My husband has many prejudices but one he reiterates often is his dislike of ‘Holy Joes’. Displays of piousness or prominence in religious services are directly proportional to the amount of wrongdoing these people are involved in, seems to be his firm belief. Not a common view I would have thought but one shared very recently by our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dáil Eireann when he accused Deputy Micheál Martin of being like a priest ‘sinning behind the alter’. Of course, in my wisdom I counter, that you cannot judge people by their appearance but if you must judge them, do so by their actions.
And so I must speak out about our Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan. Ms Madigan is a person who it appears would say more than her prayers and was reported in the Irish Independent early this year that she ‘stepped up to say mass’ in her local church. A veritable ‘Holy Josepha’.
Ms Madigan had come to prominence not through any achievements of her Department but though her leadership role in Fine Gael’s campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment, a constitutional amendment ensuring the equal right to life of an unborn child. During this campaign Ms Madigan described the ban on abortion in Ireland as ‘barbaric’. The Catholic Church of which she remains a member, as well as many other Christian Churches and other religious and moral traditions, teaches that the direct and intentional killing of innocent human life at any stage from conception to death, is gravely wrong. Our Minister does not even step ‘behind the alter’ during her involvement in this campaign.
And then there was ‘Swinggate’, the fraudulent insurance claim by a colleague of Ms Madigan for compensation following a fall from a swing by Ms Maria Bailey TD which she was unable to hold on to because her hands were full. Ms Madigan processed Ms Bailey’s application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. Ms Bailey sought compensation of €20,000 for injuries so minor that she ran a 10km race three weeks later in less than 54 mins, claiming the Dean Hotel was liable because she was not properly supervised on the swing. Ms Madigan had no difficulty in processing Ms Bailey’s application for compensation knowing that fraudulent claims causing spiralling insurance costs result in unaffordable insurance and the closure of many businesses throughout the country.
But then we have her third sin, the most hypocritical of Ms Madigan’s actions. The third ‘woe of hypocrisy’ or criticism of this politician illustrates most clearly the difference between her inner and out moral states.
I work in Addiction Services, with addicts dispensing medicines and tablets to people some of whom live chaotic lives, most of whom have other mental and physical health problems. There but for the grace of God, my family and my health, go I. This work is pleasant and the vast majority of service users are polite and easy to deal with. While some may argue the values of Methadone maintenance treatment and other opioid replacement therapies, the service we provide brings some stability to the lives of the service users and connects them to other support services.
Earlier this year we were informed that the clinic in Baggott Street hospital was moving to a health centre in Ballinteer, Ms Josepha Madigan’s constituency. The addiction service provides healthcare to women, women who are living in the locality or from the surrounding area. It was later announced that this move would not be happening, in fact that the Addiction clinic would not be relocating as there was no suitable alternative.
Ms Madigan issued a newsletter style document to her constituents in July 2019 sharing her pleasure in announcing ‘that following her representations to the Dept of Health the methadone clinic would not be developed, elaborating on its ‘unsuitability because many local residents use the health centre’. Later Ms Madigan stated she did not approve of the wording of the letter.
We got the message anyway Ms Josepha Madigan. You don’t care about women requiring healthcare by way of addiction services. Local pregnant women requiring methadone maintenance treatment will just have to travel. Abortion for healthy women on healthy babies will be facilitated in your constituency but to get addiction treatment for pregnant women you have go elsewhere. It was never about women, it was never about healthcare, it was never about dignity or compassion. It was always only about abortion.
Celebrating the removal of a healthcare service for a vulnerable patient group will be considered as unforgivable by many. Perhaps a visit to the confessional is in order before Ms Madigan steps up on the alter again.