Mary Aikenhead’s modern challenge to ‘austerity Ireland’

Pope’s plea to ‘give people hope’ is echoed here

Mags Gargan and Greg Daly

The Irishwoman put on the path to sainthood by Pope Francis is a challenge to ‘austerity Ireland’, leading justice campaigner Sr Stan Kennedy has said.

She criticised the Government for talking up the economy while failing to offer citizens, especially the most vulnerable, hope.

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis has declared the founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity Cork-woman Mary Aikenhead as ‘venerable’, putting her a step closer to canonisation.

Sr Stan told The Irish Catholic “Mary Aikenhead would say what you are doing is talking up the economy since the end of the recession, but you haven’t concentrated on social aspects.

“The whole thing is appalling and I am enormously disappointed with austerity.

“Hope is being taken from people on the margins. I have never seen it as bad in 30 years…It is an absolute disgrace, I now hear about cutting taxation but that is not what we need, we need to ensure people have homes and jobs.

“Those on the margins haven’t just had their hope taken but their dignity taken from them,” Sr Stan warned.

Her sentiments echo comments made by Pope Francis at the weekend when he pleaded with politicians to give people hope in the midst of austerity.


During a whistle-stop visit to Naples, the Pope also insisted, loudly and repeat edly, that high unemployment rates – especially among youths – were a detriment to society and a failure of the current economic system and public policies.

Fr Sean Healy, head of Social Justice Ireland, welcomed the Pope’s comments insisting that the way Ireland has handled austerity has been to damage the vulnerable.

“The people who suffered most through austerity in the last five or six years have been the people on the margins and most vulnerable because of the choices made by the Government,” Fr Healy insisted, warning that “the budgets over the last four years were all regressive and research shows that the benefits went to the better off, and not the poor and those on middle incomes”.

Fr Tony O’Riordain, parish priest of Moyross, Co. Limerick said the Pope was naming the root of social problems. “Unemployment has corrosive effects, that are often unacknowledged, especially in areas where unemployment is highly concentrated.

“Unemployment affects individuals and households and leads to high levels of hopelessness. When you live in areas with high levels of unemployment, hopelessness is socialised – it has cancerous effects, with its knock-on effects often being unacknowledged,” he said.

Fr O’Riordain told The Irish Catholic: “What’s really important is that people should be able to get up in the morning with a sense of purpose in their days. We’re failing to do this for hundreds of thousands of people, many concentrated in specific geographical areas.”

In his homily in Naples, Pope Francis said: “Don’t let anyone steal your hope! Don’t give in to the lure of easy money or dishonest income… React firmly against organisations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak with the cynical sale of drugs and other crimes. Don’t let anyone steal your hope!”