In this week’s blog, Fr Paddy reflects on the need for a more inclusive dialogue as to the future direction of Irish society, to build a community where all are equal and welcome.Euro_cuts

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared on 22 July 2009

Canaries play an important function in the mining industry. After mines have been freshly exploded, these small and very fragile birds are sent down the holes to test the air. If the air is healthy, the bird quickly emerges and suggests that it is safe for the workers to enter and begin work. If the canaries do not return the opposite is true. The air is toxic and dangerous. Canaries are the first to experience this very volatile and vulnerable reality. I use this image as an example, for the thousands of fragile people, who are being treated like canaries, as our Government discerns, to how best deal with this economic recession. I ask why are the most disadvantaged always the first to feel the pinch and much more, in our society? In the name of reform and balancing a huge deficit that children, elderly, the sick and unemployed had nothing to do with in the first place.

There is a need for new and inclusive ideology in the midst of accounting for mismanagement and overspending. I dont think that economics itself is the answer to creating a society where real opportunity and basic justice will prevail. Often the canaries in our society are too fragile to engage with formal politics or indeed come out to vote; in this regard thats why they may well be treated with such cynicism and blatant disrespect by our establishment.

The Ryan Report, tells the story of how the vulnerable were abused systemically, because they were the most fragile in our society. The core Gospel message of Jesus Christ is building a community where all are equal and welcome. It is so obvious that such a vision is a long way from the reality of so many in all our communities. Less than 5% of some inner City parishes practice their faith publically. How as Church do we engage and respond to the most fragile and at risk in this Recession? The Gospel message has a relevance and indeed important message in this time of uncertainty and fear. Jesus challenged not just attitudes but structures. He asked questions that challenged the establishment. His questions remain pertinent, in a conversation that can help us navigate a pathway, where all can journey at their own pace. Jesus dedicated his life to nurturing and supporting canaries. He could see beyond their vulnerability and listen to their beautiful song. Scripture asks the question

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign Land?

This is a time for courage and confidence when we know intuitively whats just and morally wrong!

Colm McCarthy, the Chairman of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, has thrown down a gauntlet to the government and to all the citizens of this state. His report, published last week, detailed a vast range of cuts in government spending that, if all were implemented, would generate savings of 5.3bn. This Middle-Class urban economist must not be the only voice in a conversation that directs our future. Have courage to let your voice be heard. May we listen to the beautiful song from all the vulnerable in our midst and sing a new tune in solidarity with their chorus.