BISHOP Emeritus of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh has added his voice to the debate raging over ‘Golfgate’, and raised concerns over a “vindictiveness” in Irish society.
The fall-out from a dinner attended by more than 80 members of the Oireachtas Golf Society generated international headlines and is the subject of a Garda investigation over apparent breaches of Covid-19 restrictions. After the event in Clifden, Deputy Dara Calleary stepped down from the Agriculture portfolio and gave up the deputy leadership of Fianna Fáil. Also sanctioned was Deputy Jerry Buttimer, who resigned as Leas Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.
Dr Michael Harty, a former Independent TD, issued an apology after attending. The Supreme Court has requested a report on the attendance at the event of former Attorney General, Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe. All the while, pressure intensified on Commissioner Phil Hogan, who announced his resignation a week after attending the dinner.
The event led to a huge outpouring of anger. National and local airwaves were inundated with people sharing stories of sacrifices, and the impact on family gathering, including funerals, as a result of the Covid restrictions.
Writing to The Irish Times, Dr Walsh expressed his own concerns.
“Might it be permissible for those of us who have not always been so diligent in our perfect obedience to the law to be just annoyed and disappointed at their serious breach of responsibility?” he asked. “And dare I suggest the possibility of a little forgiveness?”
“I am worried about the health of the nation,” Dr Walsh added, speaking to Clare FM. “I understand the annoyance, but I don’t believe we should be hounding people out of their jobs.”
The Ennis resident said that he understand the anger of those including front-line workers, but said that a more “proportionate” response was preferable.
“We all make mistakes,” he said. “Most of the people went [to the dinner] unknowingly without any intention of breaking rules and found themselves in a situation not of their making.” He added that the best sanction would be to, “Apologise, express regret and don’t repeat”.
“We’re gone very short of forgiveness in our society today. There is a vindictiveness about the demands for severe punishment. I worry about that and the lack of forgiveness. People in leadership should be conscious of their obligations. I don’t expect them to be perfect. They are flawed like ourselves if they make a wrong call, own up, apologies and we should be a bit forgiving.
“I think forgiveness is a basic Christian value. It’s a basic human value. I worry about a society which is too keen on serious punishment of everyone who doesn’t do exactly what’s in the law.
“There is an underlying anger in our society at the moment. Forgiveness is a very important human value and a society that is not in any way forgiving, it’s a serious flaw.”