Fr Brian D’Arcy: ‘President Joe Biden beat the cynics with heartfelt speech’

When President Joe Biden decided to honour us by visiting Ireland, I feared the cynics would have a field day

Joe Biden© ??&???/???  `??_/O?

Winston Churchill

Fr Brian D'Arcy

For years now, I have found myself growing more cynical and I don’t like myself for it. What disturbs me is how quickly we have discarded long-held moral values and replaced them with untested trendy opinions.

There’s a lack of respect for anyone trying to uphold ordinary principles of decency and compassion.

I’ve worked in Northern Ireland for so many years that I’m disillusioned by what passes for values in the rest of Ireland. I don’t understand how so many people dumped so many social virtues so instantly.

For example, I am often disappointed to hear concerned citizens imply that “we should keep those ‘Nasty Northerners up there’. They’re all the same. They can’t be trusted.”

That’s a direct quote from a letter to me and an attitude that often comes across loud and clear.

I hardly ever look at the Late, Late Show now. I get angry that, since I live north of the border, I cannot even enter the weekly competition.

When they have a competition on the Sunday Game – in between the scripted analysis – I can’t enter that competition either. So much for the ‘we are all in this together’ lie.

Irish golfer Padraig Harrington gives Ryan Tubridy a gift of golf clubs on RTÉ's Late Late show

Of course, these are small things but indicative of a divided country. RTE used to cater for the whole country. Not so now.

Who could forget the sniggering of a former member of Dail Eireann who went on television to proclaim that anyone who lives near the border is a bandit and a thief who should not be trusted?

This sad out-of-touch former TD smugly dished out his weird judgements as if he were an expert. How could anyone north of Baldoyle trust him to deal fairly with them?

There were no real objections to his calculated insults from that chapel of commentators who are normally just waiting to be indignant – presumably because he said what they were thinking.

There’s not much hope for decency from people of that ilk.

It seems to me that Ireland today has an identity problem.

The past has become an embarrassment; there is no wish to be associated with the values and customs of the past.

Winston Churchill

Let’s be modern, they say, and leave religion, morality, decency, integrity, and good neighbourliness behind us. There is only one commandment – grab what you can while the going’s good because nothing else matters.

God is a fairy tale; religion is kid’s stuff; we should make our own rules as we go along; that’s what mature people do - I read and hear those ‘opinions’ on a daily basis.

Is it any wonder so many people don’t feel at home in Ireland today?

When President Joe Biden decided to honour us by visiting Ireland, I feared the cynics would have a field day; I suspected they would high-jack the event objecting to what they would label as ‘the worst of Irish Americanism’.

At one point I hoped he would not put himself through such a painful ordeal. The Ireland he imagined is long gone and has been replaced by this mythical ‘Modern Irish Nation’ that has outgrown what Ireland once was.

I have to admit though I was wrong!

As I watched his parting speech on the steps of Saint Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina, I knew I got it wrong. President Biden gave a heartfelt talk which was received gratefully not only by those who were there but by those at home and abroad as well.

The President spoke with sincerity about the value of family; he told us in his humble way of the practical faith he received from his ancestors; he filled us with hope and optimism. If people come together and work together, we can change our society now, and in the future, he preached convincingly. There is hope after all.

“More than anything, hope is what beats in the hearts of our people,” he told us.

His remarks were genuinely inclusive; he didn’t just address the Irish/American people nor did he glorify the past with rose-tinted glasses. He praised Americans, Ulster Scots, and the Irish; he emphasised his British connections too.

It was a faultless performance from the octogenarian President. His enthusiasm was infectious.

As I watched I thought that no politician or no Bishop has shown the courage and the humility to speak so encouragingly and so sincerely about his beliefs and his respect for the goodness of humanity.

President Biden deserves great praise for the time he gave us and the hope he brought. ‘Honest Joe’ went a long way to restoring my faith in leadership and in my country.

Let’s not waste his wisdom.

These insults are from an era when the English language did not depend on 4-letter words for impact!

1. "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; Bring a friend, if you have one."

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill.

"Cannot possibly attend the first night, I will attend the second...If there is one."

- Winston Churchill, in response.

2. "He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

3. "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

- Clarence Darrow

4."Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."

- Moses Hadas

5. "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."

- Oscar Wilde

6. "He is a self-made man and worships his creator."

- John Bright

7. "I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."

- Irvin S. Cobb

8. "He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."

- Paul Keating

9. "Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"

- Mark Twain

10. "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

- Groucho Marx.

11 "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

- Winston Churchill


God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, which is pretty much everyone, since I’m clearly not you, God. At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God, please give me the courage to change what I need to change about myself, which is frankly a lot, since, once again, I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.

It’s better for me to focus on changing myself than to worry about changing other people, who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying, I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter than everyone else in the room, that no one knows what they’re talking about except me, or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God, Grant me the wisdom to remember that I’m not you. Amen.


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