Thursday, 17 November 2005
Ferns Report: Statements (Resumed).
Paul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, back to the House. There has been a unanimous condemnation of all that was revealed in the Ferns Report. The question now, however, is "where do we go from here?" I thought the speech in the Lower House by Deputy O'Donnell was over the top. For a Dubliner — and someone, I am told, is a northsider, close to the Minister of State's own constituency, near the Phoenix Park — she displayed a lack of knowledge of recent history, as well as theposition of All Hallows and Archbishop's House.
The special position of the Catholic Church was formally written out of the Constitution in a referendum in 1971, so Deputy O'Donnell was a bit wide of the mark. I do not think there has been any special church-State relationship since then, although I do not know what it was like even then. I was not conscious of it. Deputy O'Donnell told the Dáil: "The track record is such that we cannot accept that the church will be truthful or capable of self-regulation." Self-regulation has now gone for all professions, but it is a bit strong to say that the church would not be truthful. I would not accept that and I feel the comment was over the top.
Deputy O'Donnell implied that the special position has gone on for too long, almost as if it still existed, but that is not true. As someone said in the earlier debate, although in a slightly different context, if anything, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Instead of politicians getting a belt of a crozier, politicians are bishop bashing.