I've been trying to watch the news while I've been here. It's proving tricky - most of the channels we get are from the UK and so only talk about Northern Ireland, and when I do find an Irish new channel it's always right when it's about to switch to talking about soccer! But today I caught, on the Irish equivalent of C-Span, that the government is cutting exceptional needs payments (a kind of social welfare, I think) going to families on the occasion of communion or confirmation.
So far I've been unable to walk into a class without some of the discussion revolving around the current economic situation in Ireland, so the fact that the government was making cuts really didn't surprise me. What surprised me is that they give out money for communion at all. I mean, I guess First Communion is probably a bit expense - I remember my Catholic friends getting their fancy white dresses and having parties - and the point of Exceptional Needs Payments seems to be so that unusual large expenses don't push struggling families over the edge into debt or whatever, so in that way I guess I understand the logic.
But as the Labour Party representative railed against the man who'd proposed the cuts, I couldn't help but disagree with her. Aid for struggling families is great. But if you have to make cuts, ending government support for a religious ceremony seems like a good place to start to me. Separation of church and state and all that.
But whether or not the state should give people money for First Communion never came up in all the discussion of it I've seen. It was framed exclusively as money out of the pockets of needy families, with hardly any mention of the occasion.
Here's the article, if you're interested! Struggling Families' Communion Payments Slashed