CATHOLIC bishops have warned that violence could erupt here if current levels of economic inequality are allowed to fester.
The Irish Bishops yesterday made an unprecedented appeal to voters just days before the election in a document entitled 'From Crisis to Hope: Working to Achieve the Common Good'. In it they urged people to vote for a more cohesive and fair society.
And in strong language the bishops criticised those who had lowered the minimum wage and promoted the "bonus culture" which "has let us down badly and has given rise to what can only be described as reckless gambling practices".
Fr Eoin Cassidy, who helped to prepare the document for the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Episcopal Conference, said such comments were not intended as "a direct criticism" of the outgoing Government. "It is just stating a fact," he said.
However, responding to questions, Fr Cassidy also said "we believe the Government has got it wrong".
Fr Cassidy was particularly critical of the "bonus culture", which he said was "totally and utterly destructive of civic culture" and placed no value on public service.
He said the document was "not and should not be perceived to be a party political manifesto". On the contrary, it was the bishops' hope that it would focus attention on the type of country we want.
It is a time for political change, "against the background of justifiable anger and a breakdown of trust in key societal institutions", including government, the banks and the church, he said.
If allowed to fester, that breakdown could lead to social fragmentation and "even violence cannot be ruled out".
Chair of the Council for Justice and Peace Bishop Ray Field said a core aim of yesterday's publication was to set out some of the values that should inform "the choices we make at this critical time".
Bishop Field remains Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin after his offer of resignation in the wake of the Murphy Report into cover-ups of paedophile clerics was turned down by the Pope.
Bishop John Kirby, Chair of Trocaire, criticised the cutting of the Overseas Aid budget by the Irish Government so that it is now €284m less than in 2008.
The launch of the document took place in the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People, Bow Street, Dublin. Br Kevin Crowley, who runs the centre, is a prominent voice for equality and societal values.