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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Priests and pictures

(by Suzanne Breen, the News Letter)

If we must have clerics, let it be the Rev Willie McCrea and Bishop Pat Buckley. At least they're colourful characters. There'd be a bit of craic as they visited the Provos' arms dumps.

Willie could sing one of his gospel songs and play the accordion. Bishop Buckley has a wicked turn of phrase when he recounts his many battles with the Catholic hierarchy.

The individuals the governments have in mind for the decommissioning exercise would bore us death before we even heard a word of their report.

I haven't time for any of the establishment's favoured holy men. They made absolutely no impact during this conflict. No-one listened to them as they warbled on about the paramilitaries, Drumcree, sectarianism, the hunger-strike or whatever.

Most of the time they open their mouths it's to utter sanctimonious phrases. They take 500 words to say what the rest of us could manage in 50.

I don't believe there is this huge reservoir of respect for these men. Indeed, a substantial section of the population - including believers - view them with (at best) suspicion and (at worse) contempt.

Ask yourself this: if any mainstream church leader in Northern Ireland died would there be an outpouring of grief on the streets? Would you see real sadness and a sense of loss in people's faces? I think not.

Why does London want to drag clerics into all this anyway. None of the churches or their representatives should play any part in state matters. We are meant to live in a secular society.

Apart from that, what priest or minister would know one end of a gun from the other? All the weapons could be replicas and they wouldn't have a clue.

A clerical contingent will certainly not be enough to satisfy many unionists about decommissioning. The Steven Spielberg act the DUP dreams about won't happen.

But it's difficult to see how the party can settle for anything less than a Kodak moment given the level of grassroots' unionist distrust of the process. So just how handy are Willie and Pat with a camera . . ?

November 19, 2004

This article appears in the November 18, 2004 edition of the News Letter.