No Political Party in Ireland Promotes Catholic Values

Ben Conroy struggles to find a political party that he can support as an engaged Catholic.


What about others? The Labour party is dead-set on legalising the atrocity that is abortion, and has mostly abandoned its commitment to social justice. Fine Gael is engaged in the arguably even worse action of providing Labour with political cover for abortion legislation, and their austerity-driven economic policies are balancing our budget on the backs of the poor.

I had given thought to doing the unthinkable and voting for Fianna Fáil, the party responsible for the disastrous mismanagement of our economy that created so much human suffering, and the pro-life votes by their grassroots at the last Ard Fheis encouraged me. But the support of many in the party leadership for the Government’s abortion bill, however well-intentioned, makes that a non-runner too. Sinn Féin and the various left-wing groups are similarly on the wrong side of the greatest human rights issue of our age.

While I can happily support individual politicians, there is – frustratingly – currently no organised political platform for those with views like mine. So when I heard about a public meeting called ‘Alternatives For Ireland’, organised by Declan Ganley and Professor Ray Kinsella of UCD, I was curious enough to go along.

I was very impressed by much of what I heard. Prof. Ray Kinsella set out a consistent and joined-up vision of an economy that worked for the common good, not the bottom line. He showed how destructive austerity and abortion were both ultimately driven by a lack of love, and kept using a word that we’ve heard far too little in recent years – solidarity. His talk was a breath of fresh air.

There was also a lot to like in Declan Ganley’s talk. Ganley is exploring the possibility of setting up a political party that could give voice to the “moderate pro-life constituency” in this country, and on abortion his sincerity and commitment to life was undoutable.

But his economic message was more mixed. Along with great ideas like establishing a basic income and making bankruptcy less arduous were some very bad ones, like a flat tax that would eventually see the very richest taxed at the same rate as those earning the minimum wage. When I asked him about it he defended himself well, arguing that it’s immoral for the Government to take away too large a share of your income, however wealthy you are.

What this ignores is that the capitalist freedom to take risks in order to make money is all well and good, but unchecked it leads to the worship of wealth above all else, creating pressures that only add to the demand for contraception and abortion. It also give insufficient weight to our obligations to one another, and the way that large gaps between rich and poor undermine solidarity.

Let’s listen to the recent words of Pope Francis on our current economic system: “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

His first words are key to this whole question – the unjust distribution of goods. A Catholic may be able to use prudential judgment in deciding how best to realise the preferential option for the poor, but the only way they can support unregulated capitalism is if they believe that the free market gives everybody precisely the wage they deserve; that Leonardo DiCaprio’s work really is thousands of times more important than that of a street cleaner; that Bill Gates has brought millions of times more benefit to the world than a special needs assistant.

If you don’t believe this, and if you don’t believe that everyone stuck in crippling poverty is there by their own fault, then some level of redistribution of wealth is morally necessary.

There’s a yawning gap in Irish politics (indeed, world politics) that can only be filled by a party that is broadly communitarian – concerned more with the common good than with individual choice in both social and economic issues. Ganley and Kinsella’s plans have a lot of potential; but if we are to have a political alternative in this country, let’s have it be something genuinely different.