Do the churches say enough about social justice?
Does it ever cross your mind the number of buildings that you pass by on a daily basis and happen to know so little about them or their history?
Last Wednesday I was at a book launch in the Royal Irish Academy. It's Number 19, Dawson Street, close to Dublin's Mansion House. I regularly walk or cycle by the building, knowing nothing about it. The RIA, which was established in 1785, is an all-Ireland academic body that promotes study and excellence in the humanities and sciences. Among its past members are Éamon de Valera, Sean Lemass, Garret the FitzGerald, James Gandon and Oscar Wilde's father, William Wilde, who was a polymath.
David Begg, whom I have known since the early 1990s invited me to the launch of his book, which took place in the Royal Irish Academy. I don't know David that well. When I was doing my post grad in journalism he kindly allowed me interview him for a paper that I was writing. At the time he was the head of the Communications Workers' Union and one of his advisers was in school with me. And then later I worked with his daughter-in-law.
It's never a wise idea to go to a book launch on your own. You need someone with whom you can tag along. At such events it's easy to feel out of the loop, embarrassing too. At least, that's how I feel when I am in a gathering where I am not on first name terms with people in the room. At such an event I certainly would not have the brass neck to introduce myself to public figures. But on the night I was lucky as there was someone present whom I know. Former MEP Pronsias de Rossa and Siptu president Jack O'Connor were among the recognisable faces. There were a few faces I recognised but was unable to put names on them.
The book, 'Ireland, Small Open Economies and European Integration-Lost in Transition', published by Palgrave Macmillan was launched by Fergus Finlay. It examines how four small open economies-Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland-have managed the stresses and strains of Europeanisation since the single market came into being. Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, spoke in glowing terms of the role David has played since becoming chairman of the children's organisaiton. But what did strike me listening to him and then later to David is how as a nation we have paid lip service to the idea of creating a just society, free of inequality.
Both David and Fergus stressed the growing gap there is between rich and poor. In the book David calls for a return of social partnership, and that inequality should be put at the top of the agenda. David in turn spoke of the work that Barnardos does and how it reaches out to people who would have no other lifeline.
Surely there is something about the message of the Gospel that should inspire us to battle on for equality and justice for all peoples. Have we been doing that as well as we could? Doubt it.
Do the churches say enough about social justice? Their supporters will say they do but the media is not too interested in what they say on the topic. I'm not sure the churches are as strident on social issues as they could be. They seem to show a hesitancy on such matters when compared to their forceful views on some other issues.