I went to Mass for the first time in ages a while ago. I genuinely cannot tell you the last time I went to Mass that wasn’t for Christmas, for a funeral or by accident. For international readers, particularly our American friends, I didn’t go to Massachusetts for random events throughout the years; Mass is the name for a Roman Catholic service, though a lot of Irish people use it to mean any religious/Christian service.
But yeah, I went to Mass. It was on in St. Mary’s of the Isle, a Dominican church on Pope’s Quay, across the river from the Opera House. I remember stories of my great-grandmother going there every day, with my mother being forced to bring her along. Despite this familial connection I had never been inside – in fact, I had never walked passed it. As I awaited my friend (who looks disturbingly similar to documentarian Louis Theroux) I took note of the building, which looks more like a Roman temple or a courthouse than a traditional Irish church, and desperately tried to remember the word for the flowery bit at the top of the columns.
The Mass was an important for another friend of ours, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend most of the time in the Mass trying to hide the signs of the horrible back-pain I was going through (don’t get old, kids) and trying to think of an editorial for this issue. As I walked out of the church I had it mostly written in my head; something about walking in the footsteps of people long-gone, and remembering to be aware of our surroundings and their histories. Then I saw them: tents.
There was a small patch of grass next to the church, and on the grass were tents. And it wasn’t for camping, people were living there. The homeless crisis in Cork has gotten to a point where charities don’t have more tents to give out, where people are dying in parks around the city having only been homeless for a few days. Ireland in 2017 is an Ireland where basic compassion seems to be an impossible ask. Ireland in 2017 is one where people in direct provision are not allowed to work, paid a pittance to live on and now potentially face eviction. Ireland in 2017 is not the Ireland we should want, the Ireland our ancestors dreamed of, so try make Ireland in 2017 one for all its people, not just the lucky few.