Áras Attracta a symptom of malaise in Irish society, says dean

Advent a ‘time to reflect on how we create society which gives rise to cruelty’, says reverend

Áras Attracta in Co Mayo

Áras Attracta in Co Mayo


The litany of abuses revealed in Irish society over recent years, including that at Swinford’s Áras Attracta broadcast on Prime Time last Tuesday night, points to a sickness at the heart of our society, the Church of Ireland Dean of Leighlin has said.

“The fact that much of this abuse happened in institutions run by the churches, also tells us that there is something equally sick about our way of being Christian,” Very Rev Tom Gordon said. “The week that is past has painfully revealed another dark underside of Irish life.”

In a homily at the Cathedral of St Laserian, Leighlin, Co Carlow, on Sunday, he said that of particular interest in responses to the Áras Attracta scandal was “the manner in which the staff have been demonised. They have become monsters in the public eye.” But, there was “no ‘them’ and ‘us’. There is only ‘us’, ” he said. There was “the universal human capacity for corruption, inhumanity and cruelty. All it takes is a particular set of circumstances. All it takes is a context of unaccountable power,” he said.

“Whether it is the politician faking mobile phone bills, the clergy abusing children or the cruelty of the staff in Áras Attracta; we, as a society, need to rethink our relationship with power: how we do it and how we allow others to do it in our midst.”

He said “the constantly recurring horrors in our political life, in our institutions of care, and in our churches are not only the corrupt acts of individual people; they emerge from a deeper and darker sickness, namely, the historic inability of the Irish psyche to negotiate power per se.”

The churches, he said, had “singularly failed to provide that alternative relationship with power to which the gospel calls us”. They had “in large measure forsaken their prophetic witness on the basis that their life merely mirrors – not challenges – the life and power structures of the world around them”.

Advent, he suggested, might “be an opportunity not to point fingers at ‘bad people’ in a Mayo bungalow”. It might “be a time to reflect on how we as Christians create the society which gives rise to the cruelty we have seen in the past week. It might be a time to question how we as Christians collude in making the marginalised even more marginalised.”