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‘Ireland needs renewed sense of national purpose’

By Sarah Mac Donald - 26 February, 2015

Archbishop of Dublin warns that healthy politics cannot be built on a culture of spin or a policy of just being against something.

Pic John McElroy

Pic John McElroy

Ireland is “at a crucial moment” in its political culture and needs policies which are not just “anti-something” in order to move forward, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said.

In a major address in Tralee on Tuesday evening, the Archbishop of Dublin said healthy politics cannot be built on a culture of the spin doctor or a policy of just being against something.

Speaking in St John’s Parish in the Co Kerry town on the theme ‘Journeying in Hope’, the Archbishop called for policies which aren’t “sound-bites of self-congratulations or policies of economic dogmatism”, he scolded.

“We need to look at the social needs of people directly in the face and work together to answer them and not to be put off by diversionary tactics,” he said.

Dr Martin also suggested that the country needs a renewed sense of national purpose which involves citizens rather than managing them.

He said the country’s Christian communities must bring their contribution to the building up of Irish society for the future.

This, he said, would involve contributing to the building up of a different political culture, but he underlined this did not mean building a new Christian political party or telling parties what to do.

“We need a renewed understanding of civil society and its ability not just to toss ideas around but also to bring into social and economic policy a sense of participation, of gratuitousness and generosity and of true pluralism.”

Elsewhere in his address titled, ‘The Church in Ireland – Signs of Hope – New Challenges’ the Primate said people still expect and want the Church to speak out on social issues.

However, he suggested that criticism of society from Church leaders would only be welcomed in “those areas where such criticism is the flavour of the day and not on certain other issues”.

The Archbishop claimed that there is a tendency to want to forge an image of the Church which fits into the social patterns of the day but he countered that ethical teaching cannot be reduced to an ethic which makes people feel comfortable; “it must challenge people to move away from acquiescence”.

Referring to the Church’s teachings on same sex marriage and divorce and remarriage, he acknowledged that putting the Church’s case across is made more complex if Church leaders or self-appointed Church spokespersons use language which is insensitive and over judgemental.

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