Archbishop McQuaid


Sir, - I think it is very ironic that the title of John Cooney's book is John Charles McQuaid - Ruler of Catholic Ireland. In my estimation, John Charles was doing the work of "ruling", not always in the over-dramatised and exaggerated instances described in Mr Cooney's book, but in a different scenario. Dr McQuaid was doing the "ruling" that should have been carried out by different governments during his time as archbishop.

I see "ruling" in the sense of providing for the essential needs of the people entrusted to your care - whether you are speaking about a government "ruling" a country or a bishop "ruling" a diocese.

May I list some of the great works of Archbishop McQuaid in his service of the people of Dublin?

1. He provided social welfare for the poor of Dublin during the 1940s and 1950s when there was terrible and widespread poverty in the city. He founded the Catholic Social Service Conference. The principal work of this organisation was setting up food centres in all the deprived areas of the city. Thousands of needy families were provided with a nourishing dinner every day. Expectant and nursing mothers were cared for in a special way.

2. During the same period, when there was mass emigration from Ireland to Britain, it was again John Charles who came to the fore (when others did not care or even want to know). The archbishop founded the Catholic Social Welfare Bureau. This established welfare centres in London and in other major British cities, helping our emigrants to come to grips with the loneliness of emigration. Priest chaplains were provided for these centres and for specialised areas where Irish emigrants worked.

3. Archbishop McQuaid initiated the building of excellent primary and secondary schools in the new suburban estates in Dublin. He was particularly concerned that good secondary schools be provided in workingclass parishes such as Ballyfermot, Finglas, Cabra West and Crumlin - providing virtually free secondary education. Many, many people who now benefit from the Celtic Tiger economy have John Charles to thank for setting them on the road to their good positions of employment, through the far-sighted educational policy he fostered and sponsored in these years.

4. The archbishop also stimulated the establishment and development of care centres and schools for young people with special needs in the areas of health and education. He ensured that the Dublin hospitals in the care of religious orders had the highest standards of medical expertise.

I myself had personal experience of the concern of Archbishop McQuaid for those in need. When I was curate in East Wall parish during the 1960s, there was a prolonged unofficial strike in a factory in the area. There was no strike pay for the workers and many families were in dire need. I contacted the archbishop and he immediately authorised payment of £5 a week (the equivalent of £50 in today's currency) as long as the strike lasted. These payments came from the Catholic Social Service Conference.

John Charles McQuaid had his faults and failings; so have all of us. Because of his high profile as Archbishop of Dublin, his faults and failings are more evident. Whatever they may have been, they were more than outweighed by his virtues - and his dedicated life as a great archbishop who served his God and his people to the best of his ability - Yours, etc.,

Con McGillicuddy, CC, Dollymount Grove, Clontarf, Dublin 3.