Welcome to Special Features on the Democrat Online.


Activist Allanah Maurer gave the new Save Loch Lomond mascot MacNulty his first outing at the  recent Hope Over Fear rally in Glasgow’s George Square. READ MORE


Never apologise. Never explain. This appears to be the strategy of West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl. READ MORE


Over 65 years ago, a Sister of Charity – who had fairly recently come to Clydebank to help with the work of the Parish and school – was approached by a gentleman with advanced throat cancer who told her that he had nowhere to go. READ MORE


Since November, almost 80,000 people have been displaced in north-east Nigeria. Health centres and schools have been burned and two young aid workers were murdered. READ MORE


My Life in Libraries

Dumbarton and Alexandria libraries and a trailer for the film Bookshop.

By Willy Maley

Maley Willy 1I came to reading through my parents, neither of whom went to university. My father was a manual labourer who brought books home by the bagful from the book exchange at Gilmorehill Bookshop, near Glasgow University. My mother worked in the kitchens in Baird Hall, Strathclyde University’s student hall of residence on Sauchiehall Street. I was introduced at an early age to the treasures in our local library. I still remember the green borrowing card and being sent by my mother to collect a copy of Dombey and Son, a title I can almost taste in that memory of being six or seven years old and going to “get some Dickens”. Years later I discovered Dickens had visited my squalid Dickensian housing estate in the north of Glasgow in December 1847 when it was the site of a mansion house. What novel was being serialized at the time? Dombey and Son.

I was introduced at an early age to the treasures in our local library.

Borrowing Books

My father, a bricklayer in his latter years, knew we needed more than bread. The bricks and mortar of my education was a weekly ritual, him saying ‘You’ve a week to finish those, then they’re going back to the bookshop’. Books were to be borrowed and loaned, not owned. Read and retained in the mind, not the home. Daddy would present us with a pile of paperbacks and give us a week to read them before they went back to the store. You learn to read pretty fast if the hefty volume in your hands is about to be snatched away. There was no genre or form or period or subject matter that wasn’t thrown in, and certainly no censorship. While I was read books about Blighty by Blyton at school, at home I was immersed in the collected works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, Louisa M. Alcott, Mario Puzo, Herbert Kastle, Jane Austen, J. T. Edson, Zane Grey, Brian Aldiss, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Burgess and many more. It was a broad-based introduction to literature, or at least to the novel – junk, pulp, classic and cult. I led a double life, like most readers, especially, I would say, working-class readers, excluded from the very world into which I routinely fled. Books spoke to me, but in voices that were not my own.

Books spoke to me, but in voices that were not my own.

After School

With insufficient qualifications for university, I worked for three years after leaving school – first for Strathclyde Regional Council Roads Department and then for the Royal Bank of Scotland. When I started my third job with Glasgow City Libraries, I went through the catalogue sampling every available style, including the mandatory Mills & Boon with the sex scene on page 117. Because of this background I’ve never observed any hierarchy between the canonical and the contemporary, the prestigious and the popular. Stephen King’s The Stand is among my favourite books; I recommend his On Writing(2000) to creative writing students, and I’ve supervised a PhD on his fiction.

Alasdair Gray’s Lanark (1981) was a landmark book for me. It was published the year I started Strathclyde University, and was definitely a door-opener for me, and an eye-opener too. Here was someone with a stunningly surreal imagination and a sensuous sense of self and streetlife. When I read in Lanark that nobody notices Glasgow because ‘nobody imagines living there’ I knew it was the truth, not fiction. ‘Imaginatively Glasgow,’ writes Gray, ‘exists as a music-hall song and a few bad novels. That’s all we’ve given to the world outside. It’s all we’ve given to ourselves’. With these words a door swung open. Here was literature and history in the making. Glasgow was imagining itself, engaging in dialogue, talking to itself. The city was finding a voice.

After sitting an extra Higher at night classes, I went to the University of Strathclyde in 1981 to study Librarianship, but failed the course in first year with a mark of 38%. I was given the choice of continuing with my studies at Strathclyde in different subjects and resigning from Glasgow City Libraries, or giving up University altogether and coming back into the libraries as an unqualified library assistant. The library was the best job I’d ever had – it still is – and although I’d only had three jobs, I knew a good thing when I saw it. Then again, my marks for other subjects were good, so after some soul-searching – never found one – I quit my job and continued with English Literature and Politics.

I think reading books is an excellent way to forget your position and to learn to talk back to your supposed betters. It worked for me.

The Future of Libraries

I’ve had close connections with libraries since then. I worked briefly in Jesus College Library at Cambridge University while I was a PhD student there in the late 1980s, and later as writer-in-residence in Milton Library and Royston Library in Glasgow. I’ve had an ongoing connection with the Mitchell Library through Glasgow’s Literary Festival, Aye, Write! Last year I went back to Springburn Library, the first branch I worked in, but the building was closed and its purpose had changed. I think it’s a pity that books and libraries, which were so vital to my own development, seem to be struggling for a breathing-space in the digital age, and the age of austerity. As an academic I still handle books every day, but it’s like they’ve become precious again; not in the way they were to me as a child, but as privileged things that are starting to be out of reach, like they were before public libraries came along. One thing I’d like to see preserved in a future independent Scotland is our great library heritage, damaged by cuts in recent years. In Dickens’s Dombey and Son, Mr Dombey says: ‘I am far from being friendly … to what is called by persons of levelling sentiments, general education. But it is necessary that the inferior classes should continue to be taught to know their position, and to conduct themselves properly.’ I think reading books is an excellent way to forget your position and to learn to talk back to your supposed betters. It worked for me.

Willy Maley

Willy Maley is Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow.


Melanie_Ward3.jpg 3

Helensburgh woman Melanie with displaced children in Nigeria.

Since November, almost 80,000 people have been displaced in north-east Nigeria. Health centres and schools have been burned and two young aid workers were murdered.

At Teacher’s Village camp in Maiduguri, there are now 28,000 people in a camp, which is meant to have a maximum capacity of 5,000. Humanitarian agencies are struggling to provide adequate shelter, water and sanitation.

Besides relief, what people need most is protection. Protection means keeping people safe or helping them recover from harm. It also involves helping them realise their rights and preserve their dignity.

More than 10,000 children have been separated from their families. Six in ten women and adolescent girls have experienced gender-based violence. Many also lack the legal documentation necessary to access essential services.

In Teacher’s Village, DFID’s partners are distributing menstrual hygiene items. This not only helps to preserve dignity but enables women and girls to leave the home to access services.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest country by population with the world’s 10th largest proven oil reserves and 9th largest natural gas reserves – yet around a third of Nigerians (60million) live below the poverty line.

DFID is helping save lives in the north-east by providing essential items (such as food) or the means to buy them; agricultural support so people can grow their own food; and education so children do not miss out during the crisis and Nigeria’s economic growth does not suffer in the long term

DFID is using the UK’s technical expertise to influence Nigeria on security and justice issues, to help end the conflict.

The UK will help Nigeria reduce poverty and improve the lives of its citizens by: improving health services; increasing access to clean water and sanitation; and increasing access to modern family planning methods.

The UK will also help the government of Nigeria carry out ambitious reforms to grow and diversify its economy so it can tackle growth and development issues without international assistance. DFID support will include: expert advice and investment on infrastructure development; delivering training to increase people’s skills enabling them to find jobs; creating jobs to improve incomes; tackling corruption; and making Nigeria an easier country to do business with.

Helping Nigeria to reduce its dependency on oil and gas will not only benefit Nigeria, it will also provide greater commercial opportunities for UK investment in sectors such as financial services, agricultural technology and education.

UK aid will also tackle human trafficking and crime that directly affects the UK, including providing more economic opportunities for Nigerians within their own country.

Combined with our political, military, intelligence and trade engagement, UK aid contributes towards a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous Nigeria. This in turn prevents migration and reduces the risk of violent extremism.



A chiel amongst us takin’ notes

By Bill Heaney

I spent the last couple of days in Ayr last week in the wake of the annual birthday celebrations for Rabbie Burns, the national bard.

And the death of Kilmarnock-born Hugh McIlvanney, the greatest sportswriter of the modern era.

I was in the Sheriff Court listening to a dispute between a smallholder and a businessman about an allegedly unpaid debt.

Since the case is still to be disposed of, I will leave the details of that alone lest I tread on the toes of the Sheriff who is dealing with this troubling matter.

I was impressed by the Sheriff’s common touch and even more impressed afterwards when I googled him to discovered the remarkable fact that he had once been the lead guitar player in a rock band.

There are not many of them about.

No be-wigged, overbearing public schoolboy this man with a posh accent parading his knowledge of Scots law before perceived lesser mortals from an elevated bench above the well of the court.

The final witness in the case also impressed me. He was a portly, balding wee man who spoke with the bluff Ayrshire/South Lanarkshire accent we have come to associate with farmers from that part of the world.

“I have been in business for 50 years,” he told the Sheriff, “and I have never been inside a court in my puff.”

The Sheriff and most of the rest of us in the court – there were no more than a handful of people in the public benches – smiled and took to this witness immediately.

It was when he said he was 73 years old that I was startled. He was hale and hearty, still working and proud of it.

The witness was the same age as myself, although I have portrayed and perceived myself for years now as 35 years of age looking out and 95 looking in.

And I feel I have much still to offer in my own trade as a journalist.

My own unremarkable career started more than 50 years ago in the Ayr of Burns Statue Square, the imposing Station Hotel and a busy High Street, full of shops and pubs (the taxi driver reminded me there had been 14 pubs there at one time and now only one, inevitably named the Tam O’Shanter, remained).

Ayr had gone from the horses to the dogs.

I loved Ayr. It was the county town with a prosperous southern farming and agricultural hinterland; thriving fishing communities and tiny harbours along its western shore; coal mining pits; heavy engineering factories; BMK Carpets and Johnny Walker’s whisky distillery to the north and east.

Ayr itself really was a “Toon o’ Honest Men and Bonnie Lasses”, especially for me the latter who were supplemented by the many beautiful young women who made up the cabin crews of the planes, which, in those days, flew in and out of Prestwick international airport carrying world famous celebrities from politics and show business, such as President Dwight D Eisenhower, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

These people were newsworthy merely by their presence – albeit often all too brief presence – in Scotland.

All human life was there, from Ayr Racecourse to the keeps and castles and the toffs who occupied them and owned and trained the thoroughbreds.

And Troon and Turnberry had the best golf courses in the world, where Hogan, Palmer and Peter Thomson strutted their stuff over hallowed links to win the coveted claret jug that went with the Open Championship.

I wasn’t big on Burns though, despite the fact that my father had won the prize for the best recitation of the Bard’s poetry at West Bridgend Primary School in Dumbarton in 1932.

Literary brothers, William (left) and Hugh McIlvanney.

McIlvanney however was my hero. If there was anyone whose achievements I wanted to emulate they were his.

Hugh McIlvanney has started out in journalism at the age of 15 in the Kilmarnock Standard office and quickly moved on from there to the Scottish Daily Express in Ayr.

The Express had five editions in those days and offices in all the airts and pairts of Scotland.

Newspapers were highly respected and extremely successful and I was proud to have been allocated by James Ballantyne, the chief reporter, the desk occupied by Hugh McIlvanney.

He had sat there ten years before I stepped off the bus from Waterloo Street to Prestwick to move into digs and take up my post as one of the two junior reporters in the Express office at 1 Kyle Street.

McIlvanney was a legend even then. He quickly gained his reputation as a reporter within a few months at the Express in both Glasgow and Ayr and was head-hunted by The Scotsman in Edinburgh, where he became a colleague of that other great Scottish sportswriter, John Rafferty.

Little did either of them expect then that when they were sent on an assignment to Wales to cover an international football match they would be swiftly re-directed by their news desks to cover the great tragedy that was the unfolding Aberfan disaster.

Accomplished professionals to their fingertips, their reporting outshone the work of Fleet Street’s finest who eventually descended on the scene of that historic tragedy.

Gerry Hassan, writing today in the Scottish Review, says the obituaries for McIlvanney over the weekend spoke volumes for the influence of the man, his writing and his humanity.

He wrote: “In amidst the powerful testimony of McIlvanney’ s prose and his care for detail, accuracy and the semi-colon, was a discernible lament for the passing of a now lost world.

“This centred on numerous areas: a golden age of journalism and long-form essays; a time when writers could get access to some of the greats and then get unguarded copy free from the constraints of PR advisers; and an age of working-class self-education and advancement without forgetting who you were and what was important.”

Hassan points out the fact that McIlvanney, unlike his novelist brother, William, went to junior secondary school and did not have a university education.

He added: “There is, in the fulsome tributes, an awareness that McIlvanney’s death, along with brother Willie in 2015, marks the final denouement of a past Scotland.

“This is a land in which working-class communities, through education and the social challenges people faced, created men and women with strength, purpose and a wider sense of responsibility.

“There is also the death of a certain kind of Scottish man.

“McIlvanney possessed an inner authority, certainty and moral compass – all of which informed his view of the world.

“He shared this with the likes of Jimmy Reid – communitarian, believing in solidarity, and being contemptuous of those who forgot their roots and the values which helped create them.”

Hassan writes: “This is how far we have fallen across Britain: arrogant, not that bright, nearly always privately-educated Oxbridge men are happy to dominate public life, with the media sounding off with an effortless belief in their self-importance on subjects they know little about.

“Brexit has been nirvana to such types, but it has been a long time brewing and is far removed from the deeply considered and reflective views and writing of the McIlvanneys.

“They had a quiet sense of who they were, and the responsibilities and expectations which came with being a public figure who had influence. They knew that their words mattered.

“They were driven by an understanding of right and wrong, in believing some things were just immoral and unethical such as stigmatising and demonising poor people, and felt there was no way this could be excused no matter which party was doing it.”

Hassan writes that the only other Scottish journalist to come close to McIlvanney was the late Ian Bell in the Herald. You may or may not agree with that.

He adds: “But if Hugh was, in the words of [his nephew] Liam, ‘the last of the big land animals’, this shows the long descent in Scottish journalism and intellectual life.

“Who are our moral guardians and guides today who will reflect back to us the collective stories we want to tell and ask us if that – in all honesty – is really us?

“There are voices who can speak to the public mood on a single issue, or for a fleeting moment, but perhaps voices such as Hugh McIlvanney are no longer possible.

“Where are those much-needed qualities in our public life? How do we encourage them to grow in, or return, to Scotland?

“Hugh, along with his brother, lifted us up. They took us to a higher plane where it was possible to discern the huge emotional, moral and philosophical issues that humanity faced. This has a particular Scottish story – but is a universal one.

“Look around the world. Look close to home. Look at your home town, your neighbourhood and your street. We owe it to Hugh and Willie and countless other brilliant working-class voices and talents of the past and present not to be quiet and to dare to point out the inadequacies and moral bankruptcies of so much of modern life.

“Daring to say enough is enough, in the corridors of power and polite society at home, and further afield. Now that would be a fitting tribute to Hugh and Willie, and one I am sure they would appreciate.”

Hassan’s tribute is a fine one, but I do not agree with his conclusions about this being the end of an era.

I agree that newspapers are on their deathbed and I fear they will never be revitalised.

That is entirely different, however, from journalism being in the departure lounge, waiting to die.

We haven’t gone away you know.

There are still reporters around who are not prepared to cross over to the dark side and take the PR industry’s shilling.

The “golden age of journalism and long-form essays; a time when writers could get access to some of the greats and then get unguarded copy free from the constraints of PR advisers” may well be almost gone.

And so too “the age of working-class self-education and advancement without forgetting who you were and what was important.”

There are still some of us in this mostly honourable trade who are striving to shake off the shackles of an increasingly secret Scotland.

To hold the Scottish government at every level to its commitment to open-ness and transparency.

The establishment is colluding in the demise of newspapers and redundancies of journalists. They are taking advantage of their training and skills and luring journalists into the halfway house of public relations.

Councils and the Scottish Government have ruined Scotland’s weekly and regional newspaper industry by withdrawing their lifeblood of advertising.

They have switched important public notices to websites, despite the fact that little more than 50 per cent of the population have access to them.

Their leisure and lifestyle ads go into “lite” glossy magazines which never criticise them.

They have turned to producing their own propaganda departments staffed with spin doctors who produce in-house newspapers and pamphlets in the manner of Pravda and the official newspapers of the Communist Party.

They cost council taxpayers unconscionable amounts of money. Here in poor-mouthed and cash-strapped West Dunbartonshire that amounts to around £400,000 a year.

It involves not co-operating with or answering legitimate questions from bona fide journalists whose publications are not members of IPSO, a virtually unknown organisation, which replaced the lame duck Press Council in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.

The Scottish Government, of which the SNP has been in control over the past ten years, sees no problem endorsing The National or the SNP’s online propaganda vehicle, Wings Over Scotland.

It refuses however to adhere to long-standing custom and practice, which is to answer questions and e-mail media releases to The Democrat, which is independent of any political party.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was amongst the great and the good who came out to pay tribute to Hugh McIlvanney as one of the working-class voices and talents who refused to be quiet and dared to point out the inadequacies of politicians and business people and the “moral bankruptcies of so much of modern life”.

What is currently happening with the SNP’s boycotting and banning of The Democrat in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute (the SNP MP only and not the Council) is part of that moral bankruptcy.

But let Nicola Sturgeon and the Docherty-Hughes’s, O’Hara’s and McColl’s of this world be assured that The Democrat will not be gagged.

We will continue to even-handedly report and investigate the failures and inadequacies of local and national politics no matter what unworthy and illegal sanctions they take against us.

Otherwise, how would the councillors and officials and most importantly, the electorate, in the words of the poet Robert Burns, ever be able to see themselves as others see them?


Story and picture by Bill Heaney

Pope Phoenix 6Be careful of the words you use today for tomorrow you may have to eat them.

Those were the words on a poster in the vestibule at the old Carmelite Convent in Kirktonhill, Dumbarton.

Now the message that gossip is poisonous has been underscored by  Pope Francis, pictured left, who has denounced gossip as a form of “terrorism” and has warned the faithful against telling lies.

Francis explored the Catholic commandment against “bearing false witness” during his weekly general audience.

“We all live by communicating, and we are continuously on the edge between truth and lies,” he said in a chilly St Peter’s Square.

He repeated his complaint about gossip, saying it “kills because the tongue kills like a knife”.

He warned: “Gossipers are terrorists because with their tongues they drop a bomb and then leave, and the bomb they drop destroys reputations everywhere.

“Don’t forget: to gossip is to kill.”

Francis frequently rails against gossip in the Catholic Church and has urged the media in particular to guard against “fake news” and seek the truth.

Charities urge oil companies to tackle climate change


The Church of Scotland has sent an open letter to the chairmen of three oil companies, asking them to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Christian Aid Scotland and Eco Congregation Scotland joined the Church in calling on BP, Shell and Total to make the radical changes needed to keep global warming as far below 2 °C as possible.

Richard Frazer, Convener of Church and Society Council, said:  “Oil companies have a critical role in deciding whether or not global warming stays within targets set by the Paris agreement of 2015.

“That agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5 °C if possible and at most 2 °C.  I am now writing to ask them to tell us if they are committed to limit global warming and if so what are they going to do?”

In early October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that urgent changes are necessary to achieve climate targets and avoid the dangers of drought, extreme heat, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Sally Foster Fulton Head of Christian Aid Scotland said:  “Right now, climate change is eroding life for the most vulnerable in our world and robbing our children of a future. Right now is the only time we have and time is running out. Christian Aid Scotland stands together with the Church of Scotland and Eco-congregations Scotland in asking oil and gas companies to be leaders and solution-makers, moving intentionally and quickly to a fossil-free future.”

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, one of the principal causes of global warming. The Paris Climate Agreement urges a transition toward low carbon energy sources.

Mary Sweetland Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland said:  “We need to drastically reduce our use of carbon fuels as the recent IPCC report shows.  Big oil companies promised to clean up their act to meet the Paris commitments; now we need to know how quickly they are changing.”

The Church of Scotland sent the letters to the BP, Shell and Total, because it currently invests in those companies and seeks their co-operation in ending the harms of climate change.

Commissioners at the 2018 General Assembly voiced serious concerns about climate change and instructed the Church and Society Council to open discussions with the oil companies and press them to align their business plans with the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 IPCC report on global Warming of 1.5 °C can be found here http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/


Dublin could be the new Damascus for a Church in need of significant reform

On the eve of the Papal Visit to Dublin, our Ireland correspondent, GREGORY DILLON,  writes about how much the country has changed since the last visit by the now sainted Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Martin archbishop 6Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – immersed in intense phase of clerical abuse scandal. Picture by Bill Heaney

Martin’s the man to map out the route to the future

After 14 years as skipper of the battered barque of St Patrick in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese, a no longer young Diarmuid Martin, 73, is grappling stoically with the supreme navigational test of his pastoral rule and diplomatic acumen.

As host to Pope Francis at the lightning-struck ninth World Meeting of Families (WMOF) from August 21-26, Archbishop Martin finds himself immersed in a new and more intense phase of the clerical child abuse crisis erupting from across the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean.

Ever since Francis, three years ago, assigned him to host pilgrims from 116 countries, Martin has planned a programme to educate, edify and entertain attendees.

Although knowing that Francis would be unable to replicate the turnout for Pope John Paul II in September 1979, Martin announced his intention of making the 2018 WMOF inclusive of all shades of church opinion – traditional Adam and Eve families and families composed of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBTS).

Yet, in the 2015 referendum which voted for gay marriage and in the recent reversal of the 1983 Pro Life amendment, Martin has been on the losing side. This prompted him to regret that “the Irish Church is widely regarded with indifference and as having a marginal role in the formation of culture here.” Clearly, Ireland has not respected John Paul’s injunction to remain ‘Semper fidelis – Always faithful’.

However, it was just in the past few weeks that Captain Martin had to don his life-jacket when it became clear that this second  ever papal visit was being blown off course by a tsunami driven by fresh discoveries of a systematic cover-up by the Vatican and national church leaderships in Latin America, Australia, England and America. In particular, the documentation of how at least 301 children were abused by their pastors in six dioceses of Pennsylvania over 70 years has caused Martin the same revulsion that the abuse files in Dublin did.

Diarmuid Mary Martin was born in Dublin in April 1945 with dark brown eyes which he inherited from his mother, Mary. He grew up in working class Inchicore but was educated by the Marists at the Marian College in Ballsbridge. In a biography, his older brother, journalist Seamus, recalled how at home he served as altar boy to Diarmuid playing priest and using a lemon as host.

Pope Francis portraitThis was a prelude to Diarmuid studying for the priesthood at the Holy Cross College in Clonliffe and UCD. He was ordained in May 1969 by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who sent him to Rome for further studies at the Gregorian University. On his return to Dublin in 1974, he spent two regimented years as a an assistant priest in Cabinteely before the most important career break came his way. In 1975, he was sent back to Rome by McQuaid’s successor, Archbishop Dermot Ryan, to be a tourist guide for Irish pilgrims visiting the Eternal City during a Holy Year. This brought him to the attention of Roman officials working for Pope Paul VI, who spotted his potential talent. Naturally, Ryan approved his recruitment into the papal civil service.

For the next three decades Diarmuid climbed the Vatican career ladder.  From 1988 to 2001 he was undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In 1991 he was “raised to the purple” as Titular Bishop of Glendalough (while still residing in Rome). In 2001 he ascended to the prestigious post of Holy See Permanent Envoy to the United Nations, based in Geneva and commuting to New York.

Life changed dramatically for him in 2003, however, when Pope John Paul nominated him as coadjutor archbishop of Dublin with right of succession. After an apprentice year as assistant to the unpopular Cardinal Desmond Connell, Martin took over in April 2004 with a papal mandate to clean-up the Irish Church after decades of hidden sexual abuse of minors by clergy that devastated the self-pitying Connell’s 19-year reign.

No sooner had Martin settled into the job in the vast grounds of ‘the Palace’ in Drumcondra than he realised how lowly weekly religious attendance had plummeted, especially in inner city parishes. He also frequently asked why so many young people leave Catholic schools with little understanding of their faith, many of them abandoning religious practice.

In his WMOF capacity Martin is cast in a role akin to that of a director of an ecclesiastical Edinburgh Festival orchestrating celebrity highlights and fringe shows. Operating from Clonliffe with a full-time staff of 58 under Father Tim Bartlett, Anne Griffin and Brenda Drumm, Martin immersed himself in preparatory detail, as is his wont. In addition to briefing trips to Rome, he co-chaired a steering group with Martin Fraser, Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.

With an army of volunteers, they have arranged for Francis to meet President Michael Higgins, the Taoiseach, Government ministers, other public representatives and accredited ambassadors in Dublin Castle; a three-day Pastoral Congress in the RDS, a Festival of Families at a concert on Saturday August 25 in Croke Park, where  the main attraction will be Andrea Bocelli, a devout Catholic; a lightening sweep to Knock Shrine in Co Mayo on Sunday 26 ahead of his return to Dublin for Mass in the Phoenix Park.

This is Martin’s biggest performance yet on the world stage. Renowned for his polished prose in headline-making press releases and his selection of the mot juste to sugar bitter pills, Martin knows only too well that what Francis says in Ireland, particularly on August 26, will make or break the visit. He has been subjected to an avalanche of advice from outspokenly serious players and from a clamorous media.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International, recalled how a year after John Paul came, he, then a 13-year old devout youth, was raped in Wexford by the notorious Father Sean Fortune. Writing an open letter in the Irish Times, O’Gorman told the Pope of the pain inflicted by the bestial Fortune on his own family. “Tell the truth. Admit the cover-up. Please,” O’Gorman pleaded.

Similarly, Francis’s fellow Jesuit, Peter McVerry, noted bluntly: “The success of your visit will depend on the challenge which you present to the Irish church to move from maintenance mode to mission to the marginalised.”

In the Sunday Business Post, Michael McDowell, politician, senior counsel and religion commentator, noted the holding in Dublin of an alternative conference staged by intransigent Catholics under the banner of Lumen Fidei: its main speaker is American Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of four prelates who accused Francis of teaching heresy in his recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitiae, The Joy of Love.

Martin has accumulated good will among the laity, especially women, and from victims themselves for his zero tolerance approach to abuse allegations. For this he has incurred unpopularity with many clergy. Often in broadcast interviews he has worn his heart on his sleeves, for instance, agreeing with radio personality Miriam O’Callaghan about the presence of misogyny in the church, and calling for more women in leadership positions, though he does not believe he will see female priests in his lifetime.

On other occasions he became upset as he recounted telling the pope about the discovery of the bodies of the Tuam babies. And who forgets his account of how he threw diocesan files in disgust on the floor when reading the allegations he inherited from Cardinal Connell.

But the biggest jolt for Martin came from Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland and supporter of his more open style of Catholicism. This shock was delivered via Patsy McGarry, the Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent. McGarry reported how McAleese refused to discuss a suggestion by then Vatican secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in November 2003, of an agreement with Ireland that it would not access church documents.

This story prompted former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, to contact McGarry with the follow-up story that Sodano, in private discussion with him at the Vatican in November 2004, suggested Ireland might indemnify the Catholic Church against legal actions for compensation by clerical child sexual-abuse survivors.

The Rome based journalist Paddy Agnew recalled how the now 90-year old Sodano, in February 2005, asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, if the US Government could stop a class-action before a district court in Louisville, Kentucky. This case was seeking to make the Vatican financially responsible for the sexual abuse of minors. “This is not how the US system of justice works”, the she hissed ever so delicately, years ahead of the final bill costing the American church more than $3bn.

A clearly shaken Martin told the indefatigable McGarry that he “was not informed of any such interventions at that time by either side”. However, Martin was closer to this Vatican ruse than he knew when he spoke at a conference at the Pontifical Irish College in May 2006 on the occasion of Connell’s eightieth birthday. Significantly, this conference was attended by Sodano, who spoke of the deep respect he always had “for our dear Cardinal Connell”. In response, Connell acknowledged how deeply indebted he was to Sodano for his advice and encouragement. A forthcoming biography will reveal that Sodano told Connell about his plans to secure the Irish church’s silence, and that Connell backed Sodano on this cover-up policy. This would explain how Connell later attempted to stop Martin handing over 74,000 documents to the Murphy Commission on abuse of minors.

At this juncture, you might be excused for concluding that this papal visit is “inopportune”.  One Belfast priest even called on Francis to cancel his trip to Ireland. Leo Varadakar, Ireland’s first openly gay Taoiseach, says he will advise Francis to address the abuse issue. Mary McAleese is angry that Francis did not reply to a letter she sent him earlier this year but will welcome him in Dublin Castle. Minister Joanna Madigan says she will press for the ordination of women.

Martin has been resolute in his selection as a speaker of American Jesuit priest James Martin, who has received “oceans of hate and threats” on account of his sympathetic attitude to LGBTS.

Martin is determined that Francis address the issue with renewed realism while in Dublin. Many people resent the taxpayer paying half of an expected 36-million-euro bill for a visit lasting only 36 hours.

Among the most durable legacies of 1979 is of Canon James Horan, once an assistant priest in St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, who turned Knock Shrine into the Lourdes of Ireland. Among the most embarrassing is the picture of the now disgraced crowd-cheerers at the Galway youth Mass in Ballybrit racecourse: Bishop Eamonn Casey and Father Michael Cleary.

Martin is intent on persuading Francis to listen to survivors, especially after the withdrawal from the visit of Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington DC. However, even before Francis boarded his flight for Ireland, he issued a letter on Monday August 20 recognising once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse and pledging “no effort will be spared to prevent abuse and its cover up”. This failed to produce a plan of action.

In Dublin, Martin will ensure that Francis meets victims. Francis needs Diarmuid more than he needs Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who has overall responsibility for the visit. He also needs to heed the words of Ian Elliott, the former chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, who dismissed the papal record on child protection as “a dismal failure” in contrast to Martin’s successful approach.

Martin Archbishop“Just one Irish bishop stood out,” Elliott said. “Without a shadow of a doubt that would be Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, pictured left, because he had the courage of his convictions. He was prepared to be unpopular, he was prepared to say ‘this is not right, it should not be happening’, and he was a very strong person and I admired him. We’d have rows, we wouldn’t always be on the same page but I respected him because I always felt he had the best interests of children and young people at heart and that he could not in his conscience come to terms with the fact that any member of the clergy could abuse a young person. He was outstanding.”  Indeed, in his homily on Sunday in the Pro-Cathedral, Martin gave Francis sound advice when he pointed out that “the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors is too small and not robust enough”.  Survivor Marie Collins who quit the Commission because the curia was blocking its work would say Amen to that.

With the Dublin event likely to be followed by more resignations by church leaders, especially in America, Francis would be inspired if he puts Martin in charge of this commission.

With Martin having recently hinted that he may offer his resignation sooner than April 2020 when he becomes 75. Francis may act quickly to shift him to Rome and give him a red hat at the next consistory possibly next February.  Diarmuid Martin’s destiny may be to rescue Francis’s papacy and the universal church from the worldwide scourge of clerical child abuse.

Once elevated to the cardinalate, Martin would be well placed to become the first Irish pope at the next conclave to succeed Francis as the churchman who rid the church of the paedophile snakes from the hierarchical and clerical ranks.

Irish flag

Pope urges bishops to go beyond apologising to clerical abuse victims

Pope Francis 5

Special report by Bill Heaney

Poor Pope Francis. The Holy Father keeps trying to make a meaningful gesture to victims for the many scandalous instances of clerical child abuse across the world and is consistently thwarted by fundamentalist prelates and priests who fudge this major issue.

I once raised the matter of clerical child abuse with the disgraced, now departed, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was educated in Dumbarton and was himself exposed as an abuser of young men in training for the priesthood.

The cardinal, who had just presented me with a medal for assisting the Church with media work during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland, became vexed at my “impertinence” and said this matter had nothing to do with Scotland.

It was an Irish thing, he maintained.

That’s what most of our bishops do – keep shifting the blame and emphasising that this happened elsewhere on a much greater scale than it did here.

What Cardinal O’Brien, pictured below left,  would not admit to me or to anyone else, including himself, was that, like the Catholic Church itself, clerical and religious abuse was universal.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

It was no surprise to many that the Church in Scotland said the Pope’s letter on the eve of his visit to Ireland had been prompted by yet another scandal in the United States and made no reference to Scotland’s own troubles in this regard.  It began: “Following recent scandalous revelations in the United States of child abuse by clergy, the Holy Father Francis has written an important letter addressed to each and every one of us. Please read and reflect on the Pope’s words.”

It was as though this scandalous abuse of clerical power and access to children and young people had nothing at all to do with Scotland.

It was the classic Scottish response of “it wisnae us” or “a big boy did it and ran away”.

Sadly, thanks to media reports from the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry conducted by High Court judge Lady Smith in Edinburgh.

And by the McLellan Report, produced at the behest of the Catholic Church itself by a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, we know different.

Although that report was widely condemned as “a whitewash”.

The abuse scandal has much to do with Scotland – and with Ireland, of course, which is where most Scottish Catholics look to when they take an interest in their history and their religious heritage.

And this is why there will be a significant representation from the Catholic Church in Scotland in Dublin and at the Marian Shrine in Knock, County Mayo, when Pope Francis arrives in Ireland.

This was where his predecessor Saint Pope John Paul II kissed the ground when his plane touched down 40 years ago.

Cushley 1Bishop Joseph Toal, of Motherwell and formerly of Argyll, will be in Dublin for the Pope’s visit, as will Archbishop Leo Cushley, of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and Bishop John Keenan, of Paisley Diocese. All three are pictured on this page.

 A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “About 70 people are travelling with parish and school groups from the diocese of Motherwell.”

Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, are the main places to which most Irish people emigrated following the Great Irish Famine of 1843.

James Handley, aka Brother Clare of the Marist Order in Glasgow, wrote The Irish in Scotland which tells us the vast percentage of them were Catholic.

And that their children inherited and embraced their religion here, establishing parishes and building churches and schools.

There are more churches in Scotland named after St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, than any other saint on the liturgical calendar.

Pope Francis will tell the descendants of these Scots/Irish and the thousands of indigenous Irish pilgrims present: “I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.

“Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike.

“Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.

“The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

Pope Francis referred to the recent, widely publicised scandal of clerical abuse in Boston in the United States.

Keenan John BishopHe wrote: “In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years.

“Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims.

“We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away.

“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.

“But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity.”

Pope Francis added: “With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

He aligned himself with Pope Benedict, the now retired pontiff, who “identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency!”

Pope Francis added: “The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way…

“If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.”

Catholics everywhere have been summoned to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption which was “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness, he said.  “Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness.”

He addToal Joseph Bishop at Red Massed: “I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. “We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.” Prayer and penance will help, said the Pope, who invited Catholics to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting which would waken their conscience and “arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says never again to every form of abuse.”

Clericalism was wrong. – “Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today.

“To say NO to abuse is to say an emphatic NO to all forms of clericalism.”

And he re-emphasised the Second Vatican Council decision that the Church was not the clergy but the people in the pews.

It was up to the people and not the priests to “generate the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.”

The Pope advocated fasting and prayer to which he hoped would lead to sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion – “It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.”

Scottish Catholics were reticent when it came to reacting to Pope Francis’s letter posted on Facebook by the Catholic Media Office on Facebook.

Brian McKenna from Dumbarton said: “Most of the abuse cases do not involve children but older boys due to the lax application, particularly in the USA, on the guidelines for candidates to seminaries and homosexual tendencies, especially if they are deep seated.”

Michael Scotty McAndrews said: “I have recently made comments on other threads on the Archdiocese page with regards sexual abuse by religious in Scotland, the response to such was somewhat disappointing.

“One individual went as far as indicating I was not part of the church and ought to be ashamed for raising such issues.

Another implied my accusations were unjustified and were nothing more than allegations even though the perpetrators of the abuse I mentioned are currently detained in a Scottish prison.

“One individual even went as far as commenting that I was merely slinging mud and that I was of a particular mind-set.

“One well-known name from Glasgow even went as far as asking for God to forgive me for having a go at the Church, implying that I was no longer a welcome member of such.

“The letter from Pope Francis goes some way to addressing these issues, however when the abused are being told to shut up and go away by leading lights of the Catholic Church in Glasgow then I fear we have a very long way to go before this situation will ever be resolved.”

The Pennsylvania grand jury report published last week in the US, found more than 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children.

Irish journalist Una Mullaly wrote: “When an information booklet and road closure map came through my letterbox detailing the papal visit to Dublin city centre and the Phoenix Park, I thought about loyalty, the loyalty of the crowds of Catholics who will rally and gather when the pope comes to Ireland this weekend.

“You can’t pull the scales from people’s eyes, they have to fall themselves, and for those who will celebrate the leader of the Catholic Church, those scales, presumably, remain intact.

“It may be nice to think of the papal visit and its ancillary events as celebrations of faith, but they are celebrations and endorsements of an organisation, the hierarchy of which continues to put the defence of the institution ahead of the interests of victims of clerical child abuse.

“When the scale of the abuse of children became known in Ireland, many people lost their loyalty. They stopped going to Mass.

“They may have held on to their faith in a personal way that no longer intersected with the organisation of the Catholic Church.

“Many others hung on in there, and defend their association with Catholicism in Ireland using the acrobatics of cognitive dissonance with caveats galore: that there are good priests (no one says there aren’t); that there were a few bad apples (as opposed to a terrifyingly large number who relied on the shady tactics of cover-ups that came from the highest levels of the church’s organisation); that personal faith is different to the structures of a religious organisation (but cannot reconcile leaving the Catholic Church and joining another Christian church instead) …

“It’s not enough that enlightened Catholics merely think about what victims of the Church’s reign of abuse went through

“On that last point, a reasonable counter is to argue why should people abandon their religion because of the actions of others?

“Fair enough. But how many current lay Catholics have made protests beyond just thinking the abuse scandals were awful?

“How many have marched demanding the outstanding redress money?

“How many have written to senior clergy asking for accountability for the church’s actions?  The answer is not enough.

Papal Visit -- a large number of local people were in the crowd at Bellahouston in Glasgow.Members of the Catholic Church in Dumbarton who attended the Papal Mass during Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland. Picture by Bill Heaney

“Many people talk about separating their faith from the organisation, and their religion from the hierarchy, but it’s a messy dance.  If you are a practising Catholic in Ireland, the church is your organisation.

“It is, we’re often told, the sum of its people. So Irish Catholics have to own that. That’s your team. Those are your guys. As a member of the church, that’s your space to hold. What are you really loyal to?

“Often, pointing this out is labelled “unfair”. But there is a difference between being unfair and just being hard to hear.

“Because there is an embattled defensiveness at the core of the Catholic Church in Ireland and its congregation, it’s almost impossible to enter this fray without being deferential from the outset.

“The Catholic Church is apparently entitled to discriminate, demean, marginalise and exclude, but everyone else must always go in softly, softly when pointing this out.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s enough that this weekend enlightened Catholics merely think about what victims of the Catholic Church’s reign of abuse, violence, manipulation and cover-ups in this country and elsewhere went through and continue to go through. Is it not deeds that matter more than words? “

Abuse is toxic. Corruption is toxic. But loyalty can be toxic too.

Dublin’s archbishop Diarmuid Martin says Pope Francis needs a better team around him and has expressed the hope that he will “speak frankly about our past but also about our future”.

The Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors is too small and not robust enough, he says, and it is “not getting its teeth into where it should be”.

Archbishop Martin added: “This “puts all the pressure back on the Pope. It puts him almost in an impossible situation.”

Structures that permit or facilitate abuse must be “broken down and broken down forever”, he said.

Religious organisations and charities still refusing to admit past crimes

By Marion Scott, Sunday Post

Laura Connor says religious organisations and charities are still refusing to admit past crimes, despite the pledges of politicians to seek truth and justice for victims.

Ms Connor said: “Despite the signals coming from our parliament, and politicians making it abundantly clear they want justice for thousands of historic abuse victims who have been suffering for decades, not a single charity, church or local authority has said it will settle claims.

“It’s hugely disappointing they appear determined to drag cases through our civil court system, something that not only takes many years but is expensive and causes more stress and upset for those who have already suffered too much.

“We have cases where the evidence is overwhelming, there are numerous victims who can corroborate claims, but still we have no organisation prepared to end the agony for the children whose lives were destroyed by what happened under their watch.

“Politicians took the final step of removing the three-year time bar which prevented victims making claims as they recognised it was time for Scotland’s historic abuse victims to get the justice they deserve for the horror they suffered.

“The organisations involved need to grow up and face their responsibilities and allow survivors to get on with what is left of their lives.”

Ms Connor, who heads up the specialist abuse survivors department of Thompsons Solicitors, said the firm has hundreds of cases across Scotland, with claims of sexual and physical abuse, children being raped, beaten and traumatised.

As a mother herself, she finds it “extremely difficult” not to get angry at the way victims were treated, vilified and ignored.

She said: “Every day I hear about the most sickening abuses imaginable. These things happened to children who were already the most vulnerable in our society.

“They were failed. They are still being failed. And it has to stop.”

Ms Connor questions who really benefits from continuing to “drag cases through court”, demanding victims revisit the abuse they suffered time and again.

She said: “When there is good evidence, who does it benefit to drag victims through the lengthy court process.

“That can take years. It’s costly. It’s cruel.

“The legal system moves so slowly.

“Despite the damning evidence against them, those organisations involved still seem determined to defend the indefensible instead of settling quickly, allowing victims to move on.

“We have evidence of priests and nuns accused of the most dreadful sexual and physical abuse.

“As a mother, it’s hard to hear these dreadful things. But these survivors have incredible strength and resilience, so many are inspirational people who have overcome the worst things imaginable.

“I’m proud to say my job is to ensure they get justice for what happened to them.

“I believe it is time for those organisations to take a long hard look at how they want society to view them in future.

“They must consider the true cost. No amount of money can replace a lost childhood, but an apology and commitment to repair the damage can change broken lives.

“People heal. They can go on. But they need justice to be able to do that.”

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, established in 2015, has been extended and no longer has to report within four years. It has heard harrowing evidence from witnesses claiming to have been abused at a number of care homes and institutions, including Smyllum orphanage in Lanarkshire where, we (The Sunday Post) revealed last year, up to 400 children were buried in an unmarked grave.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has agreed the inquiry should report “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

But, survivors say, they not only want justice now, many need justice now.

Ms Connor said: “Survivors had an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.

“They weren’t able to control what happened to them, and for years they weren’t able control whether they got justice.

“Now the law has changed, we are urging survivors to ‘Take Justice’, to take control and move forward.

“This is a unique moment. They need to grasp it. Too many have passed away without seeing the justice they deserved.

“We had the public apology from the Government, then years of nothing happening until the law was changed, removing the time bar.

“The abuse inquiry was instigated, but so many came forward, there is no end in sight. We do not know if or when there will be a compensation scheme set up by government, or who will be responsible.

“The time is right for us to face up to what was correctly called Scotland’s shame, and do what we can to repair the damage as quickly as possible, with care and compassion for those we failed.”

Orangemen and Catholics singing from the same hymn sheet over Walks

Bill Heaney’s Notebook column

Thursday, 19 July 2018

We’re all in this together. That’s a quote we hear and see daily from politicians and we take it with the proverbial pinch of salt.

But when we hear it – or something tantamount to it – from two organisations as disparate as the Catholic Church and the Orange Order, we prick up our ears and listen. Or we should do.

The Church and the Orange Lodge are being unusually conciliatory on the wake of the sectarian attack on Canon Tom White outside St Alphonsus Church at the Barras market in Glasgow.

The Church was the only one of many organisations contacted by the media which didn’t call for a ban on these poisonous parades.

Their spokesperson, after consultation one would expect with Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, suggested these walks should be re-routed away from churches.

They would be acceptable if the marching bands were kept well clear of the House of God.

There was no mention however of a prayer to that same God to help the rest of us who would have to put up with the sound of flutes and Lambeg drums passing by our front door. Or stopping us crossing the street.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, after a predictable “it wisnae us” or “a big boy did it and ran away” denial, issued this remarkably diplomatic statement: “We welcome the opportunity to continue positive dialogue with Glasgow City Council, the police, and other stakeholders regarding future parades.”

Puffing out his chest and adjusting his sash, no doubt, the spokesman added: “”We should be looking forward, not back, and our lodges therefore took the decision to postpone the parade due to take place this Saturday, therefore allowing some additional time over those discussions, which would give everyone the opportunity to look at matters from a fresh, forward thinking perspective.

“The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland fully supports this decision.”

What is it that is happening here then?

It seems clear that both these fundamentalist organisations have come to realise, if only a little and late in the day, that they need all the friends they can get.

They are not popular, their numbers are dwindling and they are considered by many not to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Morris Father Mark.jpg 2What must it have felt like then for the Orangemen to be called out by Nicola Sturgeon?

And told by the First Minister to take a leaf out of the book of Pride, the LGBT group, when it comes to organising marches through the streets of our towns and cities.

This must have stuck in the craw of the leaders of both church and lodge, not least since it focussed on Pride.

This is one of the very few things they can find common ground on.

Both church and lodge believe Pride should be banned and that all homosexual activity is not only unacceptable but sinful.

Evidence of this is the Church’s stance on homosexuality underscored by that sad incident in Glasgow in the past few days.

This was the holding of a rosary recitation in his church by Glasgow Caledonian University chaplain, Father Mark Morris, to apologise for the Pride march, which he claimed was an insult to God.

The university moved swiftly to distance themselves from Father Morris and his attitude to gay people’s rights to march or marry as they please.

They showed the priest the door and told him not to come back after the summer holidays.

As for the Catholic Church, one is often left wondering what century they are living in.

Sex between consenting adult males is no longer a crime. Gay marriage has become commonplace.

Families are opting for non-religious funerals for their loved ones.

Children are no longer being baptised but named in secular services.

There are gay priests in the Archdiocese of Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland.

And in Ireland, mother church of the Catholic Church in Scotland, where more churches are dedicated to St Patrick than St Andrew, things ain’t wot they used to be.

If Catholic Ireland is a culture of obedience to a male hierarchy, it is indeed over – and has been for some time – and this is being replicated in Scotland.

The recent referendum on abortion in Ireland produced for the church leadership something much worse than defiance: mere indifference.

Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote: “The bishops issued pastoral letters, but few people read them and fewer still took their exhortations to heart.

“Nobody even bothered to rail against the bishops – the hierarchy is not worth anger any more.

“It is not even clear that the most faithful and orthodox Catholics look to the bishops for leadership on political questions rather than to media figures …

“But is that all that Catholic Ireland ever meant – the power of an authoritarian institution?”

The church’s power in Ireland was copied here in Scotland with the influx of immigrants over a century from 1843 to 1950 and had some very particular foundations.

There was the long endurance of a popular religious identity that, very unusually in Europe, defied the rule that subjects should follow the faith of their rulers.

Catholics were given the right to their own schools and eventually these produced young men and women who were university educated and became teachers, doctors and lawyers.

And, importantly, politicians emerged who were elected to parliament and local government.

Some members of the Church of Scotland became so concerned about the rising influence of Irish immigrants that a motion was moved at the General Assembly in Edinburgh to have them all sent home.

The church’s power had some very particular foundations. Oppression had made it the locus of endurance and defiance.

Irish nationalism, in spite of its republican and non-sectarian rhetoric, effectively fused Catholic and patriotic forms of self-assertion.

That spread to Scotland where third and fourth generation Irish people here became more Irish than the Irish themselves.

This manifested itself in church attendance and the support of certain football clubs.

Emigration made the universality of Catholic ritual – you could go to the same Mass in Baillieston as in Ballymote – a guarantor of personal and communal continuity in a broken society.

Whereas in other countries it was factory life that “civilised” people, teaching them how to turn up on time and control their bodies, in Scotland, as in Ireland, this process was largely managed by church attendance.

These factors gave the church power over collective identity and sexuality, especially the sexuality of women.

O’Toole says: “What we have to consider, though, is not that it was often brutally enforced but that this brutality was deemed necessary. You don’t have to enforce something if you’re fully confident of its strength.”

Priests patrolled their parishes to deter young couples of different faiths going out together. Rigid censorship had to be imposed – some books and newspapers were advised against – to keep forbidden images and unorthodox thoughts out of the minds of the faithful.

The church’s strictures were deeply embedded in a culture of conformity and respectability. It controlled education and took a close interest in healthcare.

It made its presence felt, lobbying politicians and reminding them that it had very real influence on elections via the so-called Catholic vote.

They drove home Catholic teaching on divorce, contraception and health from the pulpit and in the classrooms.

So-called “mixed marriages” between Protestants and Catholics were not accommodated in Catholic churches and Catholics were forbidden to attend funerals in Protestant churches. Cremation was not an option for Catholics, only burial.

In Ireland, church and state collaborated in a reign of terror imposed by incarcerating an astonishing one per cent of the entire population in industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, mother-and-baby homes and mental hospitals.

Scotland again mirrored this with its Catholic approved schools (St John’s, Bishopbriggs), mother and baby homes (Sacred Heart, Bishopton) and children’s homes (Nazareth House), where cruelty and abuse took place.

McLellan 1Details of this are only now emerging from evidence given to Lady Smith’s Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and the McLellan Commission Report on abuse in the Catholic Church in Scotland.

In 1950, when this kind of Catholic Ireland was at its height, the church there ran 51 industrial schools in which 6,000 children were held in conditions that O’Toole says can reasonably be compared to slavery.

He added: “Some of this vast abuse of power can be explained by sheer overkill: tyrants, after all, tend towards paranoia. But some of it may have come from a justified suspicion that, if they were let off the leash, the Irish faithful might be inclined to stray.”

The spectre of emigrants “falling away from the faith” in the fleshpots of Scotland, England and America haunted the church because it had some substance.

The acclaimed novelist John McGahern reported the reaction of a neighbour to whom he explained that he did not go to Mass because, as an unbeliever, he would feel a hypocrite: “But, sure, none of us believe . . . We go to see all the other hypocrites!”

Hypocrites is probably too strong a word, says O’Toole. Hypocrisy involves saying one thing and doing another. In the real, underlying Irish Catholicism, the gap between saying and doing was not so wide. It was wriggle room. Devotion was generally sincere.

The church’s practices, as McGahern pointed out, provided colour in an often dreary world. The Stations of the Cross and the Corpus Christi processions were the theatre of the countryside.

The Redemptorist priests, with their blood-curdling sermons, were “evaluated as performers and appreciated like horror novels” and their “missions” took place in Scotland and Ireland.

The larger-than-life parish clergy, cut from the same cloth as their seminarian classmates who came to Scotland and staffed parishes from Selkirk to Shetland, were – “from a line of swaggering, confident men who dominated field and market and whose only culture was cunning, money and brute force.”

Clergy and bishops were looked up to. Families were very proud to have a priest or a nun in the family: The Catholic theologian Donal Dorr has written of the emergence of a “privileged clerical caste”.

The poet Patrick Kavanagh tells how in Dublin people genuflected on the pavements when the limousine of the notorious Archbishop John Charles McQuaid passed through the city centre.

The “foreign missions”, with their exotic tales and assumptions of cultural superiority, created the illusion of a “spiritual empire”. They were big in Scotland, where children brought pennies to school for mission charities and “the black babies”.

Even the sprayed-on odour of sanctity, the desire to be holier-than-thou (and especially holier than England) that culminated in the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, which prohibited abortion, functioned as a kind of compensation culture.

God may have made Ireland uninhabitable for so many of its citizens but he blessed the remnants with divine self-righteousness, says O’Toole..

Yet however sincerely felt most of this was, it was never quite as simple as it seemed. Emigration itself was the ultimate in wriggle-room, but even at home there was no uniform conformity.

How, for example, could Catholic schools and hospitals function if the married female teachers and nurses were doing their duty and having a baby a year?

The legal affairs correspondent of The Irish Times gave the answer in April 1970: “The pill is not described as a contraceptive in presentation by manufacturers for import to Ireland. It is imported under the title of ‘cycle regulator’.”

What happened in Ireland (and Scotland) is what was bound to happen in a society that was becoming economically and politically globalised and ever better educated.

The wriggling got stronger and faster, and it gradually shrugged off sexual shame, social conformism and deference to authority.

The remarkable thing, indeed, is not that the official Catholic Ireland died but that it lingered so long.

O’Toole says: “It is astonishing to think, for example, that it is less than a quarter of a century since a proposal to remove the ban on divorce – the most flagrantly Catholic provision in the [Irish] Constitution – was passed by a margin of fewer than 10,000 votes.

“If it had not been for the child abuse scandals, and the church’s catastrophic reaction to them, it is possible that this Catholic Ireland would have lasted much longer.

“As it is, this long goodbye has now finished, and it is hard to foresee a resurrection of the authoritarian, clericalist and patriarchal church.

“But Irish paganism was vanquished 1,500 years ago – and we are still tying rags to holy trees, drinking from holy wells and climbing sacred mountains.

“And where else would a community stunned by shock and grief go to light a candle against the darkness except to the place it has been going for centuries?”

He added: “We are left, certainly, with a religious rust belt: hulking half-empty churches, too cavernous to be heated in the winter, that were once literal powerhouses, factories that churned out dominance and consolation, shame and beauty, terror and pride, for the Irish and global markets.

“But this de-industrialised Irish Catholicism will gradually become what it has been before: local and artisanal.

“When, as there will be, there are women priests and bishops, when the clerical monarchy is no more, when the church belongs to its members rather than the other way around.

“When it lights candles against the darkness of all human troubles, Catholicism will take its place as one rich seam in a many-layered Irish culture.”

Latta Street Free High Church in Dumbarton celebrates 110th anniversaryLatta Street church

By Lairich Rig, architectural journalist

The Free Church building is on Latta Street. The architects were Halley & Neil, who won a competition to secure the work. Constructed began late in 1907, and the official opening was on Sunday the 7th of June 1908. The first minister of the church was E Marshall McFadden.

In the Disruption of 1843, the Dumbarton minister James Smith (and some elders with him) withdrew from the National Church of Scotland; a Free Church Congregation was then formed in Dumbarton. Their first church opened in November 1843. It was at NS39627531 on St Mary’s Way, north of the High Street; it could seat 600. In 1847, its church hall (at NS39607523, on the High Street) was opened as a school.

The NS4075 : Memorial of Daniel McAusland, who had been an elder of the Free Church congregation (and, before the Disruption, an elder of the Church of Scotland), was originally located beside the church on St Mary’s Way; more precisely, it stood in the open space immediately to the SSW of the church. That monument was moved, before 1890, to its present location near the main entrance of Dumbarton Cemetery.

Twenty years later, that church, now viewed as rickety and uncomfortable, was abandoned, but left standing, and a new one was built at the corner of Brewery Lane (which had formerly been known as the Boat Vennel) and the High Street. That building is the church that is (as of 2017) still standing at NS39417532, but which is now the Bell Centre, an indoor market. It opened in June 1864.

Part of the Free Church congregation later wished (for reasons that have not come down to us) to split off from the rest; they took over and demolished the original building on St Mary’s Way, and built a new church there. That building opened in 1874, and it became known as the Free North Church (it is now long gone). The Brewery Lane building became known as the Free High Church.

In 1900, the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church came together to form the United Free Church. However, a minority in the Free Church felt unable to enter into that union. Litigation (advancing from the civil courts to the House of Lords) eventually saw that minority granted the assets of the Free Church, which was more property than they could manage. In Dumbarton, they took over the Brewery Lane building, evicting the congregation that was using it. A special Church Commission set up by the Government later reversed the High Court’s decision; the Brewery Lane building was then returned to the United Free Church, leaving the minority, who had earlier evicted them, without a meeting place of their own.

That group therefore built a place of worship here on Latta Street. Above the entrance is carved “Free High Church 1843—1908”; the first date refers to the year of the Disruption, and the second to the year on which the church opened. As of 2017, it is the only Free Church in Dumbarton (as noted above, the building on Brewery Lane is now an indoor market, and the one on St Mary’s Way is long gone; that area has been extensively redeveloped).

The architects were Halley & Neil of Dumbarton, Clydebank and Glasgow (Hamilton Neil, and Charles James Halley). According to contemporary newspaper reports of the opening, those carrying out the rest of work were as follows:

Builder: Malcolm Stewart & Co., Glasgow; Joiners: G & D Newton, Glasgow; Plumber: John Stewart, Clydebank; Plasterer: Joseph Graydon, Glasgow; Slater: Peter Whyte & Co., Glasgow; Glazing: Stephen Adam, Glasgow, and J & G Menzies, Dumbarton; Heating: Hunter, McWilliam & Blair, Glasgow; Electric lighting: Allan, Arthur & Blair, Glasgow; Furniture & carpets: James Gardener & Sons, Glasgow; Fire-grate & tiles: R R Lawson, Dumbarton; Horticulturalist: Mr George Young, Dumbarton; Measurer: Mr Andrew Stewart, Glasgow; Bell: the gift of Mr & Mrs George Easdon.


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