Last week I was in my local newsagent. One particular headline grabbed my attention. The Catholic Voice asked was Labour anti-catholic. The newspaper has only recently started but the title is well known from religious publishing in other countries. A quick glance over the main story and I quickly saw that that august organ was setting out its concerns at Ruairi Quinn’s view that the non-denominational patron Educate Together should be permitted to become patron of more schools. As someone who is a member of another patron Co Wexford VEC, I don’t know why a catholic newspaper has no problem with my secular patron body but is concerned enough by Educate Together to use it as a stick to beat the Labour Party with.
Thankfully not everyone in the Irish catholic church doesn’t share the concerns of the “Catholic Voice”. Dr Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin seems to be of the view that its not in the interest of the catholic church to hold on to patronage of schools where many parents do not subscribe to catholic values. On the face of it I don’t see a huge amount of difference between the effect of what Dr Martin proposes and the reality that Ruairi Quinn points out that new schools need to be built in expanding communities and these have to have a patron and if a Christian church is not available then who plays that important role. It’s not as if potential patrons are knocking on the department’s door everyday! Ruairi has recently highlighted the penchant of Opus and Knights for departments with a social role that give them control over Irish society.
The article has more of a hint of a red scare about it. Appropriate that it targets Labour almost 40 years on from the 1969 General Election where the Irish right smeared Labour candidates. The then Agriculture Minister mohair clad Neil Blaney said” labour members ranged from pseudo-intellectual Marxists, Maoists, Trotskyites and the likes who have emerged from the sidelines to pick off the flesh of the Irish people”.
Local Government Minister Kevin Boland concerned at the gutting his cabinet colleague Charles Haughey was getting at the hands of Connor Cruise O’Brien said Labour wanted to seize peoples property, savings and land. Justice Minister Michael Ó Morain who subsequently quit a day before the arms crisis broke said “Brendan Corish was a mere puppet of the modern Marxist elite and of the new left wing political queers who have taken over the Labour Party from the steps of Trinity College and RTE”. Sean McEntee, ironically the Cruiser’s father in law said “Labour stood for the red flames of burning homesteads in Meath”. A Mayo candiate said Labour would permit abortion, divorce and it would be “great for the fellow who wanted a second wife every night”. A Sligo candidate said Labour would tear down every crucifix in the state.
Lynch distanced himself from all of this by canvassing every convent in the country, re-assuring rural and traditional Ireland that FF could be trusted with the important decisions. As a teenager I remember walking home from mass after the 1977 election rout in the company of my father and a FF supporting neighbour. The conversation quickly turned to politics, the delight of Lynch’s victory was only surpassed by the eclipse of Labour in particular the defeat of our local Labour TD Justin Keating who I was informed was a “card carrying communist.” In retrospect I suppose there was no point being a communist unless you had the card to prove it! Keating had been over whelmed in the media by rising prices. He was also singled out by FF supporting miners and prospectors over the Bula affair and his strict conditions on developing any hydrocarbon fines.
It worked then but it won’t work anymore. The population are better educated but also who remembers communism? Red scare is a waste of breathe and that’s a problem for our opposition. They cannot dismiss Labour nor our ideas. They cannot use the tactic to obstruct useful developments like schools nor accountability on matters such as industrial schools. So buy the Catholic Voice, any Labour member should take this type of attack as a compliment and a glimpse back to another age.