David McWilliams preached at the harvest festival; preached in the sense of expounding the Biblical principles of how we should respond to the Brian Lenihan’s plans that the poor and vulnerable should pay for the government’s generosity to the rich and the powerful. It was the sort of preaching for which we might have hoped from our bishops, yet from them there is silence. One bishop condemned people for feeling anger, suggesting angry people were ‘damaged people’; easy words when one has not lost one’s job, when one’s house is not in danger of repossession, when one is not facing indebtedness for years and years to come.
Standing at the church door, person after person said to David McWilliams that they agreed with him, but for whom could they vote? What alternative was there? The system itself is rotten to the core.
A few weeks after the 2007 general election, I met a local TD, then minister for education.
“Congratulations, Mary”, I said, “even if I didn’t vote for you.”
“Who did you vote for?”
“Labour”, I said, “as have generations of my family before me.”
“Labour, what have they ever done for you, or for your church, or for your school?”
The minister’s comments encapsulated Irish politics. What’s in it for me?
Through it all, the church says nothing, we collude in the clientelism. Something needs done and we phone whoever we know, do this for me and I’ll vote for you. This is our version of democratic politics; this is the governance of our country.
Christy Moore does a version of Ewan McColl’s ‘Go, Move, Shift’ , but introduces a subtle change to the lyrics, a change which probably sums up how people see the Church.
MacColl used to include the words:
“Born in a wagon on a building site
Where the ground was rutted by the trailer’s wheels
The local people said to me,
You’ll lower the price of property”
Moore’s version of ‘Go, Move, Shift’ is unambiguous about who it is that represents the rich and the powerful, it is not the local people in Moore’s song.
“Born in the common by a building site
Where the ground was rutted by the trail of wheels
The local Christian said to me,
“You’ll lower the price of property.”
Moore would be unsurprised at the silence of the church leaders; why would they speak against a system of which they are part? When an economist is needed to outline the Christian way forward in our society, one wonders why we bother with bishops at all.