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Renewal of the nation is primarily a moral issue

IT was a real breath of fresh air to read your editorial on rebuilding Ireland (October 2).

The Irish economic miracle has become the Irish economic parable about a country that lost its soul in an orgy of crass materialism whose icons included obscenely large four-wheel-drive cars and garish hats at the Galway races.

Your editorial put a timely emphasis on the moral implications of the economic disaster and of the measures required to address it.

The leadership of Ireland over recent years has been dull, unimaginative and complacent.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his colleagues demonstrate these qualities to an eminent degree. Furthermore, Irish politicians have been even more adept than their English counterparts in feathering their nests with exorbitant salaries and expense accounts in the face of shameful levels of urban poverty. We have seen a string of leaders who have been embarrassingly inarticulate in talking about the needs of the country and the remedy for its ills.

Some of them are now on the lecture circuit bringing with them an unrivalled insight into how to bring complacency and arrogance to bear on the world’s problems.

One can only hope the thinking behind your contribution will initiate a debate about the kind of Ireland we want to see so we do not walk blindly into the future yet again. We moved from relative poverty to relative riches, bypassing the central question – what is the point of it all?

I sympathise particularly with the young people who feel they have been dragooned into a march to nowhere. They now experience an Ireland that is not of their making or to their liking. They have not lost their faith – they have lost our faith.

Weak and uninspiring leadership of the state has been matched by the leadership of the church. However, the priests and religious orders continue to work with admirable commitment and dedication to preserve the basic Christian way of life.

Their voice has been undeservedly weakened by the transgressions of a few and the incompetence of their bishops. What I found most distressing is the fact that so many good priests who have given their lives to serve their people are now in fear of appearing in public in clerical attire because of the verbal abuse they regularly experience. However, beneath the thin veneer of religion in Ireland is a rich vein of spirituality and thoughtfulness. It is on this foundation the future of Ireland can be built by church, state and all of us. This is essentially an urgent moral exercise.

Philip O’Neill

Edith Road

Oxford OX1 4QB



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