Immigration: First they integrated the Catholics then fulminated on multiculturalism…

Fascinating piece on how history progresses beyond the visceral towards the vestigial by my old mucker from Telegraph days, Daniel Hannan. He notes for instance that…

The association of Protestantism with national identity led to centuries of institutionalised discrimination and unofficial bigotry. Yet the story ends well.

The US quickly overcame its sectarian origins to become the first state on Earth based on total religious freedom. Britain was slower – not until 1829 were Catholics completely equal in law but still far ahead of most places. By way of comparison, the Spanish Inquisition was not wound up until 1834.

He goes on…

As church attendance dwindled, different denominations were thrown together – and have arguably come closer in doctrine: Catholics tend to place rather more emphasis on the Bible than they used to, Protestants on the Eucharist.

In other words, over time in England at least, religion has been losing its political centrality. The movement of Catholics (Irish, Italian and others) into the British political establishment has been slow and gradual for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Certainly when the Catholic hierarchy was unilaterally re-established in Britain under Universalis Ecclesiae in 1850, there were disturbances in London and Exeter. Westminster’s reaction was an ill-judged attempt to ban the mention of the new dioceses (repealed 20 years later).

Yet, there is nothing seamless or universal about the integration of other cultures into mainstream British culture. Today in the Dail Express, Belfast born Catholic convert Leo McKinstry blames his former comrades in arms on the British left for leaving the door open to immigrants, and introducing multiculturalism into the country:

They pose as champions of progress yet their fixation with multiculturalism is dragging us into a new dark age. In many of our cities, social solidarity is being replaced by divisive tribalism, democracy by identity politics. Real integration is impossible when ethnic groups are encouraged to cling to customs, practices, even languages from their homeland.

Much as the residual Irish of Scotland or vestigial Orange culture in the Everton area of Liverpool do to this day? Immigration has had an important economic function that has had little to do with political factors so much as a need to bring new and cheap sources of labour.

A recent study showed that on the whole immigrant population that most of the UK’s fiscal deficit is generated by members of its ‘native-born’ population, with immigrants either proving to have a neutral or a positive effect on the country’s exchequer

But the question of what Britain (or plain old England, Wales and Northern Ireland as it may shortly be) actually is after two centuries of successive waves of immigration…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty