In the aftermath of the Reform Alliance’s first National Conference in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday 25 Junaury 2014:
Firstly, congratulations on a wonderful conference – first in a series we hope. It was very well-organised, sharp and insightful. The hopes of your supporters were already high but this raised them even higher.
The media response was so bad it was good. The cynicism and the hostility which oozed from it were so obvious that it only made them look pathetic. It simply shows that they are, apparently incorrigibly, still locked in the closed circle of the group think of the pseudo-liberal establishment.
The reform movement which you have begun is, I think and hope, in the spirit of these paraphrased words which I encountered just this morning and which I immediately read in the context of the mission you have undertaken. This is the spirit which should be in the heart of any citizen who is properly conscious of his social responsibilities, and especially in the heart of anyone engaging actively in the public square. This man’s words are for us all when speaks of a
…mission of being in the heart of the people,…not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.
He writes of the need for us all to
… regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.
If this vision of the world and its people were to become a reality then might we not see
All around us … nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. But once we separate our work from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs, we stop being a people.
This, surely, is the key to integrity in public life which has been lost – not only in Ireland but in a great swathes of all Western democracies. If, on the contrary, he writes,
we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. Appearances notwithstanding, every person … deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life… We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!
These are in fact the words of the new “hero” of Eamon Gilmore and David Norris, none other than Pope Francis. You can read these in a secular context – almost, and certainly as Gilmore would – or you can read them in a religious context. It doesn’t matter. They ring true in both and I would say that for the vast majority of the people who came to support the Reform Alliance on Saturday they are at the heart of their hopes for a new politics in Ireland.
The practical policies and suggestions which were emerging on Saturday were interesting and valuable but they will only really be different from anything that has gone before if they are grounded in this spirit, in this vision of a mission of true service to our people. If not it will be back to what you have all thankfully set your faces against, a return to the “perpetuation of party politics”.