Children of the Kingdom

There is a saying that today's news is tomorrow's fish and chip wrapping, and while in these health and hygiene obsessed days the origins of that is a little more obscure, the meaning is totally true... and a danger when you are writing a topical "Thought for the Day" piece for radio. I often go to bed having written one, and hoping that a bigger story doesn't arise during the hours of darkness. Today was a case in point... although the bigger story had arisen before I headed bedwards, and I only became aware of it as I drove into the studio... Anyway, this is the Thought for the Day as broadcast on Good Morning Ulster this morning at 6.55 and 7.55 am.
Yesterday I awoke to hear that because of EU equality rules, pupils resident in Northern Ireland holding Irish passports may qualify for free university tuition in Scotland, just like Scottish residents. This may be very good news given that university fees are now rising to a maximum of £9000 per year…
As someone who benefitted from free university education, in Scotland as it happens, and want the same, if not better, opportunities for my own boys, I have major issues with a generation of politicians who also enjoyed free university tuition, but are now pulling up the drawbridge for those who seek to follow them… £9000 may be pocket-money to millionaire cabinet ministers, and they may assure people that it will not be demanded up front, but leaving university with debts of around £30000, will undoubtedly put off pupils from poorer backgrounds. And while fees at Northern Irish universities may be frozen at a lower level, it will mean that some subjects here will be massively over-subscribed… And when, consequently, students from here go to universities on the other island, they will be doubly disadvantaged because Northern Irish students must pay back their debts at an lower income threshold than their English and Welsh counterparts.
I know this because my eldest son wants to do medicine and, due to the unlikelihood of getting into Queens, was already looking at Scottish Universities. His mother is Scottish, but wouldn’t it now be ironic if he got a free education in Scotland because of access to an Irish passport through me?
I also look forward to seeing how many students from ardently Unionist backgrounds start claiming Irish citizenship… Or indeed, how many convinced Euro-sceptics encourage their offspring to exploit this EU generated loophole.
Loyalty can be a strange thing when £9000 per year is at stake…
John Hewitt the poet famously described himself as an Ulsterman, an Irishman, British and European, which would be close to a description of my mixed up loyalties… It shows itself in my sporting preferences: I was certainly an Ulsterman in Dublin on Saturday, I’m an Irishman during the six nations, I’ll be British during the Olympics and I’m European for golf’s Ryder Cup…
But at the end of the day, my primary loyalty lies not with any nation state… Not with the United Kingdom, or a United Ireland or even the European Union, no matter what my passport may say… I am above all a citizen of the Kingdom of God… Citizenship of that kingdom is open to all, wherever we are born or reside… And its benefits go way beyond free University education.
This was the big story on Good Morning Ulster yesterday... but this morning there was ne'er a cheep about it... Although the Belfast Newsletter did have a full page devoted to it and the claim by David McNarry MLA, a renowned champion of equality and fairness (?), that the approach of the Northern Ireland Executive to this whole anomaly was sectarian... Instead, today the whole of BBC Northern Ireland, including Good Morning Ulster, and the morning papers, were dominated by news concerning the role of Cardinal Sean Brady in the investigation and (lack of) disclosure to the authorities concerning the activities of convicted paedophile priest Brendan Smyth. 
I'm not going to make any specific comment on the roles of any particular individuals in this, or the many other dreadful abuse stories that have developed from a trickle to a floodtide in recent years; I'll leave that to those who are better informed. But reading and hearing the statement released to the media in the wake of these revelations perplexed me. The emphasis seemed to be that Cardinal Brady had no authority to make disclosures to parents of potential victims or to the civic authorities based on the information he was party to as a notary/investigator, but had passed that information to his superiors, and that, according to the church and civic legislation at the time he had fulfilled all that was required of him. However, to return to the theme I focussed on in my Thought for the Day, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are bound, not simply by civic or canon law, or guidelines, but by the Word and Law of God. Justice and righteousness is about more than simply obeying rules and doing what you are told. It is about more than simply passing information and responsibility for action or inaction on to another person.
I may be critical of politicians who, through their policy decisions, disadvantage large numbers of young people, potentially affecting their lives and careers, but that is as nothing compared with those individuals and institutions who, by things done and left undone, and things said and left unsaid, result in the physical, sexual and psychological abuse of young people, especially when those individuals and institutions claim to be representatives of God's Kingdom... Because Jesus himself said that in the pecking order of that Kingdom, children come first, and, in one of his less gentle, meek and mild episodes, suggested that anyone guilty of getting between him and a little child would be better off having a millstone tied around his neck and being thrown into the sea...



V. Stevenson said…
Dear Mr Campton

I do not know Sean Brady, but I would love to ask him this-if one of the names that Brendan gave to him, had been a young innocent child relative of his ( Sean Brady ), would he have taken the same course of action?

I do not intend to be flippant, it is a much to serious issue for me, but do you not think it would have been better for Jesus, to have stopped paedophiles, getting between him and a little child?

You kindly offered to meet up, I tried to email your website at Dundonald Methodist, but it was always returned- unable to deliver. I phoned the church number on your site, and a very nice lady gave me another email address, I am not sure if you recieved this one.

My email is


V. Stevenson

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