Is Irish Catholicism an Irrelevant Minority Culture? Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s Cambridge Speech

UCD sociologist Tom Inglis’ 1987 book on Irish Catholicism was called Moral Monopoly: The Catholic Church in Irish Society. The next edition of the book, published in 1998, had a different subtitle: Moral Monopoly: The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in Modern Ireland. In remarks made on Tuesday to the Cambridge Group for Irish Studies in Magdalene College, Cambridge, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin starkly confirmed what Inglis meant when changed the subtitle of his book to … Read more

Dealing with the Present?: Is Northern Ireland Addressing the Needs of Victims and Survivors? (updated)

As a society transitioning from violent conflict, how is Northern Ireland doing in terms of addressing the needs of victims and survivors? The Belfast-based NGO Contemporary Christianity last night hosted a discussion with Victims and Survivors Commissioners Bertha McDougall and Brendan McAllister, titled ‘Dealing with the Present?: Addressing the needs of victims and survivors.’ (Audio of the discussion is now online.) The conversation revealed that much of what has been promised to the victims and survivors sector has not yet … Read more

Is the Irish Catholic Church Starting to Listen?

As the Irish Catholic Church has stumbled through the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandals, one of the major complaints has been that the hierarchy has not and will not listen to the people in the pews. In media coverage of Vatican attempts to manage the scandals, or of meetings of victims and survivors with clerics, victims/survivors say that they are not satisfied with the way the representatives of the Church have responded to them. To take one example, after … Read more

The Last Bloody Sunday March: Changing How We Remember the Past?

The adjective ‘historic’ gets used far too often in Northern Ireland, but yesterday’s Bloody Sunday March in Derry just might be worthy of the word. In the wake of the Saville Report, the committee of the Bloody Sunday Weekend decided that this would be the last year that the march went ahead. The rationale is that the Saville Report has confirmed the innocence of the victims. It has vindicated not only those who died but also the families and supporters … Read more

Victory or Defeat?: The Politics of the Last Bloody Sunday March

The recent announcement that this year’s Bloody Sunday March will indeed be the last seems to be the result of a difficult, painful process for those who have sustained it over the years. Three days prior to the announcement, three members of the Bloody Sunday Weekend Committee resigned, citing ‘political differences’ over how future commemorations will take place. As discussed previously on Slugger, the debate about the continuation of the Bloody Sunday March illustrates how even when the families of … Read more

Can Northern Ireland Remember its Past Ethically? Course on ‘Ethical Remembering: Acknowledging the Decade of Change & Violence, 1912-1922’ begins next week

It’s certain that people in Northern Ireland will continue to remember the events of its troubled past. What’s less certain is exactly how they will remember those events, and how they will choose to celebrate, commemorate or even condemn what has gone before. Beginning in 2012, the island of Ireland will be heading into a decade in which the centenary of a number of key events will no doubt be marked. These include the Ulster Covenant, the Easter Proclamation, the … Read more

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pastor James McConnell Plans Rally for Andersonstown

Situated in Catholic West Belfast, the Andersonstown Leisure Centre isn’t the venue you would expect for a Christian rally featuring the charismatic Pastor James McConnell of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, known by some as a pastor to Iris Robinson. The event is called ‘Hope: Now and Forever’, and will feature ‘a message of hope by Pastor James McConnell,’ a worship band, choir, and drama team. McConnell’s last rally, held in September at the Ravenhill Rugby Grounds, attracted 12,000 people. Rallies are … Read more

Ulsters Last Stand?: Can Unionism Move Beyond Insurance Policy Politics?

How has Ulster unionism arrived at where it is today – fractured and uncertain, yet dominated electorally by the DUP, a party that tells us it offers unionists sure footing in uncertain times? In his latest book, Ulster’s Last Stand? Reconstructing Unionism after the Peace Process (Irish Academic Press, 2010), Prof. James McAuley from the University of Huddersfield tackles that question. McAuley claims that the hegemony of the DUP depends in large part on the party’s ability to talk about … Read more

The Last Bloody Sunday March?

Saturday’s Irish News reports that this year’s annual Bloody Sunday March in Derry may be the last. Apparently some family members of the victims, satisfied that justice has been done through the Saville report and the Prime Minister’s apology, believe that this should be the last time the event goes ahead. The march is held on the Sunday nearest the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 30 January. It is the centrepiece of Bloody Sunday weekend, which includes lectures, a commemorative mass … Read more

Have we Learned our own Lessons? Book Review of John Brewer’s Peace Processes

Northern Ireland’s peace process has been promoted as an international success story. The Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs has its Conflict Resolution Unit, which aims to disseminate the ‘lessons’ of the Northern Ireland peace process. And some of the prominent players in our peace process have travelled abroad to other troubled spots to share their experiences. Despite its setbacks and maddeningly slow pace, our peace process has delivered a peace of sorts and from an international comparative perspective it is … Read more

Ian O’Riordan’s Miles to Run: An invitation to madness?

Ireland is in the middle of a boom – a running boom. Chances are, even if you have never run a step yourself (apart from some painful P.E. classes many moons ago), someone you know has taken up running over the last little while. Road races in Northern Ireland and in the Republic have seen record-breaking numbers of participants this year, as they did the year before and the year before that. A new book by the athletics correspondent for … Read more

The Murphy Report, Chapter 19: The Worst Case Yet?

The 19th chapter of the Murphy Report on clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese was published today, more than a year after the release of the original report. The publication of chapter 19 was delayed because it concerned former priest Tony Walsh, who was facing legal proceedings. Eleven days ago Walsh was sentenced to 16 years in jail, clearing the way for chapter 19 to be made available to the public. I had recently begun to wonder if people on … Read more

Tarnishing Success Stories with Uncomfortable Truths?

The BBC recently reported on the efforts of family members of 24 men who were shot dead in the Malaya Emergency on 11 and 12 December 1948 to petition for an inquiry by the British Government. This has many resonances with Northern Ireland’s ‘dealing with the past’ debate. The story details how the efforts of the families have been stymied over the years, and recognises the ‘stigma’ that they bear because those who were killed are painted as Communist terrorists. … Read more

Unleashing the Safety Valve: How Many People will be Left in Ireland at this Time Next Year?

This week’s Trinity News*, the student newspaper at Trinity College Dublin, carries a stark headline: MOST STUDENTS WILL EMIGRATE. It is followed by three bullet points detailing the results of an online poll of TCD students by the newspaper: 85% of TCD students plan to emigrate Lecturers advising students to leave Unemployment rate has tripled The old familiar spectre of emigration has been ever more present in Ireland in the past year, as the country continues to reel from the … Read more

The McGurk’s Bar Massacre: Another Cover-up Raises Questions about Dealing with the Past

The latest example of how Northern Ireland’s troubled past just won’t go away are revelations released today that Stormont Prime Minister Brian Faulkner – in the words of the Irish News headline – ‘helped cover up truth of bar bombing.’ The bar bombing in question is the notorious McGurk’s case, which claimed the lives of 15 people. The evidence for a cover-up is based on documents accessed by the Pat Finucane Centre and publicised by the Campaign for Truth pressure … Read more

The Murphy Report One Year On and the State of the Irish Catholic Church: Does it Matter?

The one year anniversary of the Murphy Report was 26 November. It’s been a year of almost unremitting crisis for the Irish Catholic Church, as revelations about the scale of sexual abuse in the church – and the collusion of church and state authorities to keep it behind closed doors – have shocked almost everyone on this island. This year has seen a stream of stories in the media about particular cases. These have included: The dismay of victims and … Read more

Hearing the Other Voice from the Grave: Why Should we Listen to David Ervine’s Stories?

Ed Moloney’s Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland has received considerable attention in the press and in the public realm since its publication earlier this year. Although the book relates the experiences of the Provisional IRA’s Brendan Hughes and the PUP/UVF’s David Ervine, much of the discussion has focused on Hughes’ stories about Gerry Adams. This book review will not delve into the Adams-related stories in detail, as I think they have by now entered our common … Read more

Do Historians Help or Hinder when Dealing with the Past?

What role might historians play in addressing the legacies of Northern Ireland’s troubled past? That was the topic of a seminar hosted today by Healing Through Remembering, Do Historians Help or Hinder?: Preparing for a Decade of Commemorations. The role of historians is seemingly hot on the British Government’s agenda, with Secretary of State Owen Paterson recently floating the idea that historians are better equipped than lawyers to sort through the events, stories, and traumas of the Troubles. Those who … Read more

Engaging Grassroots Unionism: Room for the Churches & Working Class Loyalism?

I recently crossed paths with the moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Norman Hamilton, and he asked me if I had any insights on how the Protestant/unionist middle class might be encouraged to ‘care’ about working class Protestantism/unionism/loyalism. Last week when I attended the session on ‘engaging grassroots unionism’ at Slugger’s Political Innovation (Un)Conference, I had Hamilton’s question in the back of my mind. I don’t recall either the Protestant working class or ‘loyalism’ even being mentioned in that session, although … Read more

PI Camp: Engaging Grassroots Unionism?

There was much soul-searching at Slugger’s Political Innovation (Un)Conference session on ‘How can greater grassroots engagement be advanced in unionism? What is the best means to set the agenda?’ This session was led by Geoff McGimpsey of the Open Unionism blog. McGimpsey said he had hoped the blog would in itself encourage greater grassroots engagement, but now he wanted new ideas to ramp up this process. Among his suggestions was a fringe event to get people talking, perhaps on the … Read more