I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Voice Seldom Heard

A Voice Seldom Heard

John Bradley
The Ongoing Present: A Critical Look at the Society and World in which I Grew Up, by Micheál Mac Gréil, Messenger Publications, 472 pp, €25, ISBN: 978-1910248065 When reading works that are critical of modern Irish society, it is helpful to recall the terms used by Albert Hirschman in his seminal book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (1970). There Hirschman explored two ways to respond to unjust, exasperating, or inefficient organisations and relationships. You can leave (“exit”) or you can complain (“voice”). If you are loyal, you will not exit, but you still have the options of either speaking out or remaining silent. The spirit of Hirschman’s “loyalty” and “voice” options permeates Dr Mac Gréil’s fascinating account of his active and very eventful life. First, as a boy growing up in the West of Ireland countryside in the 1930s and 1940s, where he absorbed its traditions and culture at the very time when they were on the cusp of change and decay. Then as a young man who became an officer in the Irish army during the 1950s and through this role became aware of the problems, rigid class divisions and latent prejudices in society. Leaving his army career, he became a student and university lecturer, achieving high academic honours and recognition, but always using his knowledge and expertise to fight for society’s underdogs and to combat prejudice and bigotry wherever he found it. Finally, as a Jesuit priest for most of his adult life, and in addition to engaging in a wide range of activities to support rural and disadvantaged communities, he welcomed the changes brought to the Catholic Church by Vatican II, worked to overcome the often tardy and grudging way that the Church authorities implemented change and witnessed with horror the shocking scandals that were a major factor in the decline and marginalisation of the role of religion and the organised Church in modern times. His eureka moment appears to have come in the mid-1960s when he spent a liberating period at Kent State University in Ohio, at a time when US society was in turmoil, struggling to come to terms with the fact that it was waging what was widely regarded as an unjust, cruel and futile war in Vietnam and adapting to the dismantling of laws and customs that discriminated against black Americans. He excelled in his postgraduate studies of sociology and anthropology and drew lessons both from his…

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