Unreconciled past still awkwardly close

Historian Irene Whelan considers the scale of an island wide reconciliation never mind unification the longer term context of an historical narrative that pitched Catholic and Protestant on course for mutually assured disruption (subs needed) – if not destruction. Paraphrasing Orwell she notes, “reconciliation in the present and future will most certainly be contingent upon reconciliation of the past”.

Fallout from clerical scandals and the exposure of abuse in Catholic-run institutions has shattered, if not destroyed, the almost organic connection between being Irish and Catholic that dominated the national consciousness for so long. The term “post-Catholic” thus gained vogue as a trendy description of contemporary Irish society in the last decade. Recent stinging criticism of President Mary McAleese’s interpretation of 1916 also suggests that it may soon be joined by “post-nationalist”. But how much of this is superficial glossing over of subjects that are at the heart of who we are as a collective? As we loosen our moorings from the traditional sanctities of faith and fatherland, on what terms are we going to define a new identity, especially if it is one that embraces the other tradition on the island?