UCD and John Henry Newman


Sir, – The Government is to be commended for its last-minute decision to send Minister for Education Joe McHugh to represent Ireland at the canonisation of John Henry Newman (News, October 9th).

Cardinal Newman will be only the third person with a direct connection to Ireland to have been canonised since the State was founded, after St Oliver Plunkett in 1975 and St Charles of Mount Argus in 2007.

The latter canonisation was attended by President Mary McAleese, the then-minister for education Mary Hanafin, and the then-Garda commissioner Noel Conroy.

It would have made a most ignominious contrast with that event if, just 12 years later, not even the lowliest backbench TD could be dispatched to Rome.

This would have been a gross insult to the memory of a man who contributed immeasurably to the religious and academic life of Ireland, and another completely unnecessary snub to all practising Catholics.

Thankfully, common sense and decency have prevailed. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

A chara, – Katie Ascough is right about one thing (“UCD fails founder and itself in handling of Newman canonisation”, Opinion & Analysis, October 11th). UCD’s apparent discomfort about Newman’s canonisation was a classic example of modern “intellectual” Ireland’s discomfort with our own history.

UCD when I arrived there in the late 1960s was a nominally secular but in reality staunchly Catholic institution. Sociology and philosophy were firmly under Catholic control and medical ethics reflected only the view of one church. However, in the 25 or so years I represented UCD graduates, among others, in Seanad Éireann all that changed. And for the better.

It is hard to believe that women in trousers weren’t allowed use the main library up until then! But the change for the good was not encouraged or sought by church authorities, it was forced into place by forces inside and outside the university, often in the teeth of staunch Catholic resistance. Pluralism was forced on UCD not embraced by it.

It is in the light of that history that Katie Ascough’s cry of almost self-pity about the alleged “anti-Catholic” atmosphere must be judged. If her religious beliefs are being offended by lecturers, etc, she should of course challenge them with evidence to counter bias. That is what universities are meant to do. Writing self-indulgent pieces about her wounded feelings will not help. But if she wants to challenge she will have to be specific in both evidence and refutation. What she wrote was neither. If she presented that to me in an essay I’d hand it back festooned with red ink!

For the record, I remain, in spite of the horrendous behaviour of most Irish bishops, a church-going Roman Catholic. – Yours, etc,