In his Irish Times column (Tues 28th Aug) , Fintan O’Toole tells us that “the choice is simple: all or nothing” when it comes to religious symbolism and influence in public life and public services. He comes down firmly on the side of the “nothing option”.
That same day I heard him interviewed on radio about his column, where he extolled the virtues of the USA system where that same “nothing option” operates.
That’s the same USA which lacks universal healthcare or social welfare, whose draconian legal system keeps record numbers in jail, mainly blacks, and executes large numbers each year, and where the Christian right constantly and publicly seeks to exercise political influence with some success, notably in the case of President Bush.
Contrast that with the Ireland of today, seemingly crippled under the weight of Catholicism in O’Toole’s view. Some of his concerns are valid e.g. the over-reliance of the state on the churches for education and hospital care, but some are simply prime examples of political correctness .
The Dail’s opening prayer, Bertie’s ashes and RTE’s Angelus are long-established custom and practice which may offend the super-liberals and the bigots, but they oppress no-one and that is the most important consideration.
From the perspective of societal outcomes, I’d suggest to Fintan that USA theory looks somewhat better than USA practice with, hopefully, the reverse situation pertaining in Ireland.
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