Intolerance in the Public Square

I am pleased to hear voices beginning to be raised, the latest Eamon Martin, questioning the nature of some of the current debates in Ireland, and what voices are no longer acceptable in the ‘public square’. I have been quite repulsed over the recent past at some of the intolerance towards certain groups in our society, and this intolerance being presented as ‘liberal’ and ‘forward thinking’.

I fully accepts the principle that a National Maternity Hospital must be in full compliance with the laws of the land, and that no particular group or religious affiliation can dictate what is or is not permissable therein. Also I accept that, where public money is being used to build and fund the hospital, it is important that it be in the ownership of the state. So I support whatever efforts are being made to bring that about.

But, in the current debate concerning the proposed Maternity hospital, and the Sisters of Charity, I consider some of the language and expressions being used about the sisters, and indeed nuns in general, both in the media and by some public representatives, to be both distasteful and unfair.
In fact, if some of the things being said publicly about nuns today were being said about any other minority group, they would be clearly seen as highly inflammatory and viewed as being in violation of the laws against discrimination.

I are fully aware that some of the institutions run by religious sisters in the past left a lot to be desired, and that peoples lives were damaged. But it is equally the case that religious sisters contributed greatly to our society over the past two hundred years, especially in the areas of education and healthcare. And I find it ironic that suddenly the state is being presented as the great white horse, who can be guaranteed to run an institution efficiently and fairly, with an assurance of equal care for everybody!

It is not indicative of a mature society, or a balanced debate, if a group of elderly women are being demonised in order to promote certain social or political agendas. One of the most revealing measures of the health of a society is how it cares for its elderly citizens. Right now some sections of Irish society are showing scant care or respect to this particular group of mostly very elderly women.

Let’s have some balance and fairness in this matter.