In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy reflects on the much debated and talked about upcoming Election Day which takes place on Friday 25th February.

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

This column appeared in the edition published 22nd February 2011.

Four young lives have ended abruptly over the past two weeks because the quality of heroin being sold in Carlow/Kilkenny area, is too pure for them to handle. Young people whose lives are devastated by this evil drug. There is a dark and hopeless sub-culture of death, for a lost generation at this time because of Heroin addiction. Young people who often from the very beginnings of their lives were placed on the margins, destined to lives of second best, poor education, social isolation, crime, imprisonment, mental health issues, and unfortunately a very short life expectancy.

I don’t imagine that these deaths will get national media attention in the run up to the General Election. I attended a funeral recently of one such victim of bad heroin. A life of a young man who lived on the margins, imprisonment and destitute. I was deeply disturbed to see pale faced, black eyed young men. Their young bodies, malnourished by the misuse of harmful substances. A silent and ever present sub-culture, whose lives are so fragile and deeply troubled because of the horror that is heroin addiction. I have heard very little about this reality and the growing number of homeless people in our country as a real issue of concern in the recent leaders debates. The fact is that this growing number of young heroin addicts, don’t have the energy to get out of bed in the morning, not alone to vote.  Their silence and apathy is not part of any real political agenda because these young men and women are the living lepers in our towns and villages across this country.  I think of such people because they are the poorest of the poor when it comes to hope and opportunity.  In any New Ireland surely their downtrodden story and often devastating circumstances needs to be both listened to and actively addressed.

On a more positive note I was captivated recently with the joyful scenes of a people positive, active and powerful embracing new democracy in Egypt.  A movement whose waves are penetrating across the Middle East. Faces with huge smiles, men and women, young and old in a peaceful demonstration able to bring about real change.

This is one of our Countries most important weeks ever. A week that we can’t take for granted. As citizens we have a wonderful gift when it comes to our democratic right to vote. Let us vote in the search of true democracy, important values, generations who previously suffered their lives for.  In discerning our future government, perhaps the following from John O’Donoghue is an appropriate blessing for all who will be elected to leadership this week.

For a Leader:

May you have the grace and wisdom

To act kindly,

Learning to distinguish between what is

Personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.

May you never put yourself at the centre of things.

May you not act from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself, building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May those who work for you know

You see and respect them.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence

In order to engage with those who meet you.

When someone fails or disappoints you,

May the graciousness with which you engage

Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.