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John Downing: Kenny takes aim at hypocrisy but avoids repeat of last attack on church


Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A Martian landing in Leinster House yesterday could be forgiven for thinking the place was "Inquiry Central".

Bear in mind that one fully fledged Tribunal of Inquiry into alleged abuse of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, under the tutelage of Mr Justice Peter Charleton of the Supreme Court, is just eight days old and yet to really start.

By the end of this week we will have the Farrelly Commission of Investigation into the very disturbing case of the disabled young woman known only as 'Grace'. Senior Counsel Marjorie Farrelly will lead that investigation.

Yesterday we heard much about this and its detailed terms of reference. We also heard about the ongoing "Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters". This is headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, the woman who already penned the damning Cloyne and Dublin Archdiocese reports on sexual abuse in July 2011.

It is interesting to note that it was Judge Murphy's findings in 2011 which prompted what many observers regard as Enda Kenny's best speech as Taoiseach on July 20, 2011, some 20 weeks after his election to Government Buildings.

Back then, Mr Kenny spoke of "the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day". He also warned that "the historic relationship between Church and state in Ireland could not be the same again because the rape and torture of children were 'managed' to uphold Catholic Church power and reputation."

Yesterday Mr Kenny was in similar territory, though he avoided head-on attacks on the Church, favouring instead to castigate Irish societal values and people's terrible behaviour.

He said the nuns who ran mother and baby homes did not "kidnap children" - society gave up the children to these nuns, in part to spare them the viciousness of gossip.

"Women of that era had an amazing capacity to self-impregnate," he said in reference to widespread hypocrisy in Irish society in recent generations.

Mr Kenny went on later to actually defend the Bon Secours, whose order of nuns ran the Tuam mother and baby home. He said Bon Secours hospitals had delivered a high standard of care. But getting back to our inventory of inquiries and probes, let's also note the Commission of Investigation into IBRC, the body which took over the calamitous Anglo Irish Bank. This is headed by Mr Justice Brian Cregan of the High Court and has been operating since July 2015.

And there is also the Fennelly Commission of Investigation under Mr Justice Nial Fennelly.

This is examining the recording of phone calls to Garda stations and has produced a raft of interim reports since it began in April 2014.

There are other investigations - but by now you will have got the idea. Ireland is indeed not short of official probes right now.

In general it is hard to be totally positive about the phenomenon of the official inquiry in whatever form.

True, facts are usually user-friendly and it is always good to shine the light into our national dark corners.

It's fair to add that the process can be cathartic for individuals and groups.

These processes can also be a force for social good, holding up a mirror to society. The real test surely is whether we act on these investigation findings.

Here the experience is not encouraging. We often have the best inquiries - but the problem is that we rarely act on them.

Irish Independent