Roy Fosters review of The Fethard-on-Sea Boycott by Tim Fanning, (Collins Press, 240pp, 14.99) takes me back to my earliest memories of sectarian divisions, together with echoes of the Mother and Child controversy. This review in the New York Times of the film of the story seems puzzled by the whole thing, the sort of docu-drama the British make but is seldom made in the US. Not just a love story against the odds, in other words. Do faint traces of anti-Protestant bigotry remain? I suspect they do, though even that relentness observer of Irish mores Prof Foster doesn’t seem quite sure. In the late 1950s both Fethard and Mother and Child were part of the kit of anti-Catholic bigotry in the North.
When Mary Cloney died 10 years ago, her funeral was fully ecumenical, involving both local churches; the Protestant rector was a former Catholic priest who had left the Church to get married and then been ordained in the Church of Ireland. It suggests a very different country from that revealed by the events of 1957. But one closes this thought-provoking book unable to decide whether the Fethard trauma delayed the development of a new Ireland or hastened it on its way.
Sheila I see died last July and husband Sean in 1999
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