Echoes of the case against Home Rule in the paedophile scandal

I’m right up on tiptoes to make this point, but might the Protestant case against Home Rule not seem just a little more convincing even to its critics in the light of the great paedophile cover –up? If the Roman Catholic Church retained strong authoritarian traits and clerical privilege above the law as late as the 1990s what was it like a century before? Not that I ignore the beam in Protestant eyes. This article in the New York Times from 1892 is a great find. It criticises the great unionist constitution theorist Dicey as Gladstone was preparing his second Home Rule Bill. The argument in the article still holds good today, as it reminds us that Protestant opposition to Home Rule was far from monolithic. All the same, it was one of the great tragedies of our history that Protestant fears and reservations were never convincingly addressed. Could they ever have been throughout the period, I wonder? Fintan O’Toole’s great polemic last week reads in places like a Protestant tract – although he’s careful to state: “It is important to say that this is not a comment on the Catholic faith.”
Fintan continues:

This was the church’s great achievement in Ireland. It had so successfully disabled a society’s capacity to think for itself about right and wrong that it was the parents of an abused child, not the bishop who enabled that abuse, who were “quite apologetic”… It had managed to create a flock who, in the face of an outrageous violation of trust, would be more concerned about the abuser than about those he had abused and might abuse in the future. It had inserted its own “instrument of control and power” so deeply into the minds of the faithful that they could scarcely even feel angry about the perpetration of disgusting crimes on their own children.

Paul Bew , in this review of Alvin Jackson’s great history of Home Rule persuasively writes:

“An Irish History” is sympathetic to those nationalist politicians, such as William O’Brien, who attempted a genuine conciliation of Unionists. Of John Dillon, O’Brien’s principal opponent in the crucial 1903-16 period, Jackson writes: “Centrist politics had the capacity to maim and divide Dillon’s loyalist enemies. But he either wilfully neglected this helpful state of affairs or chose not to be impressed.” Instead, Dillon, who insisted on keeping constitutional nationalism as “green” and as militant as possible, lived to see the party eclipsed anyway by the rise of Sinn Fein. It is a lesson not without a sharp contemporary resonance”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London