Page 3, 20th May 1977

20th May 1977
Page 3
Page 3, 20th May 1977 — Task for the new Irish Primate

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Organisations: Trinity College, Dublin
Locations: Dublin, London, Rome


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Task for the new Irish Primate

Norman St John-Stevas

PEACE, when and if it comes in Northern Ireland, will be obtained only as a, result of a number of policy steps, appointments and decisions, and of high importance among them is the right man to succeed Cardinal Conway, the late Archbishop of Armagh.

With the continued crisis in Ulster the filling of the Primatial See is a matter of urgency, and it is to be hoped that it will be done as soon as possible. The Vatican should act swiftly to fill the vacancy, but to find the right man for the position is not going to be easy.

The Archbishop of Armagh has a dual role. lie is first of all Primate of All Ireland. head of the Irish hierarchy, with a jurisdiction that recognises no frontier.

Yet at the same time his See is situated in the heart of Northern Ireland, in territory that is an intrinsic part of the United Kingdom, and in the eye of the storm of violence that has afflicted the North for so long.

The first requirement for the new archbishop is that he should be a man of peace, unequivocally condemnatory of the violence which is destroying the province and threatening the future of the whole of Ireland. Ile must be even-handed in condemning both the holy gunmen of the IRA and the military Fanatics of the Protestant Right.

But he must do more than this. The new Primate must be able to discern the roots of the violence which lie deep in the Catholic sense of injustice and the equally strong Protestant fear of clerical domination and Rome rule.

For nearly half a century Catholics in Northern Ireland have been the hewers of wood and drawers of water to their Protestant masters, excluded from opportunities for political and social advancement.

Protestants, on the other hand, have profound fears for their civil liberties and freedom — fears which it must be said the Irish Catholic bishops and clergy have done much to foster and little to allay. The repressive and illiberal attitudes of prelates such as the former Archbishop of Dublin, Dr McQuaid, and the present Bishop Philbin have done much to keep alive Protestant anxieties.

It is no good Mr .1. J. O'Connor protesting in the letter columns (May 6).about my calling a spade a • spade. To deny Confirmation to children on the sole ground that their parents, have exercised their undoubted human right to choose the school at which they are to be educated is "tyrannical" — and what is more is clearly seen to be so by the Protestant majority.

As for the attitudes of Archbishop McQuaid, I have no doubt that he was a man of "gentleness, kindness and dignity" but what is that to do with the matter?

The fact that is important is that the watching Protestants of the North saw what short shrift he gave to those Catholics who wished to attend Trinity College, Dublin, and to anyone who advocated the freedom of the individual to decide on such matters as the use of birth control.

They observed the willingness to use political influence when in his judgment the defence of ecclesiastical interests demanded it, arid they drew clear conclusions as to the fate awaiting them in a reunited Ireland.

A man is needed at Armagh who will be able to break away from the long-established Irish tradition of clerical interference in politics, who will diminish episcopal obsession with such legal-moral problems as divorce and contraception, and who will be open on the issue of integrated education. A prelate is required who will be able to attune himself to the secular Ireland of the future. Ile must be a man of broad sympathies and unsectarian attitudes, able to give a courageous and hopeful lead in a deteriorating situation among an increasingly despairing people.

The Irish Bishop (Bishop Eamonn Casey of Galway apart) who most fills the bill is Bishop Cahal Daly, a reflective man who, despite his 60-odd years, is still learning and developing and who grasps the complexities of the Northern Ireland struggle.

His appointment would be good for both England and Ireland, and is certainly of vital importance to both.

It is to be hoped that the Pope will consult opinion in both countries before making his choice, and will take into account the opinions of his well-informed representative in London, Archbishop Heim, as well as those of his Dublin Nuncio, for both islands have a clear interest in the best possible appointment being made.

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