Straight Talk
DAVID AKIN - From abortion to the G8, Ireland's clergy plays politics

A young man walks by a poster outside a skills college here on Sunday, June 16, 2013 that tries to recruit Irish workers to Canada. Unemployment among Irish young people is about 30 per cent.

Credits: DAVID AKIN/QMI Agency

DAVID AKIN | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

DUBLIN -- Churchmen here in Ireland, I am told, are taken rather more seriously in civil society's debates than they are back in Canada.

From the pulpits of Ireland's Catholic churches on Sunday, priests took dead aim at Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny for proposing a law that would allow a woman to abort a pregnancy if her life was in danger or if a panel of psychiatrists determined she was suicidal. Kenny's bill came after the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar. She had entered an Irish hospital in 2012 in the 17th week of her pregnancy with symptoms of contractions prior to a natural miscarriage. She made multiple requests for an emergency abortion but doctors, citing Irish law, refused her wish. She subsequently died of septic shock and e. coli in her bloodstream.

Kenny says his proposal would remove any legal obstacle to abortion when doctors conclude the mother would die without such a procedure.

But from the pulpit and in newsletters in the pews, Ireland's Roman Catholics were told Kenny's proposal is a dangerous one that this predominantly Catholic country should oppose.

Meanwhile, another churchman, a top Anglican here, was taking direct aim at the leaders of the G8, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who are set to begin their two-day annual summit Monday in Northern Ireland.

The Reverend Jonathan Barry stood in the pulpit of the marvellously grand 822-year-old St. Patrick's cathedral here Sunday and reminded those present that the great Irish writer Jonathan Swift had became dean of St. Patrick's 300 years ago to the day.

As Barry noted, the issues of Swift's time are similar to today's. In 1724, when England wanted Ireland to use a new common copper coin, Swift denounced the move, arguing Irish authorities, not English, should control this most fundamental of economic levers.

Swift won. The Irish boycotted the new coins and they were withdrawn.

Three hundreds years later, the Irish, like many throughout the eurozone are questioning the slavish devotion to today's common currency, the euro. There are billions in bailouts for banks in the name of the Euro while unemployment among young people reaches epic proportions. Harsh austerity programs favoured by the likes of Harper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and others are being called into question from Irish pulpits.

"I wonder what Swift of the Irish copper coinage would say about the fate that has befallen us, doomed yet again to watch our young people leave Ireland to search for work? Does austerity, imposed to protect the new coinage, the euro, threaten to destroy society in Europe as we know it?" Barry said.

In Ireland, 30% of those under 25 don't have a job. Across the eurozone, nearly one in four under 25 are unemployed. In Canada, the rate is 13.6%.

Barry continued: "The way to a new Europe and a new and peaceful world order lies in releasing our people from the stranglehold of debt and austerity imposed in the name of currency union."

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was here last year trying to take advantage of Ireland's labour woes.

Wall was ready to whisk Ireland's unemployed to vacant jobs in booming Saskatchewan.

Here in Dublin, on one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, a college has big poster outside its front door proclaiming, "Jobs Available in Canada." It advertises wages upwards of 21 euros an hour (about $28 Canadian) for those who'll come to Canada.

Premier Wall would no doubt approve. As would many of the four million Canadians who claim an Irish ancestor.

But here, Reverend Barry thinks it's a tragedy young Irish people can not choose between a good job in Canada and a good job at home.

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