Violence at levels not seen since Troubles – Martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin

Sarah MacDonald

TWO of the country's most senior Catholic bishops have expressed concern over the escalating levels of violence and aggression in Irish society as well as the lack of integrity.

Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin likened the toll of attacks and murders across the country to the Troubles in the North.

Recalling his childhood in Derry, he said violence such as shootings, bombings or beatings were a daily occurrence.

"I can remember growing up as a teenager, every morning when I would get up to have my breakfast, you would hear on the morning news bulletin about somebody being shot the previous night or someone being injured or violence somewhere or other."

He said that there was almost a sense in the North, at the time, that there was an acceptable level of violence. The Archbishop said that, at times this year, "for the first time in decades I had that same feeling".

He said: "You would get up in the morning and hear about another person being shot in Dublin or elsewhere.

"I got the sense that we have become quite a violent and aggressive society again and there is so little public comment and discussion about it."

Dr Martin suggested that the social disintegration which violence represents is "associated with a sense of despair" and social deprivation.

In some very deprived areas, where people are struggling to live from day to day, the Archbishop sensed that some were tempted to turn to violent crime "in order to try to get themselves some kind of living".

The areas where there is most dissident activity in the North are the areas of multiple deprivation, he said.

These were the areas which often suffered greatest during the Troubles and where people "are now feeling that they haven't really had any dividend from the peace process", the Archbishop warned.

Referring to "large swathes" along the eastern seaboard of the country where there is little by way of employment opportunities or prosperity and a lot of deprivation, Archbishop Martin made a veiled criticism of the Government.

"I do sometimes wonder if we are addressing those issues successfully enough for people to have a decent living and a decent way of life," he said.

Separately, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin warned that violence on our streets and in our families was provoking reprisals and further violence.

He criticised organisers of "evil deeds" during the Good Friday Way of the Cross reflection.


"Their poor compromised agents do the dirty work. We see this daily, in the way that those whose business is to ruin the lives of others through drug abuse or criminal violence never make their faces known, but assign the dirty work to others, not that these can evade the responsibility," he said.

He referred to the Gospel readings from the most holy day in the Christian calendar.

He said Jesus rejected not just "the crude violence of the gun" but also the violence which springs from falsehood, hypocrisy, dishonest intrigue, the manipulation of truth.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the lack of integrity and a culture of violence could quickly become "infectious". Their loss had a cumulative effect and created serious consequences in society, he warned.