Remembering when children were ‘the problem’

Remembering when children were ‘the problem’ Running the gauntlet: parents and children at the time of the Holy Cross School protests in Belfast.

Last week I wrote about a programme (Unquiet Graves) that highlighted sectarian murders in the North, perpetrated by loyalist gangs in the 1970s. I wasn’t expecting something similar so soon.

Scannal (RTÉ One, Tuesday of last week) told the story of the conflict at Holy Cross School in the Ardoyne, Belfast. Even the most hardened relativists will agree that mistreatment or abuse of children is always wrong, and that was what happened here – as recently as 2001.

Little girls on the way to their Catholic primary school were shouted at, verbally abused and were pelted with all sorts of missiles, including bags of urine. Eventually a pipe bomb was thrown, injuring an unfortunate policeman but thankfully no children.

It was upsetting to see the little children in distress, crying their eyes out, huddling into the protective arms of their parents and shepherded by their priests, including Fr Aidan Troy.

Sectarian issues

Believe it or not, the row, on the surface at least, was about which route the children would take to school and was mixed in with all sorts of tribal and sectarian issues, with conflicts between Catholic and Protestant estates and who could walk or march through.

The very idea of housing estates identified by religion is so bizarre to a civilised state, so foreign south of the border, and yet a painful reality in the North. As one contributor put it, no matter what the real or perceived grievances, nothing could justify piling such abuse on little children.

As usual a compromise was agreed and I enjoyed the scenes at the end where then President Mary McAleese, in her bridge-building days, invited the children to a happy Christmas party at Áras an Uachtaráin.

I suspect anti-Catholic prejudice will be on display elsewhere now that judge Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated for a seat on the US Supreme Court. The US presidential election was already a fractious event and this is going to add to the drama big time (or ‘bigly’ if you wish).

I hadn’t heard much about her before now and am busy catching up but I was impressed by her acceptance speech – I caught the full version on CNN and it’s readily available on YouTube – it’s worth a look-back rather than relying on snippets from the news programmes.

She’s facing into tough confirmation hearings, probably from mid-October.

From an earlier confirmation, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s declaration to her that “the dogma lives loudly within you” has been much replayed. Poetic and Yoda-like this could have been taken as a compliment but it sounded like an accusation. I don’t mind Ms Coney Barrett’s legal qualifications being explored, but judging by initial reaction her faith and family are going to dissected as well.

It’s as if you can bring any values and world view to the table except those inherent to Catholicism. Of course it’s primarily about abortion and the fear of liberals that the Roe vs Wade decision will be reversed. Just think how many lives that would save.

If following these events, I’d suggest adding News Nightly (EWTN, weekdays – also available on and on YouTube) to your watchlist, which should contribute to a more rounded picture than you’ll get on CNN or even on mainstream news outlets over here.

Political crime

On last Friday’s episode we heard about a defence of Ms Coney Barrett by the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies: “As black Christians we will not stand by in silence as our sister in the Faith is persecuted for the ‘political crime’ of her beliefs.”

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer of the US Conscience Project  drew attention to her approach to constitutional law, described as “originalism” and “textualism” – a faithfulness to the text and the intentions of the original framers, who would probably be puzzled or even horrified at more recent interpretations that found or imagined rights never intended or envisaged.

On last Monday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) the host, after acknowledging her fine legal credentials and appealing personal qualities, called Ms Coney Barrett “an extreme Catholic”.

The only evidence offered was that she believed in Church teaching, specifically on sexual matters – would that not make her ‘an orthodox Catholic’?

Also worth looking at on YouTube are various talks and interviews with Ms Coney Barrett, some of which were hosted by the prestigious University of Notre Dame where she was a student and later a teacher and professor.

I’d say she has much more to teach us.


Pick of the week
The Great Big Irish Thank You
Virgin Media 1, Sunday, October 4, 10pm

This show will entertain and shine a light on those who 
we are all thankful for in these unprecedented times of Covid-19 crisis.

Blasts From The Past
RTÉ Two, Monday, October 5, 3.50 pm

The monks illustrating The Book of Kells have lost their special quills and Emily’s mission is to retrieve one of them so the book can be finished on time.

The Leap of Faith
RTÉ Radio 1, Friday, October 9, 1.05 pm

Topical religious affairs series back for new season.