My dear friends, over the past few days, I had three engagements. The first was on Friday. It was entitled “Monaghan Civic Economic Development Forum”. It was organised by the Monaghan Chamber of Commerce and was held in the Four Seasons Hotel.

In the morning, there were four presentations. The first was made on behalf of the Monaghan Chamber of Commerce. It set the scene for the day, looking at figures for the live register, the relatively high rate of unemployment in the county, the relatively low level of take up of places at Third Level, and what the Chamber might do in the short term and in the long term by way of helping to improve the situation. Strategies like publications and festivals were looked at along with other possibilities.

The second presentation covered the field of education. Already the DES has been funding Emergency Works and Summer Works Schemes which have given welcome employment opportunities.  A major Capital Development is at an advanced planning stage for the Monaghan Army Barracks site with provision for MIFET, a Second level and Primary Gaelscoil, a preschool and new Garage Theatre. Support is requested for a further Institute of Education and Training which would develop advanced skills in film, computer games, animation and other IT fields linking education and production in an industrial milieu. Substantial employment opportunities would result.

The third presentation related to the field of health. A strong case was put forward for retaining and even expanding existing services at Monaghan Hospital which has served this county since 1936. Details of suitable services were given and a strong case was made for cross-border co-operation in the provision of services. The retention and expansion of jobs would make an enormous difference to the people of Monaghan.

The fourth presentation related to the Ulster Canal, first established in 1841, and which has been revived in recent times and is now the subject of much speculation, lobbying and planning. It is hoped to join Lough Erne and Lough Neagh; the first section to Clones is due to open in 2013 and the completion of the remaining portion is expected to add enormously to the tourism potential of the area as well as providing healthy recreational opportunities and much job creation.

The Taoisach arrived for lunch and in the afternoon a summary of the morning presentations was put to him in the hope of getting a positive response. His response could probably be described as measured. He started by putting before the assembled gathering the position of our country’s finances. In short, we are generating an income of €32 billion and spending €50 billion with the assistance of borrowing. Everyone knows that this is unsustainable so increases in taxation and a reduction in spending are unavoidable if we are to correct the situation and create conditions for sustainable employment. He complimented the local people on the initiative and passion they had shown in organising such an event and promised every support and help he could give taking into account the already explained national backdrop. We are obviously having to face up to the consequences of past mistakes and facing a period of restraint, self-denial and self-sacrifice.

The second function I attended was held in the Hillgrove Hotel on Friday night and was the People of the Year Award. The individual main award for this year went to a Ballybay man called George Wallace. He is probably known to many of you as someone who has been generous to others in giving of his time and energy. He has especially helped people suffering from addictions, mainly those who have a problem with alcohol. His most recent achievement has been to set up a Sr. Consilio inspired Cuan Mhuire in Ballybay by way of a centre of rehabilitation in a Christian atmosphere for those who need it.

My third assignment this week-end has been to come here to join you and lead you in the celebration of the Eucharist. This Annual Mass is an important occasion for the diocesan members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. You could be forgiven for thinking that you have become one of the forgotten fingers of the body of the church, a somewhat neglected part of our tradition. Take heart! Your time may be returning as the excesses of yesterday become the reasons for to-day’s restraint.

Members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, you have a noble and laudable tradition. Better known for your smiles than for downcast looks you have followed the Lord’s directions on doing good and making sacrifices. You have affirmed and enjoyed life, you have sung and danced, you have made your sacrifice, washed your face, not sought to parade your good deeds before others. You have self-denied unobtrusively as a gesture of love for God and for the good of others and left it to God to reward where he will.

If we had all followed your way, there would be less suffering, less domestic violence and upheaval, less financial strain and unhappiness in our world today. You have held to a part of our tradition which could have saved us from much of to-day’s retribution. You have reason to celebrate because you accepted direction from the way of Jesus Christ and graced the lives of your families and those around you by trying to live it. You have given something precious in your conscious self-denial and you have a worthy gift, sustained in the Eucharistic self-sacrifice of the Lord, to share with society.

I congratulate you. I compliment you. May you continue to walk humbly, gracefully and confidently in the steps of the Lord and share his grace with all you accompany on your journey. May God walk with you to guide you and protect you.

Previous articleBishop MacDaid’s Homily for Centenary of Sacred Heart Church Irvinestown
Next articlePress release of the October General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference