Friday, 31 May 2013

Ireland's Real Powers That Be

What a load of rubbish.

It is not Ireland's abortion laws that are unusual in Europe. It is Britain's, bequeathed by Margaret Thatcher and in at least broad conformity with those enacted in California by Ronald Reagan.

The 12-week time limits on abortion elsewhere in both historically Catholic and historically Protestant Western Europe (where there is not an outright ban, as there was in Great Britain for the first generation of our own National Health Service, and as there almost still is alongside the NHS in Northern Ireland) are due to the consensus between, upon and around Christian Democracy and Social Democracy, once the twin pillars of One Nation Toryism, and now once again, as historically, the twin pillars of One Nation Labour.

This is really an institutional land grab by the State. Its true targets are the schools. In the case at the heart of it, an abortion would already have been legal in the Irish Republic, under a law in accordance with Catholic Teaching.

That law is one of extremely few things left in the Irish Republic that could be said so to accord, but that accordance leads that country to have the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, half that of Britain and one quarter that of London. A testament to caring that much more both for the mother and for the child.

The only part of Ireland where both the Catholic schools, and the sanctity of life in the womb, are now safe, is the part within the United Kingdom. There will be no change there without consensus among the parties. And there will never be any such consensus.

The DUP and much or most of the UUP would never consent to abortion. Nor would the UUP, at least, ever consent to the exclusion of the Anglican, the mainstream Presbyterian and the Methodist bodies from their historic role in relation to certain schools. Thereby, even if only by default, saving the historic role of the Catholic Church in relation to certain other schools. On both of these issues, one wishes that one could still have the confidence in the SDLP that it was possible to presuppose even only very recently indeed.

But the Irish Republic never really was a Catholic country. Well into the 1960s, more than 40 years after Irish independence, Guinness refused to employ Catholics in any managerial capacity and was owned by the dynasty that provided four successive Conservative Members of Parliament for Southend, a town a mere 40 miles from the centre of London. The last one, a former Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher, did not retire until 1997 and did not die until 2007. Everything that you probably think that you know about Ireland is wrong.

There is much emphasis on land reform as having allegedly broken the power of the Ascendancy. But in fact the Anglo-Irish Protestants continued to own everything from the breweries, to the banks, to such things as Merville Dairy, all of which practised frank anti-Catholic discrimination in employment for many decades after independence, as in a different way the great concerns of the present day still do.

No even nominal Catholic was made Editor of The Irish Times until as recently as 1986, 64 years after independence. It is also notable that even in 2013 one of the Governors of The Irish Times Trust has the OBE while another has nothing less than the CBE; such, quite amusingly and very tellingly, is the Irish Republic's newspaper of record.

There is not and never has been any Catholic or even Christian symbol on the flag of the Irish Republic, although it does have an Orange stripe on it, for which there is a reason. The Church vigorously, but unsuccessfully, opposed the adoption of the Constitution there under de Valera in 1937. Everything in that last sentence tells you something important.

The country that once discriminated against Catholics in favour of Protestants now discriminates against such practising Catholics as there still are, a far lower proportion of the Catholic population than in England and quite possibly a lower absolute number; whereas Ireland now ordains almost no new Catholic priests, England now ordains more than in the 1950s.

(There were more ordinations for service in English dioceses in the 1950s, but those ordinations were largely, perhaps mostly, in Ireland, or of Irishmen who had in many cases never seen England, or both. There are now vastly more ordinations in England, for service in England, of men produced by the English dioceses, than there were in that supposedly Golden Age, which ended remarkably quickly and easily if it was so wonderful.)

Today's discrimination in the Irish Republic, and it would seem also increasingly within political and cultural Republicanism in Northern Ireland, is in favour of wallowers in each others' published and unpublished, spoken and written misery memoirs of embittered ex-Catholicism.

They know their own to be packs of lies, and sometimes utterly preposterous, such as the supposed persistence of corporal punishment in schools decades after it had been abolished. But they assume everyone else's to be genuine. They therefore see themselves as somehow expressing a broader truth. And in any case, it is the only way to get on.

Far from there having been some taboo against criticising the Church until Mary Robinson became President in 1990, this sort of thing goes back at least to George Moore, and it has made the fame and fortune of many a mediocre to downright abysmal writer, with Frank McCourt only the latest in a very long line.

Moreover, being able to produce this drivel to interviewers is now the only way to become any sort of public or responsible figure in the Irish Republic. In the way that being a posh Protestant with a too-perfect upper-class English accent remained long, long, long after independence.


  1. "England now ordains more than in the 1950s"

    Dream on, Mr Lindsay, dream on.

  2. When I was growing up in Wigan, Lancs, in the 1960's and lived in an inner town Catholic Parish, all 3 priests were from Ireland.

    When the Parish Priest died in 1976, he was succeeded by another Irish priest who had once been his curate in the 60's. Many of the vocations to the priesthood from English born candidates, had Irish parents who came over after WW II and Ireland becoming a Republic.

    England has had a vocations crisis since Henry VIII.

    However, Seminaries have closed. Upholland Seminary, near Wigan closed in the 70's I think and Ushaw in Co. Durham closed not long ago.

    I would be interested to know the exact figures for the total number of priests ordained year by year since WW II