THE grim shadow of clerical child abuse once again fell across the Dáil chamber during Leader’s Questions, but sadly, there were more questions than there was leadership on display.
Opposition figures repeatedly pressed the Taoiseach to articulate the national disgust at the revelations in the Murphy report and finally, unambiguously, say that bishops who colluded in allowing paedophile priests to not only escape punishment, but move on to other parishes to abuse again, should now quit their positions of power.
But Brian Cowen could not bring himself to do so as he deployed the same, lame language which merely called for “reflection” on the part of those singled out in the Murphy report for putting the interests of the Church ahead of the suffering of child rape victims.
Mr Cowen was not ready to offer firm leadership on the emotive issue ripping at the still incredibly entwined educational relationship between Church and state, and looked uneasy in the spotlight being cast on him as he again mouthed words of “reflection” rather than the demand for ejection coming from the opposition and the wider world.
The Taoiseach’s position became shakier still as he moved to defend Rome’s effective snubbing of the Murphy probe’s plea for information on child abusing priests by insisting the Vatican’s actions in sending a note to the Foreign Affairs department stating the independent inquiry was not going through the proper diplomatic channels was in keeping with international norms.
It may have been in keeping with diplomatic niceties, but it was certainly not in keeping with the need for the Church to be seen to do everything in its power to try and cleanse itself of the evil allowed to exist and thrive within it in the form of paedophile priests left free to rape children again and again.
Mr Cowen’s use of such soft verbiage as “regrettable” and “unfortunate” once again showed, one could argue, how out of step with the nation’s outrage he is on this issue.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore cut to the core of the matter, stating simply: “It is time for the Government to stand up and say, ‘No’.
“People who have been found to have neglected their duty, not to have followed up on complaints which were made about the serious abuse of children should not continue to be in powerful positions in respect of schools young children are attending,” he said.
Of all people, it was left to the Shinners to provide some much needed distraction from the depressing debate in the chamber.
Sinn Féin could be found singing in the rain at the gates of Leinster House as two of the party’s TDs and a choir of republican activists belted out a re-written protest version of Jingle Bells with lyrics such as: “NAMA’s in, what a sin, our bonuses are gone/Santa’s very angry at what Hanafin has done/Mary dear, listen here, we want our money back/Give us all our bonus or there’ll be no Christmas crack.”
It was all that passed for seasonal cheer on such a gloomy day.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved