Enda Kenny outlined his vision for a very different Ireland during a Dáil Éireann speech in July 2011 when responding to the publication of the Cloyne Report. Like earlier reports—Murphy, Ryan, and Ferns—Cloyne echoed the well established narrative of clerical child sex abuse and confirmed the Catholic hierarchy’s failure to report such abuse to the civic authorities. The Bishop in question observed the dictates of the Vatican rather than the law of the land.
But Cloyne was of a different order too. It detailed how the Vatican deliberately organized to frustrate an Irish State-commissioned inquiry into clerical child sex abuse as recently as 2009. In an unprecedented move, Mr. Kenny, a devout Catholic, entered the Dáil chamber, the seat of political power in Ireland, and called the Vatican to account. And, he declared the primacy of the State’s standards, not those of the Catholic Church, in all matters related to the protection of Ireland’s children.The “Cloyne speech” represents a watershed moment because it encapsulates a new vision for the nation: This is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities; of proper civic order; where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version, of a particular kind of ‘morality,’ will no longer be tolerated or ignored.That “version … of morality” for too long masked a history of collective abdication of responsibility for Ireland’s most vulnerable citizens. It fed the open secret of abuse, abandonment and neglect in Irish society as nation and State looked the other way and chose not to see what we all knew happened in our midst. Mr. Kenny drew a line under that history.