Strange Event

Edmund Rice 250: to reunite, reconcile, give thanks and look to the future.

This strange event is imminent and has the puzzling endorsement of former President of Ireland Mary McAleese. 

Past pupils and friends of Edmund Rice and Christian Brothers schools are coming together to hold this event during the 250th anniversary year of Edmund Rice’s birth to say thank you for their education: to thank, to reconcile, to reconnect and to look to the future.

On 20th October 2012 at 7.00pm former President Mary McAleese will be guest speaker at a special event to recognise the 250th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Edmund Rice, the unique Irishman who founded the Christian Brothers and hundreds of schools in Ireland and around the world. The legacy of Edmund Rice has touched the lives of countless thousands through the education they received.

This event, to be held at the Convention Centre Dublin, will bring together groups and individuals from the Christian Brothers and Edmund Rice network. The event will provide past pupils with the opportunity to welcome old friends and colleagues from all over the islands of Ireland and England. As well as having a theme of thanksgiving, the gathering will acknowledge and express deep regret in a spirit of reconciliation with those past pupils who, sadly, were treated harshly or even abused in the course of their education.

I wrote the novel, The Brothers’ Lot, that tried in some way to tackle this whole sorry mess, albeit satirically- this stuff is too hard to treat head-on. I went through O’Connell’s Schools in the 70’s and 80’s and hated it. While there were some decent teachers and Brothers, the overriding atmosphere was one of furious contempt for kids.

Whatever Edmund Rice may or may not have stood for, is in many ways irrelevant as it is clear that his impetus was hijacked and perverted into a twisted ethos of inward-looking nationalism, Jansenist tinted sexual obsession and anti-child cruelty that was and remains unforgivable. Certainly individual brothers may have come from deprived backgrounds and known little better but the cruelty of the whole operation was an open secret that the church and apparatchiks of the state colluded in sustaining. Post-revolutionary Ireland could not take revenge on the English so, it seems, turned on its own, victimizing the poor and the working classes for not conforming to some unattainable idealized, Celtic twilight Catholic definition of Irishness. We see markedly little of the same depravity among the religious orders that attended to the children of the well-heeled. Praising Rice’s intentions is one thing but to celebrate the Christian Brothers and their legacy is highly questionable. Anyone who got through it feeling that they got a good education and were not abused, beaten, demeaned or constantly belittled, should consider themselves very lucky.

Jim Bradley in the Irish Times informs us that there will be “choral performances, music from the Artane Band”  Might I suggest an alternative musical selection?


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