SO, they’re all lovey-dovey again – Enda, Fine Gael and the Pope!
Tickled pink by Pope Francis, Kenny revealed last week that he had invited the Pontiff to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in 2018. And, said the Dear Leader (our fella), ‘should he decide to accept my invitation I assure him that the Government would respond appropriately and make all the arrangements to treat him in a proper and respectful manner as befits his position as head of the Catholic Church.’
Isn’t that nice? The Catholic Taoiseach of one of the most ancient and loyal countries of the Catholic world reasserting the close solidarity that has ever existed between Ireland and Rome!
In doing so, pious Mr Kenny, with a papal knighthood around the corner, accomplished a masterstroke of skill and perseverance.
He demonstrated to the secular world that ‘Ireland remains deeply Christian and mostly Catholic in spirit and practice,’ as Jean Blanchard said in a different context years ago.
But, hang on a sec! Stall that digger! Are we talking about the same Enda who played Nintendo on his mobile phone during an audience with Pope Benedict XVI?
Yep, but that was in 2012 when he was an admirer and very close partner of Labour Party infidels – the chaps with no invisible means of support – and for whom the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ and head of the Roman Catholic Church was nothing more than a boring old fart in a skirt.
At that time, Labourites exhibited a studenty anti-clericalism which had an infecting influence on easily distracted FG ministers who went on to suffer from what the medical profession (including Dr Leo Varadkar, of course) might describe as halitosis of the intellect.
Government anti-clericalism reached a state of very strong emotion as the world and his wife blasted Catholic institutions and clerics for failing to safeguard children from sexual abuse. Alleged Catholic power and influence in all aspects of public and political life was attacked: the most dramatic manifestation of which was the decision taken in 2011 by Kenny, Gilmore, Quinn, Coveney, Burton and pals to close Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See.
Curiously, the decision was depicted as having nothing to do with the Government’s criticism on the Catholic Church but for what Kenny disingenuously said were ‘cost-cutting reasons.’ Earlier, Kenny had described the Vatican hierarchy as ‘elite, dysfunctional and narcissistic.’
In response the Vatican withdraw the Papal Nuncio, a move that was followed by the Government’s decision to close the Irish embassy.
Kenny and his Labour chums took the line that the closure would be widely appreciated and that it would reinforce the Coalition’s electoral prospects in the new ‘secularist’ Ireland. They were wrong!
Step too far
A savage political storm erupted. It involved eighty-three senators and TDs (including some from Labour) who lambasted Kenny for his miscalculation.
Yes, there was support for his censure of the Vatican’s failure to punish bishops who turned a blind eye to child abuse, but closing the embassy and cutting off diplomatic links with Rome was a different kettle of fish. It did not go down well with the Irish people and was seen as a step too far.
Ireland’s connection with Rome goes back to the time of Saint Patrick and although Kenny declared that breaking off relations with the Vatican was part of an economic belt-tightening exercise, nobody believed him. As far as the plain people of Ireland were concerned, limp excuses for an over-the-top, badly thought-out tactic did not excuse a snub to the Holy See.
At the time, Charlie Flanagan TD, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, desperately tried to salvage something from the debacle by persisting with the myth that the closure was based on economic arguments and that it would be reviewed once Ireland experienced an upturn.
Happily, after three years, and on the supposition that the Catholic Church had learned its lesson, Kenny performed an excruciating U-turn and re-opened the diplomatic mission to the Vatican. Run by just one person, according to Kenny it focuses on ‘international development’ – of all things.
And, in an attempt to save face, Fine Gael tried to link the election of people-friendly Pope Francis to the decision to re-open the Embassy.
Nobody swallowed the bait with the result that Kenny’s country boy effort at international politics led to the perception that his Government had closed the embassy in the belief that it would be a popular act and then reopened it thinking it would also be a popular act – which was a boorish way to run a diplomatic service.
Fall from grace
But a God-fearing electorate, whose existence was ignored as much by the Labour Party as by Fine Gael, justly punished the two parties for their sins in the recent general election. The Blueshirts lost 26 seats and now, in order to stay in power, a mortified Kenny is dependent on a ragbag collection of independents and the remnants of a peed-off Fianna Fáil party that regularly submits itself to sewer crawling in support of FG policies.
Nor did God and the electorate overlook Labour! The party was practically wiped out and, in a spectacular fall from grace, its leader Joan Burton lost the top job. Coincidentally, in the Great Flood of 2015, she literally lost her seat when she toppled from a canoe during a political photo-shoot. She ended up in the Shannon.
The Embassy closure, the attack on the Pontiff and on Catholic culture did not constitute Fine Gael’s finest hour, and one commentator chose to depict it as a dogfight between popes and dopes.
Did Kenny gain any knowledge or wisdom from the ludicrous and humiliating fiasco?
To judge by the weasel words, acrimony and rancour currently being engendered by his latest wheeze, the pathetic so-called Citizens’ Assembly on abortion, he doesn’t learn from failure.
After Archbishop Martin declared that the taking of a life, at whatever stage, is ‘gravely, morally wrong,’ one of Kenny’s bright young things, Kate O’Connell, TD, denounced the archbishop for ‘getting involved in women’s health issues.’ His ideas were ‘not in any way relevant,’ she primly remarked.
‘They (the Catholic Church) are entitled to their opinions, but I don’t put any weight in them ... It is the same as asking my four-year-old ...We as legislators should not be following the preachings of leaders of faith, in this case the leader of the Catholic Church,’ she said.
Oh dear! We’ve been here before. Despite Ms O’Connell’s appalling syntax and nastiness, there’s a dull familiarity about it all –a mixture of Workers Party-Labour-Fine Gael intolerance that’s compounded by Kenny’s failure to recognise that one does not get different results by doing the same thing over and over again. Sad!