Archbishop of Dublin criticises ‘unseen hardships’ caused by austerity

Children going to school without breakfast, Diarmuid Martin tells NY gathering

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “in some schools the level of undernourishment is such that children’s learning ability is being hindered.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “in some schools the level of undernourishment is such that children’s learning ability is being hindered.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 05:00


The social effects of what was happening in Ireland “are dramatic”, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

“Ireland is today picking up the pieces economically and paying the price socially,” he added.

In a major address at Fordham University in New York yesterday, he said: “I was talking to teachers at recent confirmations and they tell me of the often unseen hardships that some of their young pupils are facing. In modern Ireland many children come to school without having had breakfast; in some schools the level of undernourishment is such that children’s learning ability is being hindered.”

He added: “There is growing anxiety that the austerity measures introduced to respond to the economic crisis are now coming to a social breaking point. At a time of rapid change, ownership of social change is vital if change is to be accepted and fully embraced.”

He continued: “Who however wants to own policies of austerity? There is a certain flight from political ownership. In Ireland it is easy to put the blame on the previous government. It is too easy simply to say that it is being imposed from the outside or by necessity and that we would really prefer to do it somehow differently.”

You will not “generate ownership if the measures imposed are applied arbitrarily across the board and do not appear to differentiate according to real situations, especially the situation of those already vulnerable. We see that in Ireland in some policies regarding education or healthcare or the care of the elderly.”

He continued: “Only two days ago I attended a national congress of the Society of St Vincent de Paul where it was noted that people who one year ago were contributors to the society are one year later turning to the society for help. Patience is wearing thin; it is hard for some to hope.”

In a wide-ranging Russo Family lecture on the “Catholic Church in Ireland – Past, Present and Future”, Archbishop Martin also spoke of the “growing difference between the social realities in Ireland North and South because of the evolving differences in social policy and the emergence of a possible unforeseen consequence of the peace process: a new Northern Ireland identity.”

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