BACKGROUND : The Taoiseach was involved in dialogue with church leaders from the outset.
Enda Kenny told Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady he “greatly
appreciate[d] the assurance of your prayers” in response to a letter of
congratulations on his election in March 2011.
by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act show Brady wrote
to the Fine Gael leader the day after he became Taoiseach. “I wish you
every blessing as you assume your onerous office,” he said.
pray that you will be given the wisdom and courage to govern our country
well at this difficult time and the health and strength to carry out
faithfully your many challenging tasks,” Brady added.
Kenny replied: “I greatly appreciate the assurance of your prayers at this time.”
Taoiseach said he saw his new role “as seeking to provide leadership,
not only to my Government colleagues but in a broader sense to the
population as a whole as we move towards economic and social recovery”.
active civil society was “an important ingredient in that recovery”, he
said. “In that regard I propose to continue with the structured
dialogue with the churches, faith communities and philosophical bodies.”
He hoped to meet Brady in that context in the near future.
“structured dialogue” Kenny referred to was established by then
taoiseach Bertie Ahern in February 2007, when he put relations between
the State and religions on a formal footing for the first time at a
ceremony in Dublin Castle.
The process had its origins in the
Constitutional Treaty on Europe and was incorporated into the Lisbon
Treaty. It appeared to receive less attention when Brian Cowen was
taoiseach and the financial crisis dominated.
However, on May
19th, 2011, Kenny hosted a “plenary” meeting of the structured dialogue
process in his office, which was attended by Brady.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Minister for Justice Alan
Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.
Also present were senior representatives of the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, and the Methodist Church.
The Muslim, Jewish, Bah’ai and humanist communities were also represented.
July 2011 , Kenny asked then secretary general to the Government Dermot
McCarthy to send Brady a framework to guide the operation of the
Brady wrote back to McCarthy’s successor, Martin Fraser,
expressing commitment to the “open, transparent and respectful” dialogue
He said he hoped an early bilateral meeting between the Government and the Catholic Church could be arranged.
September, Fraser received a letter from Fr Timothy Bartlett from the
office of the president of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, “anxious to
know if we could agree at least provisional dates” for the bilateral.
Thursday, January 17th, was subsequently proposed but the meeting is
more likely to take place the following day.