Pat McCabe on “probably one of the great missed opportunities in Ireland”…

Keith Duggan with a great interview with Pat McCabe, author of The Butcher Boy
, and founder of the Flat Lake Festival (check out the Radio Butty blog) and an exponent of Patrick Kavannagh’s ideas around the conjunction of the parochial with the universal. It’s worth reading it all, but this bit is worth quoting:

…the thing I notice is that Clones is a real Protestant town,” he says. “It wasn’t the ascendancy, it was the middle-class merchant Protestantism I was familiar with – the solicitors, the butchers, that sort of thing. It was probably coming to an end when I was growing up, but you could still feel a real sense of order. And it was probably one of the great missed opportunities in Ireland, the fusion of Catholic and Protestant, in that the Protestant natural sense of order and civic duty would have been a good mix. I often think the artistic process is like that: a good editor, which is the Protestant side of your mind, and then this mad lunatic going around setting fire to things, which is the Catholic side, the imagination.

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  • Dr Buggerall

    “this mad lunatic going around setting fire to things, which is the Catholic side,”

    Is this a freudian reference to bobby sands ?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Sounds like an affirmation of Connolly’s ‘carnival of reaction’ prophesy.

    Not much into the stereotypes myself, but I appreciate what he’s implying.

    Still, there’s time yet…

  • Rory Carr

    In appraisng McCabe’s thoughts on Protestanr order and Catholic free spirit it might dampen down whataboutery a little if we think of it in terms of classicism (protestantism) v. romanticism (catholicism) whose competing methodologies have been popularly explored in the first part of Zen and the Art of Motor-Cycle Maintenance.

    However if instead you prefer to get atavistic you could do no worse than to think in terms of Montisque’s thoughts on the inherent differences in the characteristics of those who live in cold climates (hard-working, thrifty) and those who live in hot climates (lazy, feckless) or you might even return to Aesopian fabulation and consider The Ant and the Grasshopper.

    Whatever you choose, do have fun.

  • conor

    This sort of nonsense never fails to amaze me. How is it anyway verifiable that Protestant = order? In fact I’d say history, and current events, prove exactly the opposite. Protestants in Ireland, in the north in particular, have been anything but ordered or sensible. They got control of a state and turned it into a political slum. They got control of business and ran it on sectarian lines. A section of unionism engaged in horrific ritual slaughter of Catholics on a purely sectarian basis. Indeed it seems to me that unionism is infected with the poison of sectarianism more than any other section of society. This is evidenced in the ritual need to impart sectarianism to anything Irish, i.e the language, or GAA, or music. Can you listen to someone like Nelson McCausland, Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley (sr and jr), Willie McCrea and think they are anything other than lunatics? This nonsense about Protestants and order, good sense etc. is pathetic. It mistakes the fact that Protestants were granted power, privilige, dominance and authority by virtue of their relationship with the state. They didn’t work for it, of course. But perhaps more tellingly, look at what they done with it? They created the province! What a joke. So this bullshit about order is just that. Maybe the truth is that they have neither imagination, nor good sense. A lot of settlers are like that. Witnesss French Algerians, or the crazy settler Jews.

  • conor = craig

    You sound just like a 1960s unionist describing the catholics of West Belfast. Ever look in a mirror?

  • RepublicanStones

    Conor you speak of protestants as if they were one monolith, which is utter horseshite.

    As regards the stereotyping of the thread…

  • Peter Fyfe

    There probably is a higher likelyhood of protestants subscribing to law and order quicker than catholics in the english speaking world. By law and order, I mean partaking in the civic duties of the state and respecting that law. Since the beginning of the 18th century, catholics have been discriminated against in British law. Maybe only with us being barred from the throne now but it was worse which certainly will create a certain ambivalence towards ‘law and order’. Even in the great USA there were grave reservations from certain quarters about JFK because of his background. Tony Blair clearly did not feel that it would be appropriate to be baptised into the catholic church while PM. Did he hold reservations about how accepted this democratically elected leader would be if he became catholic? I would guess he just felt he could wait and make it a personal issue rather than a constitutional one, which I suppose is right when dealing with matters of the soul. Or maybe we all just take our advice from the vatican and thats why we don’t like law and order in our own countries.

  • conor

    nonsense, I sound nothing like a 1960s unionist. And per chance, why 1960s? Did unionism undergo a profound change in 1970 that the rest of the world missed? I am talking about people in positions of power and privilege and how they chose to abuse that power. Hardly a mirror image of a unionist description of catholics, you mental midget.

  • conor

    republicanstones. Since the entire debate relies upon a massive generalisation, ie that Catholicism and Catholics equal imagination and Protestants equal order, I hardly think your point is valid. Why don’t you stop talking horseshite.

  • blinding

    Is this stereotyping helpful.

  • RepublicanStones

    Conor thr thread is concerning the imaginings of one mans belief of melding what he seen as the best of both traditions. You just came on here and went off on pretty bigoted rant me ‘aul flower.

  • conor = craig

    “Since the entire debate relies upon a massive generalisation, ie that Catholicism and Catholics equal imagination and Protestants equal order, I hardly think your point is valid”

    The debate is about the validity of stereotypes. In reponse to McCabe’s you responded with your own. At least McCabe has some wit.

    Why 1960’s? Because that was a time in which progressive external forces demanded an explanation from unionism as to the condition of nationalists in West Belfast and unionists responded that nationalist had created their own slum, having too many ill-educated, unwashed children; that the republic’s superstitious book-banning clericalism showed that catholics could not be trusted to run government on anything other than sectarian lines; that southern poverty showed that catholics could not run business at all and the abstention of catholics from Stormont and the recent IRA campaigns (including that of 1956-62) showed that catholics were nothing but a violent untrustworthy rabble.

    You’d have fitted right in.

    I shouldn’t tar all unionists with the same brush though. You make Faulkner and O’Neill look like paragons of progressive liberalism.

  • conor

    ok conor=craig, a few points. I can assure you that “progressive external forces” didn’t demand answers about the conditions of Catholics in west Belfast. Unless of course you count “progressive” as a slightly embaressed brituisg government who would introduce a curfew on the Falls, internment and then bloody sunday. progressive?hmm, me thinks not. And for your information, I thinkyou will find that it was derry and places like dungannon that were to the fore at that time. Sorry to burst your bubble there buddy. Now secondly, because I have highlighted the FACT that the North’s Protestant rulers chose to run the place as a sectarian slum in all aspects of civic and political life, I am a bigot? really? how so? why don’t you address the substance of what I say, i.e that when given control and responsibility in Ireland, unionists (and be honest that’s what we mean when talk about Protestantism in this context) have displayed very very little capacity for reasioned, rational thought or action? Now stop bandying about silly insults and address my argument. If you can’t, why dont you be quiet like a good little chap. Thanks.

  • Dave

    Anyone care for Godwin’s Law?

    “A Protestant voter was twice as likely to vote for the Nazis as his Catholic counterpart.” 😉

    Are there any scientific studies that show that one religion is more conducive to successful commercial enterprise than another? If there are, my money is on the Jewish faith. That, however, would likely be down to the promotion of a ‘success’ culture among Jewish families rather than from Torah or Talmud Yerushalmi/Bavli.

    Its trite use here is obviously political rather than scientific since it depicts the Protestants as a natural ruling class with the underclass (nationalists) benefitting from what Conor points out as being a legacy of colonial rule. Since the Irish are not deemed fit to govern themselves (being disabled by their religion and prone to arson, supposedly), it is right that the British should rule them. Ergo, they should give up their right to national self-determination in their own self-interest. Well, he’s not saying that, of course – he’s just espousing some bizarre theory that a state that is 80/20 mix of catholic/protestant constitutes the perfect state. Interesting, but unless it is a state that commands the loyalty of 100% of its population, it would just be as dysfunctional as a state that is roughly an equal mix of catholic/protestant (unionist/nationalist).

  • conor = craig

    McCabe’s told us that he noted a particular civic pride on the part of middle class prods in a border town in the Republic and that he thought there might be some kind of cultural influence from their protestantism that informed that.

    You took exception to this attacked the very idea with a rant about politics in Northern Ireland. Your attack on the McCabe’s suggestion is based on the fact that the community he’s got kind words for share their religious devotion with some other people you dislike in another jurisdiction. I’d say that a fairly obstinate, irrational intolerance you have to a group of people because of their devotion. You can use whatever other words you like to describe that attitude.

    Thanks for the lessons on Irish history btw, but we’re talking about the things people say about other groups, not civil rights protests, alternative parliaments or anything else. You’ll find that BBC journalists amongst others based much of their criticism of 1960’s unionist government on observations they made of Belfast and that certain unionists were more than happy to respond with attacks on that community. Whether west Belfast is the true cradle of the civil rights movement is hardly relevant. The intemperance of their language and their rush to stereotyping is.

  • tube

    Rory Carr

    Did someone call you stupid on another thread? You are overcompensating.I liked you better when you were an ira loving plastic paddy.

  • Protestants, in general, in the Republic have been, and are, model citizens. However, a large segment of their co-religionists in Northern Ireland, unfortunately, haven’t displayed that same high standard of Christian behaviour. Is it because the majority of Protestants in the South are COI(English descent) and are, therefore, a little more open minded than their Presbyterian(Scottish descent) cousins in the North or has the political situation in N.I. totally warped and perverted what passes for acceptable Christian behaviour in the Protestant communities?

  • Rory Carr

    Dearest Tube,

    How aptly you are named.

  • otto

    @exile1

    “has the political situation in N.I. totally warped and perverted what passes for acceptable Christian behaviour in the Protestant communities”

    You’d need to test that by comparing the attitudes of Anglicans in the North with Presbyterians. If they’re the same you can blame the local political environment, if not you can blame their distinctively legalistic theological position.

    But before you do that you’ll need to compare the attitude of Presbyterians living in Scotland with those in Northern Ireland, and maybe investigate liberal presbyterianism in Northern Ireland including, for example, Non-Subscribers (ie Unitarians).

    Enjoy your church going!

  • Ulster McNulty

    “And it was probably one of the great missed opportunities in Ireland, the fusion of Catholic and Protestant”

    Totally daft idea – With partition you had a majority catholic ethos Ireland, and at the same time a majority protestant ethos Ireland. With a fusion the reality would have been..

    1. Contraception would still have been illegal, and;
    2. The swings would have been tied up on Sundays

    Doubly dull

  • Brit

    “Protestants in Ireland, in the north in particular, have been anything but ordered or sensible. They got control of a state and turned it into a political slum. They got control of business and ran it on sectarian lines. A section of unionism engaged in horrific ritual slaughter of Catholics on a purely sectarian basis.”

    “I am a bigot”

    God forbid. You are a progressive democratic anti-sectarian Republican fighting for Irish freedom and if these Protestant b@stards dont like it they should go back to England.

  • John East Belfast

    If there was a United Ireland tomorrow and you had a choice of putting the new Central Bank in Dublin or Belfast – where would you be inclined to put it ?

  • Brit

    Well presumably Dublin would be capital?

  • Brian MacAodh

    I’d put it in Tralee

  • Skintown Lad

    Kilskeery.

  • mappist trunk

    Kilskeery wins. It looks like the protestant town on the Island.

    The Wikipedia article has local schools as Queen Elizabeth II Primary School, and if that’s not loyal enough for you the Free Presbyterian School.

    Village clubs include Neighbourhood Watch. Our version of the minutemen perhaps.

    Must visit sometime.

    Re Belfast v Dublin.

    Is it true that at partition Belfast was the biggest town on the Island? If so in an alternative non-partitioned universe would industrial Belfast have been Glasgow to administrative Dublin’s Edinburgh – bigger and more honest but still slightly second class?

    It seems likely that the politicians and civil servants would still have put their central bank in Dublin – classier.

  • OC

    Posted by otto on Aug 04, 2009 @ 09:57 AM, quo he:

    “But before you do that you’ll need to compare the attitude of Presbyterians living in Scotland with those in Northern Ireland, and maybe investigate liberal presbyterianism in Northern Ireland including, for example, Non-Subscribers (ie Unitarians).”

    The Gahdlig speaking Presbyterians of the Hebrides make Ulster’s Free P’s look like Methodists!

    I had the pleasure of attending the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Britanny (2d only to the Oktoberfest in the quantity of beer consumed at a European festival).

    I took a side trip to Amsterdam afterwards. Looking out of the train window (I called the train the Lorient Express), the areas around the train tracks from Paris eastward though Belgium looked like a garbage bomb had hit them.

    That is until suddenly everything was so clean you could eat of off the ground. I asked the conductor if we were in Netherlands, but he said that that we were still in Belgium, but had passed from Walloon west Belgium into east Belgium (Flanders). Coincidence?