Updated: 14/03/17 : 05:28:14
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Casey did more good than his critics

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

FORTY FIVE years to the day -- and almost to the hour -- passed from when I first met Dr Eamon Casey.

It was Monday Monday March 13th 1972, a family funeral in north Sligo.

It was the first of many such occasions he attended, weddings and funerals more private than that first occasion.

The geography of those mountains and sea along north Sligo must have always seemed a sort of homecoming.

Not quite Kerry but not quite bad either, something to satiate the soul of a public man and a private sinner.

In such measure, he was, then, like all the rest of us really, so.

It was (later) in journalism that I came to really like and respect the returned emigrant.

Best Work

His best work, arguably, was in those early years as a curate in the city of London, over half a century ago.

MPs observed and fondly remember his work with the homeless and setting up Shelter.

Slobbering Visit

My own 'coming down' on his side relates to his public role with Trocaire here in this State.

President Michael D Higgins cited much the same chapters in his fine tribute last night.

Both had spoken so publicly, too, against the slobbering State visit here of Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, in June 1984.

Trump has yet a long road to go to match the servility and silence of the White House back then.....or Dáil Éireann.

The context of the States' silence was churchmen assassinated during Mass, nuns raped, murdered and dumped in Latin and Central America. 

Risk Taker

Speaking out and demonstrating, Dr Casey must surely have dreaded a day American spooks might massage his 'secret' out into the mainstream.

There were occasions I rang him from national newspapers and 'left a message.'

He always returned calls, polite, informative but did he ever wonder this might the moment when push comes to shove?

To more than one set of eyes Dr Casey gave an impression of someone trying to stay ahead, of something.

On the road, he was certainly like Speedy Gonzales on speed; no Irish bishop burned as much tyre as he took the two sides of the road.

He was a speedster, some would say a risky risk-taker. He was fond of alcohol, too, and singsongs. 

The emigrant who came home to be elevated had, in his sixties, to emigrate again -- humbled this time, even humiliated. 

The alpaca, native to South America, almost enwraps that Irish word for sin, peaca.

In was in that mountainy clime that he mixed with Mexicans in, for example, the historic colonial capital city of Cuernavaca.

Mexico itself has always been a kind refuge for the Irish. We helped them, at their low points, helped them fight their wars with American aggressors.

National Stage

From South America, we saw that rambling, shambolic Sunday Independent apologia for journalism, not the first time, not the first subject either.

In South America, Veronica Guerin came onto the national stage for the first time when she interviewed Dr Casey there for The Sunday Business Post.

The Sindo liked what they saw, too, and Guerin was to burn into the nation's memory cells in the work she subsequently did for their pages.

In later life, memory cells became central for Dr Casey as he faced dementia and mini strokes. 

Meanwhile, there became a context for the Catholic Church in Ireland after 1991.

The (smaller) sin of being a bishop who fell in love and fathered a secret child wasn't what pulled down the temple.

In Russian literature the question is posed as to whether you (only) measure a tree when it has been felled.

Warm, Generous

The man drew friendships on the Irish spectrum as far apart as Thomas Flynn, the Bishop of Achonry, and Conor Cruise O'Brien, scourge of cant, crozier and Church.

In life and death, the message of Dr Casey's family and his son Peter has been warm and generous, as always.

To his enemies, as always: The message is that Eamon Casey did more good than his critics ever did.