By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 October, 2018
The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly has said he was “alarmed” by some of the “inflammatory language” used in public discourse during the presidential election campaign.
In a statement, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly said he had got feedback from members of the Travelling community and those dependent on financial assistance from the State that had confirmed his concerns.
“Ill-informed and inflammatory language has caused real hurt, humiliation and heartache,” he underlined and added, “This offensive commentary was particularly virulent on social media. It has been particularly damaging to the Traveller community, which has been endeavouring to grow and preserve its ethnic identity as part of our society.”
He appealed to all those engaged in projects around Traveller health and well-being to redouble their efforts to ensure that people do not lose courage.
“Travellers are finding themselves at the centre of unwelcome and unfair comment. Our society, which is already unequal, cannot afford to become any more polarised.”
The Archbishop highlighted that whilst the election may be over, the consequences of the campaign would continue for many for some time to come.
“I ask that we commit together, by way of prayer and action, to work to build understanding and solidarity between the Traveller and settled community in Ireland.”
He also offered his congratulations to President Higgins, and to his family, on his re-election as Uachtaráin na hÉireann.
“As a nation we can look forward, with confidence, to President Higgins’ compassionate style of leadership, which has been characterised by unity, inclusivity and a respect for the diversity of all of our people. A Uachtaráin Ó hUigínn, guím rath Dé ort agus gach beannacht ar do chuid oibre ar son mhuintir na hÉireann sna blianta atá romhat.”
Separately, the bishops have responded to the decision by the majority of the electorate to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.
Voters overwhelmingly backed the removal of blasphemy as an offence from the Irish Constitution in last week’s referendum, with 64.85 per cent voting Yes while 35.15 per cent voted No to the removal of the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution.
Sections of the Defamation Act 2009 will now be repealed.
Responding to the vote outcome, the bishops stressed that it was “vital to ensure that the rights of individuals and communities to practice and live out their faith openly are protected by our law”.
They said the promotion of freedom of religion, and the freedom of conscience – for all in society – greatly enriches the social fabric of a country and is one aspect of respect for the dignity of human persons.
The bishops did not campaign for the retention of the offence of blasphemy in the referendum on 26 October.