TD accused of ‘intolerant populism’ on Church attack

TD accused of ‘intolerant populism’ on Church attack TD Bríd Smith
Bríd Smith is urged to visit Catholic charities

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has described as “unacceptable” a Dáil speech by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith where she called for the Catholic Church to be put “in the dustbin where it belongs”.

Ms Smith has also been urged by Church charity activists to come and witness the good work being done by Catholic groups after she launched the stinging attack.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic this week Mr Martin said “using this sort of language is completely inappropriate, unacceptable and it should have no place in Dáil Éireann”.

He accused Ms Smith of showing “total disrespect for the many hundreds of thousands of citizens who practice their Catholic faith and for whom it is a source of comfort and strength.”

Calling on politicians to “show proper respect for all faiths”, Mr Martin said “these comments speak to an intolerant populism that we have done well to largely avoid in Ireland and they need to be called out.”

Speaking in a debate on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, Ms Smith called for “the beginning of the separation of Church and State and putting the Church in the dustbin where it belongs but doing so by giving back dignity and financial and other supports” to what she described as “probably hundreds of thousands of survivors and victims of the legacy of the Church and its role in this country”.

During the same debate, Minister Katherine Zappone said a separation of Church and State was necessary although “we do not necessarily need to put down the Church as we separate it from the State”.

Meanwhile, Bro. Kevin Crowley challenged Ms Smith to visit Dublin’s Capuchin Day Centre, where hundreds of homeless and vulnerable people are fed and cared for every day.

“What I would say to Bríd Smith is look at what has been done for the underprivileged – only for the Church in many ways they’d be utterly and completely ignored,” he told The Irish Catholic, continuing, “Even what Sr

Stan has done for housing, and the cheek of them to speak out like that. I would love to meet her and tell her to come down here and see what’s happening here every day.”

Social campaigner and Religious Sister of Charity Sr Stan Kennedy, meanwhile, who founded Focus Ireland, the State-designated charity for helping families out of homelessness, dismissed Ms Smith’s comments as an angry and misinformed expression of general anti-Church attitudes.

“There is so much anti-Church feeling, that everything is picked up now and opposed,” she told The Irish Catholic. “To say something like that is to be totally misinformed,” she said of Ms Smith’s comments, continuing “fantastic work has been done and fantastic work is being done”.

Kieran Stafford, Saint Vincent de Paul national president, said “I think sometimes people don’t look at the full picture”, noting that Catholic identity and Church connections are key to SVP’s work. Describing SVP as Ireland’s largest charity, he observed how “the support we get from the Church in terms of having collections outside churches once a month is fundamental to us being able to raise funds and continue to support people who are struggling in our communities”.

Key role

The Irish Church also plays a key role in combatting extreme poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world, according to Trócaire’s executive director Eamonn Meehan.

“Last year, Trócaire supported 2.4 million people in 25 countries around the world,” Mr Meehan told The Irish Catholic, with this being possible, he said, “only because of the commitment of parishes around Ireland”.

Praising Irish Catholics, both lay and clerical, for their contribution to overseas projects, he noted how Church partners in countries such as Kenya and Sudan are crucial allies in helping Trócaire “deliver real and lasting change to people’s lives”.