An Advocate For The Weaponry Of Peace In Northern Ireland

Posted: December 06, 1989

To those who gathered Thursday night at Holy Family College to honor him, Bishop Cahal B. Daly is a peacemaker.

To the Irish National Caucus, an American group that issued a press release blasting him for his visit to this country, he is a troublemaker.

Those conflicting views reflect life in civil war-torn Northern Ireland, a place where many Catholics and Protestants see right and wrong as black and white. Or perhaps green and orange.

"But there is no such thing as green tears or orange tears. There are only human tears," Bishop Daly told about 200 people Thursday after a reception and dinner at the college. "There are only tears, heartbreak and tragedy."

Bishop Daly, leader of the Roman Catholic diocese of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland, preaches "partnership, not polarization" for his homeland. His message is a denouncement of the infamous Irish Republican Army, which in turn denounces him.

But his message, spread by his speeches and books, earned him the President's Award from Holy Family College in Torresdale.

"This is a new award to be given to recognize special persons and special causes. It is given to Bishop Daly in recognition of humanitarian service on behalf of peace and justice," said Sister Francesca Onley, president of the

college, as she presented the medal, engraved with the school motto, "I am bound by my responsibilities."

The choice of Bishop Daly also pays tribute to a painful anniversary that was marked this summer in Northern Ireland.

Twenty years ago, 1,000 British troops were deployed there to quell rioting that resulted when the Catholic minority pressed for an end to the Protestant majority's domination over more than three centuries.

The troops, intended as a temporary peacekeeping force, have swelled to 10,000 and become the center of the "troubles" they were sent to solve. The army and local police are locked in a terrorist war with the IRA, which seeks to unite northern and southern Ireland.

More than 2,800 people - including 415 soldiers - have died in the decades of violence.

"Bishop Daly is a hero. He has spoken out against the violence," said former U.S. Rep. Charles F. Dougherty, who was host of the bishop's visit to Philadelphia and was master of ceremonies Thursday night.

When the slight, bespectacled, white-haired prelate took the podium, he said he was humbled and yet proud to receive the award.

Then, speaking in a style honed during 21 years as a professor of classics and philosophy at St. Malachy's College and then at his alma mater, Queens University in Belfast, he explained why "violence makes a just solution impossible" in Ireland.

The IRA, he said, has a campaign of assassination of judges, particularly Catholic judges. Some judges have been slain in cold blood, he said, and others have lost family members who were innocent bystanders.

Catholic police, too, are targeted for assassination, so they must be accompanied by British soldiers, he said.

The result, Bishop Daly said, has been "a tragic breakdown in law enforcement" and a huge increase in crime. Into the void, the IRA has introduced its version of a justice system, complete with mock trials and sentences that often involve inflicting nonfatal bullet wounds, he said.

"It is called 'kneecapping,' " Bishop Daly said. "I personally have visited in hospital some 20 young people punished this way. . . . These are some of the fruits of violence in our country."

Peace will not come until Catholics and Protestants, unionists and republicans seek "the true revolution," the cleric said. He sprinkled his description of that ideal with references to early American revolutionaries - Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington.

"The revolution which Ireland needs is to be fought in the minds of people, by the weapons of the spirit, by the strategies of peace," he said. ''Its aim should no longer be a struggle in arms but reconciliation between different Irish communities, different historic loyalties. Victory will not be coercion or suppression of one side or the other.

"Its victory will be the establishment of partnership between fellow Irish men and women, whom generations of misunderstanding have kept apart, but who, each in their own way, love the land of their birth and call it 'my land,' "

he said.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|