Tuesday 23 January 2018

Never again can the Catholic Church be allowed to undermine Ireland's laws

Despite all that has happened, there is still no sign of any humility at the Vatican, writes Ivor Roberts

HISTORIC events crowd on top of each other in Ireland. After the queen's visit only a few weeks ago, we now have a confrontation between Ireland and the Vatican which, from the British side of the Irish Sea, seems scarcely conceivable. It is momentous enough to register not just in the press here in Britain but in the International Herald Tribune and a full-page spread in the leading Swiss paper the Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

The images of a clerical society in Ireland where, to use Enda Kenny's colourful phrase, "the swish of the soutane" counts for more than the injunctions of civil society are hard-wired into British consciousness. Many years ago, my tutor at Oxford told me he had left his teaching post at TCD with the greatest reluctance because he couldn't put up with living in a theocracy ruled by the then Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.

I thought he was exaggerating. But no doubt McQuaid would have excommunicated the current Taoiseach if he were alive today. It is a measure of how far Ireland has come, both socially and culturally, that the Taoiseach was greeted by a standing ovation when delivering the MacGill lecture in honour of John Hume a week ago.

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