by John Newman
Enda Kenny in common with his French counterpart, Manual Valls, is no friend of the Catholic Church. His posturing in Rome about inviting the Pope to Ireland is as sincere as his commitment to the Pro Life Movement on abortion. The real question is: why will Enda Kenny and the present Irish government not extend an invitation to Pope Francis to make a formal state or even an official visit to Ireland?
Enda Kenny made the journey to Rome for the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on 27 April 2014 and finally managed a photo opportunity with Pope Francis – albeit a perfunctory affair in a line of some 90 official delegations from all over the world. Enda looked a sight appearing on the pavis of St. Peter’s Basilica which was in stark contrast with his visit to Castel Gandolfo in September 2012. The Irish Times carried a nice photograph of Enda with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, who had also made the journey to Rome in an effort to court Catholic votes in the aftermath of the French government’s recent abysmal performance at the French local government elections.
Later in the afternoon, flanked by Cardinal Brady of Armagh, Enda made an announcement to the effect that he had issued an invitation to Pope Francis to visit Ireland. Undoubtedly, this looked like a positive step in the right direction towards mending his gauche and ill advised ersatz political show-boating in diplomatic relations with the Holy See. RTE obligingly broadcast the Taosieach’s announcement which cannot but have gone down well in Ireland and helped somewhat in staving off the expected cull of Fine Gael and Labour at the upcoming Irish local and European elections.
But what exactly did Enda do during those brief two minutes with Pope Francis? He did not hand over an official invitation to the Pope to visit Ireland – clearly, there was no sign of that and the government has made no mention of such an essential preliminary step to any visit of the Pope to Ireland. So, at that level, it can be said that Enda did not extend an official invitation on behalf of the government of Ireland to Pope Francis to visit the country.
More to the point, during his interview at the Irish College, he made the very significant and telling remark (on camera) that “it was not officially for the government to invite the Pope to Ireland”. And he went on to say that if the Irish bishops wanted to invite him, then the government would facilitate his arrival in the country at the invitation of the Irish bishops. By any standards this was a remarkable statement. Did he intend by this that the government tried to prohibit the bishops from inviting the Pope to visit Ireland and, that if he accepted their invitation, Enda and his colleagues in the Labour Party would not facilitate the visit nor make public funds available for such essential things as security, policing etc. ? It must come as a relief to the Irish bishops to know that Enda and the Fine Gael party is not going to stymie their efforts to invite the Pope to Ireland.
But, the real question is: why will Enda Kenny and the present Irish government not extend an invitation to Pope Francis to make a formal state or even an official visit to Ireland? After all, there was no difficulty about inviting the Queen of England to pay a formal visit to Ireland. Even more interestingly, Enda is becoming quite insistent that official invitations will be sent to the British royals to attend the 2016 centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising. Clearly, it is official government business to invite foreign heads of state to visit the country. If the present government can invite the Queen of England, why does it not consider a proper invitation for the Pope to visit Ireland “an official government matter”? Enda cannot surely be so hallucinatory as think that the Pope is not a head of State? In normal democratic countries which conduct serious diplomatic business, the normal procedure prior to a papal visit is for joint invitations to be issued by the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. So why will Enda not do the decent thing?
In what then does Enda’s invitation consist? Put simply, at worst, nothing and, at best, not much beyond saying the bishops had his permission to invite the Pope if they wanted to and he would not stand in their way!! Hardly a fulsome invitation and certainly not of the kind mentioned by Bord Failte when pushing Ireland’s tourist potential as the land of the “céad mile Failte”.
An announcement such as this is, unfortunately, just another piece of media-spin put out to assuage Catholic feelings in the wake of his promise breaking to the pro-life movement, his assault on Catholic schools, his attempts to exclude preparation for Holy Communion and Confirmation from the schools, his closure of the Irish embassy to the Holy See, his mendaciously laced attack on Pope Benedict XVI and his deafening silence in the wake of Holy See’s response to his contrived Dail outburst. Let us be clear: in common with his French counterpart Manuel Valls, Enda Kenny is no friend of the Catholic Church. His posturing in Rome about inviting the Pope to Ireland is as sincere as his commitment to the Pro-Life Movement on Abortion. Let us take it for what it is: an attempt to coax Catholics into voting for Fine Gael at the upcoming elections – just exactly what Manuel Valls in trying to do in France where Catholics are even more resistant to media-spin. Having been ignored for the past three years, it is unlikely Irish Catholics are going to miss their opportunity to put manners on Enda at the local and European elections. While Enda (not too unlike Nero) was basking in the sunshine of the canonizations Rome, the Sunday Independent was predicting a day of judgement for him and his partners in Fine Gael and Labour.