Columns, Education, Religion
May 20, 1998
MIKE BARNICLE IN THE BOSTON GLOBE: `Education is the true liberator’


May 20, 1998

DUNGANNON, Northern Ireland — He has stood over too many fresh graves filled with victims of a stale hatred that is quite pervasive but he manages to greet each day with a grin along with a hope that the children he teaches will somehow manage to prosper here in a small country where education might eventually prove to be a larger asset than a ballot measure that has all the politicians talking while the public on both sides — Catholic and Protestant — approach the election with sealed lips anda grim pessimism.

He is 66 years old, Monsignor Denis Faul is, and he is the principal of St. Patrick’s Academy, where 940 boys and 930 girls attend classes in a huge school set on a hillside alongside an awkward neighbor — a British Army post — as constant noise from helicopters interrupts geometry and geography. “They’d never get away with flying in and out over a Protestant school,” the monsignor said yesterday. “It’s just the way it is here.”

Denis Faul is not a shy man. He has specific views and certain opinions. He also has credentials among Catholics: For years, he said daily Mass for prisoners in the Maze prison and alienated the IRA when he was instrumental in ending the hunger strike nearly two decades ago.

“We had 10 already dead and they had had 20 more ready to die,” Faul recalled. “Enough was enough. Ireland doesn’t need any more funerals or any more martyrs. I helped get the lads to stop and the IRA never forgave me.

“Let me tell you what will happen Friday,” he declared. “It will be a 55 to 45 vote for the Yes position. Just enough to create chaos. People are truly torn about this because it’s an argument between the head and the heart.

“For most people on both sides — the majority in the middle — their heads tell them to stay with Great Britain because they’re afraid of losing their benefits, their free education, free health as well as what they get from the dole. But their heart tells them to vote with Dublin. And, of course, they’ve had “Moses” Mitchell and “Moses” Hume with their new commandments, but the real issues are not discussed.

“There is indeed a strong element of bigotry among Protestant leaders and the only way this will work is for everyone to take a vow to protect human life, get rid of the guns, and look after the victims. That will have to be done street by street, parish by parish, and town line by town line. And it will only succeed by bringing charity and a lot of forgiveness to the task.

“There are very long memories here,” he added. “People know that whenever Catholics have shown advances in acquiring legal rights, civil rights, poltical and economic rights, that’s when the assassinations begin again. The Protestants fear Catholic advancement.

“When Sinn Fein had the prisoners appear at the rally last week, it was a dreadful blunder, but it was done because the IRA runs Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams is a very clever man. But he’s a vain man, and that’s dangerous. Yet he’s patient. He knows time is on his side, so he can wait to see how unmanageable the new process will be because he knows, in the end, the British will have to deal with him. Not Dublin. Not Washington. Him. He views a Yes vote as a tactical vote for the IRA and Gerry Adams.ts do not know who they are. They have no sense of identity. They’re not Irish, not British, not Welsh; all they have to cling to is the fact that they won the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 — not that long ago in Ireland — and that’s why they go crazy during marching season in July.

“That gets to the issue of justice, too. The application of the law toward Catholics is unjust. It’s at the heart of the whole debate over the release of the prisoners. Since 1968, not a single RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] man has served a day in jail for killing while on duty or torturing people arrested under emergenecy laws. Twelve children and many adults were killed and no one was ever charged. So the Catholics say, “Why am I doing 25 years in prison when the man who killed my son or

“Now I’ll be voting Yes on Friday,” Monsignor Denis Faul stated. “But you can’t build a government on a 55 to 45 vote. You have to have education with a spiritual background as well as human rights, and you must have a soul and be willing to forgive. That’s the foundation we need to build.”

Then he stood at his desk and glanced out the window behind him at an Army helicopter skidding through the sky above his school. The noise was fierce, but the priest’s smile was gentle as he said, “They wouldn’t dare do that to any other people.