Magill People - January 1978

The Armagh Palace Guard, Ian Paisley and the neglected homeless


Armagh Palace Guard

THE PERSONAL metamorphosis that comes over seemingly innocent men when they are appointed bishops is a continnuing source of wonder.

A case in point is Dr Tomas O'Fiaich, previously known as a hospitable and jovial president of Maynooth. Upon his appointment, Dr O'Fiaich expressed great humility facing a _ difficult task, joked with the assembled throng of pressmen, told how he skipped over diocesan boundaries as a youth to attend dances during Lent, and generally gave the impression that he would at least be an approachable, tolerable Archbishop of Armagh.

His record as the gauleiter of. Maynooth College was known. His dismissal from office of up to ten' lecturers while President, is a matter of record. But it was felt that he would make a more approachable figure than the late Cardinal Con way. The opposite has been the case.

That inexorable, if not ineffable process which affects the grey matter of the bishops has already taken its toll. Last November, Dr O'Fiaich chaired another meeting with the press, this time as Archbishop of Armagh just after the Conference of bishops at their autumn session had appointed him President of the Conference. At this press conference a new Dr O'Fiaich was revealed. He consistently refused to answer press questions on the future of Maynooth, which the bishops had discussed. And he proceeded to hand over all other questions, including one dealing with the future of the diocese of Ross, to two colleagues - Dr Cahal Daly andDr. Kevin McNamara.

Finally, a strangely silent and sullen O'Fiaich was goaded into saying that he could not interpret, as President, the reasons why his fellow bishops had ignored the staff poll when appointing two new Vice-Presidents of Maynooth. O'Fiaich Mark 2 then went on to deny he ever gave an interrview to the Belfast Telegraph which had been widely quoted. A Telegraph reporter had merely listened in on another interview he had given to a German newspaper. And then Dr O'Fiaich, once the darling of Religious Correspondents, denounced the Irish Press for misquoting the interview in which he had already been misquoted on a new Constitution for the 26 counties! Prudence is something bishops must have when speaking on political matters, he 0 bserved.

The word coming from the clergy of Armagh is that Dr O'Fiaich, if anything, will be less approachable than Cardinal Conway - who was at least capable of listening. But one is hardly surprised. Dr Ryan of Dublin predicted a more open rule on taking office. So too did Bishop Casey. So did Dr Kevin McNamara. So did Dr Edward Daly.

Ian Paisley's Trendy

FIGHTING Bill Craig for the East Belfast seat at the next Westminster election will be Peter Robinson, the DUP's neat and dapper General Secretary. Robinson was Bill Craig's campaign manager in the last Westminster election in October 1974, but now that the UUUC has split irrevocably and Bill Craig has gone awry, the DUP sees no alternative but to topple him.

When Robinson left Annaadale Grammar School at the age of 16, he joined the Protestant Unionist Party and the other Paisley group of the time, the Ulster Protestant Volunteers. Later he became a Free Presbyterian. Like so 'many of the Paisley men, for Robinson, politics and religion are all of a piece.

When the Protestant

Unionists became the DUP, Robinson became the General Secretary. The DUP, he says, is "the only party in Northhern Ireland which has a real determination to save the Union and - this is not a fashionable thing to sayestantism. "

He and his wife, Iris, run . the DUP headquarters which is adorned with carrtoons of Oliver Cromwell, big Ian and 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' posters.

Looking very much like a sodomite's dream, Robinson is 29 and could easily pass as a school boy. Good living has its benefits.

Although he says he knows of no Catholic loyallists, he swears that a lot of Catholics vote for the DUP. On the other hand, he beelieves that all Catholics will go to hell. The comforting crumb is that he believes all Protestants who are not 'born again' will go there as well. If, as is possible, he goes to Westminster, he will form a Godly and Protestant Trinnity with the Rev. Paisley and Robert Redford.

Neglected Poverty

Father Paul Byrne, has turned down an offer to become Director of the controversial Poverty Committee, currently under the temporary directorrship of the professional civil servant, Mr. Rory Hynes. His refusal comes as another blow to the EEC-funded commmittee which operates under the aegis of Mr. Charles Haughey, Minister for Social Welfare.

In the last year there have been several resignations by staff members charging that the Committee refused to tackle poverty in any radical

Fr. Paul Byrne way. Fr. Byrne spent weeks considering the offer but felt dissatisfied with the developpment and structure of the project. He has, instead, deecided to concentrate on orrganisa tiona I work within the Oblates and he has been apppointed deputy to the Oblate Provincial in Merrion Road Dublin, with special responnsibility for the Order's twentyythree parishes in Britain.

Fr. Byrne received an OBE in 1972 for his work as Direcctor of Shelter in London, durring which time, 50,000 homeeless were housed by that orrganisation. A native of Dublin, Fr. Byrne was offered the jo b in the combat poverty scheme with the personal sanction of Mr. Haughey. The post has been vacant for over a year and although the Commmittee will be receiving more than £500,000 from the EEC, it is doubtful that an accepttable Director will be readily found.