Bernadette McAliskey & Daonlathas/Democracy

(Béarla thíos | English below)

Bhí an seans agam arís inniu éisteacht le duine de laochra na tíre seo: Bernadette McAliskey. In éineacht léi bhí Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin ón Dream Dearg agus Thapelo Mohapi ón Shack Dwellers Movement san Afraic Theas, agus iad uilig ann ar mhaithe le seoladh suímh nua idirlín dírithe ar ghníomhaithe agus gluaiseachtaí sóisialta.

Ní léiriú é ar an bheirt eile a labhair go cumhachtach agus Thapelo Mohapi ach go háirithe a thug léargas ar na bagairtí tromchúiseacha a bhfuil os comhair gníomhaithe san Afraic Theas – ní léiriú orthu é nuair a deirim go bhfuil ábaltacht faoi leith ag Bernadette McAliskey seomra a chur faoi gheasa. Ach a mhalairt ón Spailpín Fánach; ní chuireann sí mearbhall ar an lucht éisteachta. In áit sin, is caint í a spreagann gnímh. Is caint í a chothaíonn misneach is uchtach. Is caint í a chuireann deacrachtaí agus feallanna agus cruálacht an domhain i do láthair ar bhealach nach súnn do chuid láidreachta ach a chuireann leis. Agus is tallann ar leith sin.

I measc na gcéadta rud úsáideach a dúirt sí, rinne sí tagairt don daonlathas agus an tábhacht leis an ‘trédhearcacht’ dó. Chuir sé mé ag smaoineamh fán méid a dúirt an iar-Uachtarán, Máire Mhic Giolla Íosa agus an iar-Aire i Rialtas na hÉireann, Dermot Aherne, ar na mallaibh.

Ar eagla nach bhfaca an scéal, thug an bheirt úd le fios go ndearna Stát Rúnaí don Vatacáin iarracht, i 2003 agus 2004, cosaint a fháil don Eaglais i gcomhthéacs na bhfiosrúchán ar dhroch-íde a bhí i lár an aonaigh ag an am. D’iarr an Stát Rúnaí seo, Cairdinéil Sodano, go mbeadh cáipéisí “plúchta” agus go mbeadh cosaint dlíthúil tugtha don Eaglais i gcásanna cúirte.

Go cinnte, an cheist is tábhachtaí chun a lua anseo ná an Eaglais féin agus an dóigh a phlé siad – agus a phléann go fóill – le mí-úsáid institiúideach. Ach tá pointe níos leithne ar fiú a dhéanamh chomh maith, pointe a bhaineann go dlúth leis an daonlathas: cé acu a mbíonn sé de chead acu bheith ar an eolas fá rudaí, agus cad chuige?

Cad chuige go bhfuil de cheart ag Máire Mhic Giolla Íosa agus Dermot Aherne an scéal sin a sceitheadh anois? Cad chuige go nglacann sé breis is cúig mbliana dhéag leis an eolas sin theacht chun solais? Agus oifigigh an Vatacáin os a gcomhair ar lorg cuidiú le droch-íde institiúideach a chur faoi cheilt, cad chuige nach ritheann siad na bhaile láithreach ag cáineadh na n-iarrachtaí sin go glórmhar? Cé a dhéanann an cinneadh faoi na rudaí sin a bhfuil sé de leas againn cluinstin fúthu agus na rudaí sin nach bhfuil? Cad chuige a rinneadh an cinneadh gan íospartaigh, a d’fhulaing faoi droch-íde an eaglais, a chur ar an eolas faoin scéal seo?

Fud an domhain is féidir le lucht cumhachta dul i mbun gnó – gnó a théann i bhfeidhm ar na milliúin daoine – taobh thiar de dhoirse druidte. Agus ansin tá smacht acu ar an méid a sceithtear amach i measc an phobail – sa chás go sceitheann siad aon rud. Ach mar a dúirt Bernadette McAliskey inniu, níl aon daonlathas ann gan trédhearcacht.

Go ginearálta, más rud é go mbeidh tionchar ag cinneadh a dhéanfar, ba chóir go mbeadh deis agat do chuid a rá faoin chinneadh sin. In éagmais an méid sin, cibé rud atá agat ní ionann é agus an daonlathas. Sa lá atá inniu ann, is annamh a bhfuil fios againn faoi na cinntí seo, gan trácht fiú amháin ar chead cainte a bheith againn orthu.


I had the chance again today to listen to one of this place’s legends: Bernadette McAliskey. Beside her were Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin from An Dream Dearg and Thapelo Mohapi from the Shack Dwellers movement in South Africa, and they were all there to help launch a new website directed at activists and social movements.

It’s no reflection on the other two who spoke powerfully, and Thapelo Mohapi especially who outlined the serious threats facing activists in South Africa on a daily basis – it’s no reflection on them when I say that Bernadette McAliskey has a stand-out ability bewitch a room. But unlike the Pied Piper; she doesn’t leave her listeners in a daze. Instead, hers is talk that inspires action. Talk that gives confidence. Talk that lays out before you all the world’s hardship and evil and cruelty in a way that doesn’t sap your strength but adds to it. And that is a special talent.

Among the many useful things that she said, she touched on the importance of transparency for democracy. It made me think about all that the previous Irish President, Mary McAleese, and the ex-cabinet Minister in the Irish Government, Dermot Aherne, have said recently.

For those that missed the story, both of the aforementioned have made it known this week that the Secretary of State of the Vatican, in 2003 and 2004, tried to negotiate protection for the Irish Government for the Church, in the context of the investigations into abuse that were ongoing at the time. Cardinal Sodano requested that documents would be kept secret and that the church would be indemnified against any legal action.

Obviously the most important point here is the Church and how they have dealt and continue to deal with institutional abuse. But there’s a wider point too about democracy, and something key to democracy: who gets to know what and why.

Why is it that Mary McAleese and Dermot Aherne get to ‘reveal’ this now? Why is it that it takes roughly 15 years for this information to come to light? Why, when faced by Vatican officials asking them to help cover up institutional abuse, don’t they immediately run back home and announce and denounce these approaches for all to hear? Who decides what’s in our interest to be told and what isn’t? Why was it decided that victims of church abuse would not need to be told this piece of information?

All over the world people in power can conduct their dealings behind closed doors – dealings that effect millions of people – and can then control what they release into the public. That is, if they even release anything at all. Listened to Bernadette McAliskey talk about some of these things today, about how there’s no democracy without transparency – great stuff as usual.

In general, if a decision made will have an effect on your life, you ought to have a say in it. Anything less is not democracy. Right now we often don’t even know about these decisions, nevermind having a say in them.

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