TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has launched a defence of the place of religion in Irish society, attacking those who want to “turn religious people into pariahs”.
A day after Pope Francis’s confirmed details of a 36-hour visit to Ireland, Mr Varadkar hit out at socialist politicians for trying to “push religion out of the public space”.
Responding to questions from Solidarity TD Mick Barry, the Taoiseach said he believes in the separation of Church and State.
But he added: “When we speak about church and state and while we should always acknowledge the many wrongs done by church bodies in the past — people will know what they are — we should not forget that many religious-based charities and many religious bodies do very good and valuable work today.”
Mr Barry had queried whether hospitals with a religious ethos would be obliged to carry out abortions under legislation which the Government is planning.
“We have church-controlled schools, church-controlled hospitals and so on. Ireland lags behind and the Taoiseach's Government lags behind.
“Where blows have been struck to this arrangement - and we saw a spectacular example recently with the vote for repeal and another in respect of the baptism barrier - the impetus for change has not come from the political establishment, but rather from below, from popular pressure,” the Cork TD said.
Mr Varadkar responded that all hospitals would be expected to operate under the laws of the State.
But he went on to claim that parties like the Socialist Party or Solidarity-People Before Profit want to stop funding bodies such as Crosscare and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
“I believe in the separation of church and state but I do not believe in the socialist ideology, which is to push religion out of the public space and to force people who are religious to be ashamed they have religious conviction and to hide them in a corner and to do what they want to do, which is to defund bodies and take public funding away from bodies such as the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Crosscare, Trócaire and Concern,” he said.
“The policy of socialists is to take away that funding because they do not just believe in the separation of church and state; they want to turn religious people into pariahs, put them in a corner and hide them and take away funding from institutions.”