming from Cork left from 5am/6am that morning. When we arrived we were herded into pens that were actually called corrals. The sheep analogy wasn’t lost on many of us.

Where we were was a fair bit away from the altar. One advantage of that was while we could hear, we didn’t have to watch the warm up routine performed by Eamonn Casey and Michael Cleary.

I would swear that one of the songs they tried to get us to singalong to was John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’

‘Imagine there’s no Heaven. It’s easy if you try…’

Maybe they were trying to prepare us for the moral duplicity both would later epitomise.

While we were quite distant from the altar we found ourselves quite close to where the helicopter bringing the Pope landed. That would be as close as we would be to the man.

We were so far away from the centre of activities that the sound system (a series of interconnected tannoy speakers) relayed events to us through enormous feedback.

When it came to the key phrase in his sermon what we heard was:

“Young people of, young people of, Ireland, Ireland, Ireland, I love, I love, I love you.”

I don’t remember a great deal of religious observance or displays of piety taking place. Hormones were more at play than any need to pray.

The couplings that occurred were innocent enough of themselves. The hand holding and face eating that took place, didn’t cause many to lose sight of what passion was meant to be concentrated on.

Not for me I should add. On the bus ride back home I found myself sat next to a somewhat older nun. She would later fall asleep on my shoulder. A portmanteau that would characterise the messed up nature of my future religious and love lives.

We would arrive back in Cork around midnight. We weren’t aware then that we were arriving back to, if not to a changed Ireland, than to a changing Ireland.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboylÉ

Pic: RTÉ