Tuesday 27 June 2017

Kenny was no reformer, but he did bring about social change

Enda and Fionnuala Kenny meet Pope Francis during a private audience in the Vatican last November. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/Reuters
Enda and Fionnuala Kenny meet Pope Francis during a private audience in the Vatican last November. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/Reuters
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

A tidal wave of dismay and anger about the economic collapse swept Enda Kenny into office. No surprise there. But what proved unexpected during his tenure were his dealings with the Catholic hierarchy.

Far from behaving like an old school Catholic premier - allowing Church leaders to influence policymakers - he drew a line in the sand. Perhaps he gulped as he did so, but his religious upbringing, west of Ireland constituency and innate caution didn't deter him from consulting his conscience as opposed to the bishops.

When he told the Dáil he was "a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach" he sent a signal that religion would not be allowed to sway his decisions - making a conscious effort to establish distance between Church and State. It caused reverberations in a State where the Catholic hierarchy had been accustomed to issuing instructions to lawmakers.

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