Conservatism and Irish life


Sir, – William Reville (May 13th) describes secular liberalism as in rude good health and aggressively on the front foot. The liberal agenda is described as promoting abortion, euthanasia, post-nationalism and (above all) removing Catholicism from the public square.

Conservatism is described as currently disillusioned and disheartened, though apparently likely to recover its resolve. This assertion worries me somewhat. What was Ireland like when conservative forces possessed iron resolve? The 1950s come to mind as a period of iron resolve and immutable certainties. Will we revert to the Ireland of the 1950s? Will the archbishop of Dublin call for a ban on female involvement in field sports? Will symphysiotomy be reinstated as a standard medical procedure? Will girls who are deemed to be sinners be imprisoned for life? Will little boys be sent to reformatory schools run by perverts and psychopaths?

Speaking as someone who was born in 1945, it seems to me that the 1950s probably represented the high point of the religious mania and Catholic triumphalism which swept the country post independence, driven no doubt by iron resolve. I feel sure there are many members of the Catholic clergy who look back at that period with shame and regret. The simple fact is that power really does corrupt and the Catholic Church in Ireland was no exception to that rule.

Religion is personal, and clerics, though they may express personal opinions, should have no rights over and above those of an ordinary citizen. To be clear on the point, contrary to what they have sought since the foundation of this State, there should be no means whereby the Catholic Church can input into the formation of policies or directly influence decision making at government level.

We all know that Ireland is not perfect but the way forward is not to hark back to an era of repression, group-think and complacency when Catholicism assured us it had all the answers. Liberalism may not have all the answers but the questions that are now being asked and the variety of opinions that are being expressed surely suggest that Irish society has moved on somewhat and is all the healthier for that. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.