I couldn’t list all the ways that this wonderful story says “Ireland is not the US, and the US is not Ireland”. It seems that the Republic of Ireland, which like many western countries has been enduring a financial crisis, has been forced to cut back on its subsidy of First Communion dresses.
The article notes that First Communion and Confirmation are big events in Irish families, almost all of whom are at least nominally Roman Catholic. “The cost of a white dress, matching veil, shoes and handbag for an eight-year old girl making her First Holy Communion can run to hundreds of euros. There can be additional expenses for a professional hair-do and, in some cases, make-up, spray tan and fake nails.”
Families on public assistance (quite a few in these troubled times) have been getting a stipend averaging about $320 per household for these occasions. With the budget crunch, the stipend is being cut to “only” €110.
I try to imagine how this would be pitched in American politics. How do we attack welfare without seeming to attack religion? or How do we attack religion without seeming to attack welfare? It just doesn’t translate.
The image is from the Reuters article, found on their excellent Faithworld blog. I thought their use of the photo — a pair of Irish twins at their First Communion celebration — was more than a bit snarky: I’m sure the girls looked very elegant without those lollipops.