What I mean when I say the ‘dustbin of history’

What I mean when I say the ‘dustbin of history’ TD Bríd Smith
Bríd Smith

The Irish Catholic (June 8, 2017) reports me speaking during Dáil statements on the Mother and Baby Homes on June 1 as saying that the Church should be put in the dustbin. This was taken from the official report of Dáil proceedings as published on the website of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

However, I was not quoted accurately in the official report of the Dáil, and Oireachtas staff have changed the record accordingly. I did not say that the Church should be put in the dustbin but rather it should be put in “the dustbin of history”. The reference to history matters because in the context of the speech I argued for the separation of Church and State and an end to the legacy of the Church of the past.

Micheál Martin argues that I show total disrespect for the tens of thousands of Catholics for whom their religion is a source of comfort and strength. What I want consigned to the “dustbin of history” is not Catholics but the privileged position of the Church in our society as akin to a state religion.


Like all real socialists I always defend the right of everyone to believe and practice the religion of their choice, their right to be a member of whatever religious group they chose and to have places of worship, their churches, their mosques, their temples or their synagogues.

But socialists want an end to the special role of the Church in running our schools and hospitals and the use by the State of religious orders in the provision of social services. I have a lot of respect for individuals like Bro. Kevin Crowley OFM Cap. and Sr Stan Kennedy RSC (who have also criticised me) who spend their lives trying to provide services to the hungry and the homeless, but I believe in a system where people will not be homeless or hungry and where the State takes responsibility for its citizens.

The legacy of the Catholic Church taking responsibility for dealing with poverty in the past in Industrial Schools, the Mother and Baby Homes, the Magdalene Laundries is unspeakably cruel. Never again do we want to witness such barbarity.


So I repeat the message, if there is to be a fitting memorial to the memory of the tens of thousands who suffered, let it be the beginning of the separation of Church and State which will put the legacy of the Catholic Church into the dustbin of history where it belongs. This, along with financial and other supports to victims, may give those victims their dignity back and deliver some justice to all those who suffered from the actions of Church and State in our dark past.

Micheál Martin accuses me of “intolerant populism”. But I want to remind people that he leads the Fianna Fáil party who overnight did a deal that indemnified the Catholic Church from liability for redress for victims of abuse in institutions run by the Church. The Woods Deal has seen the workers in this country pick up the tab of €1.5 billion in redress payments to victims.

Brid Smith is an AAA-PBP politician and a TD for the Dublin South-Central constituency.