Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland by Peter Mulholland: New Insights on Recent Religious History

In Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland (Peter Lang Publishers, 2019) Peter Mulholland offers a frank and often bruising account of the decline of the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland since the middle of the twentieth century. Mulholland follows in the footsteps of ground-breaking studies, such as those by Tom Inglis (Moral Monopoly, 1987, 1998) and Louise Fuller (Irish Catholicism Since 1950, 2002). What sets Mulholland’s work apart is how …

Read more…Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland by Peter Mulholland: New Insights on Recent Religious History

John Hewitt Digital Festival of Literature and Ideas 2020

The John Hewitt Society have moved their Armagh summer school online with a series of free online talks and discussions. While we normally take Slugger TV out of the NvTv studio to record in front of the Armagh audience, we’re delighted to be opening this year’s festival with a discussion about “After lockdown, can the arts return to health without a vaccine?”. Read more about this and the rest of the programme …

As the pace of modern life gets quicker all the time, poetry provides a much needed pause…

“My favourite poem is the one that starts ‘Thirty days hath September’ because it actually tells you something.” (Groucho Marx 1895 -1977) I know I’m treading on precarious territory here with that one word – poetry. There. Many of you will have zoned out already but I hope you’ll stay with me for a little longer as I try to untangle my thoughts on a subject that seems to divide so many folks, in so many different ways. But before …

Read more…As the pace of modern life gets quicker all the time, poetry provides a much needed pause…

Church during Lockdown? – From Virtual Religion to Bronagh Lawson’s ‘Belfast: City of Light’

Earlier this week, the DUP’s Edwin Poots suggested that churches could reopen as part of a process of exiting the Covid-19 lockdown. Poots’s comments have provoked debate. Fr Paddy McCafferty of Corpus Christi parish, Ballymurphy, told BBC Radio Ulster that if reopening could be safely achieved ‘we should certainly look at every possible way of achieving that’. Poots’s DUP colleague Paul Givan made a case for opening of churches with large buildings, arguing that social distancing could be achieved in …

Read more…Church during Lockdown? – From Virtual Religion to Bronagh Lawson’s ‘Belfast: City of Light’

A Triple Rainbow of Hope: Good Friday 1988

By now, we are all familiar with the rainbow as a symbol of hope during the Covid-19 crisis. Today, I am reminded of a Good Friday story of hope from our past: the sighting of a triple rainbow at the end of a Falls-Shankill Good Friday walk, organised by the ecumenical Cornerstone Community in 1988. The 1988 walk took place in the shadow of one of the most notorious periods of the Troubles, memorably recounted in the documentary 14 Days. Those …

Read more…A Triple Rainbow of Hope: Good Friday 1988

Book Review: The Irish Presbyterian Mind by Andrew Holmes

At a recent academic seminar, I remarked (only somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that what defines Irish Presbyterianism is that it cannot agree on anything. I was alluding to the fact that historically, Irish Presbyterians have disagreed on a range of theological, social and political issues; indeed, over several centuries Irish Presbyterians have been preoccupied by such ‘family feuds’. Today, Presbyterian disagreements tend to be reflected in rather crude caricatures of so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative evangelical’ wings of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland …

Read more…Book Review: The Irish Presbyterian Mind by Andrew Holmes

How Should we Remember Seamus Mallon? Together – in a Spirit of Christian Love and Forgiveness…

The passing of Seamus Mallon should remind us that Northern Ireland’s hard-won peace is due to the efforts of men and women of integrity whose non-violent politics and personal sacrifice got us to that point. We are fortunate that in the last year of his life, Seamus left us a memoir, A Shared Home Place, that not only recounted his historical role in the peace process but was orientated towards the future. In it, he advocated political ‘generosity’ and proposed …

Read more…How Should we Remember Seamus Mallon? Together – in a Spirit of Christian Love and Forgiveness…

What a Day Out with the Redemptorists says about the Future of the Irish Catholic Church

On Saturday I took part in a day-long gathering for friends and associates of the Redemptorists in Ireland. The event grew out of a similar meeting at the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, during Pope Francis’ visit. Given that my biography of Redemptorist priest Fr Gerry Reynolds, Unity Pilgrim, was published earlier this year, I was asked to facilitate an afternoon workshop on ‘Unity Pilgrim: Challenged by the Stranger, Welcoming the Stranger’. I co-facilitated the workshop with Ed …

Read more…What a Day Out with the Redemptorists says about the Future of the Irish Catholic Church

Book Review: The Catholic Church and the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1968-1999, by Margaret M. Scull

A rich and carefully-researched new book, The Catholic Church and the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1968-1999 (Oxford University Press, 2019), offers fresh insights on the changing role of the Catholic Church and the personalities that drove its interventions during that fraught period. The author, Margaret M. Scull, a post-doctoral research fellow at NUI Galway, writes in a clear, accessible style, ensuring the text will be of interest not only to scholars, but a general readership. There will be a Belfast launch …

Read more…Book Review: The Catholic Church and the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1968-1999, by Margaret M. Scull

From ‘Unions and Unionism’ and Brexit, to Seamus Mallon’s ‘Shared Home Place’ …

Next week, Queen’s University will host a symposium on ‘Unions and Unionism: Brexit and these Islands’. It’s an apt opportunity for reflection given the increasingly tumultuous Brexit negotiations and the DUP’s place in this precarious process. The symposium begins on Thursday 24 October, 4.45-6.30 pm with a keynote address on ‘Exodus, Reckoning, Sacrifice: Three Meanings of Brexit’ by Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for International Studies at the University of Oxford. Friday 25 October …

Read more…From ‘Unions and Unionism’ and Brexit, to Seamus Mallon’s ‘Shared Home Place’ …

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan

The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan by Allan LEONARD 3 October 2019 Sheelagh Murnaghan was the only Liberal Party MP (1961-69) in the Northern Ireland Parliament, representing the constituency of Queen’s University Belfast, which was the venue for a launch event of a new biography about her remarkable life. There were many Murnaghan family members in the audience of a few dozen attending. The book, Sheelagh Murnaghan, was commissioned by the Albert McElroy Memorial Fund, which was established to commemorate the …

Read more…The polite rebel: Sheelagh Murnaghan

‘Unless we start listening, we’re not going to move forward’

“Unless we start listening, we’re not really going to move forward,” says Julieann Campbell, editor of the Unheard Voices collection of women’s stories from the Troubles. She was interviewed in the latest Forward Together podcast. Julieann reflects in the podcast on the impact on her of the interviews with women about their experiences in the Troubles. “I think it has affected me on several levels, emotionally and in my work,” she says. “It is a fact that it has made …

Read more…‘Unless we start listening, we’re not going to move forward’

How Loyalism Remembers: Review of Ghosts of the Somme by Jonathan Evershed

‘… commemoration of the Somme represents a (if not the) chief means by which Loyalists are able to participate in the political, cultural, and social life of Northern Ireland and attempts to circumscribe particular commemorative forms risks further alienating Loyalists from processes of peace-building in which they already perceive themselves as having little stake.’ – Jonathan Evershed, Ghosts of the Somme, p. 19 This is the most important argument in a new book by Jonathan Evershed, Ghosts of the Somme: …

Read more…How Loyalism Remembers: Review of Ghosts of the Somme by Jonathan Evershed

James O’Brien and the lost journalistic art of asking decent questions…

Ever since I started Slugger back 2002, and having only just discovered the opportunities which blogging offered to a humble, prospecting researcher like myself I’ve always been interested as much in the cultural effects of net based comms as in the subject itself. With our John Hewitt session coming up, I thought it timely to look at the latest writing on the subject and so I called into Blackwells on Monday and I couldn’t pass James O’Brien’s How to be …

Read more…James O’Brien and the lost journalistic art of asking decent questions…

Contentious Rituals: Parading the Nation in Northern Ireland by Jonathan Blake – Essential Reading for the Summer Season

Contentious Rituals: Parading the Nation in Northern Ireland (Oxford, 2019), a new book by American political scientist Jonathan Blake, is essential reading as Northern Ireland’s summer parading season begins in earnest. Blake helps us understand why those who parade – and those who don’t – are almost always talking past each other. Readers of this book should gain a better understanding of why those who parade genuinely feel that their culture is under attack and believe that their participation in …

Read more…Contentious Rituals: Parading the Nation in Northern Ireland by Jonathan Blake – Essential Reading for the Summer Season

Book Review: Southern Prods and the search for a place within their own state…

Protestant and Irish: The Minority’s search for place in independent Ireland is a collection of exploratory essays edited by Ian d’Alton and Ida Milne. It is published by Cork University Press 2019 ISBN 978-1-78205-298-2. It is hard to credit today but when I left Belfast for Galway in 1974 there was a sense of entering the faraway and unknown. Belfast Protestants were pretty thin on the ground there so far as I could tell; indeed, the only other fellow Northerner …

Read more…Book Review: Southern Prods and the search for a place within their own state…

‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

The above quote by the American writer, William Faulkner, could have been crafted with Northern Ireland in mind. We need look no further than the murder of Lyra McKee a few weeks ago for evidence that Faulkner was right on the money. I thought my days of hearing news of the violent deaths of friends had long passed but seemingly not. I woke up to read of Lyra’s death in the news. Not only was her killing reckless and heartless, …

Read more…‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Reporting the Troubles: 2 Prime Ministers, 5 P O’Neills, the last death knock, and addressing legacy issues

Brian Rowan and Deric Henderson speaking about Reporting the Troubles at a Creative Holywood conversation.

Recalling working on Prime Ministerial visits, receiving IRA briefings from five different P O’Neills, collating tens of thousands of pages of notes, deciding to no longer knock the doors of bereaved relatives, and thinking out loud about how to address legacy issues, when Brian Rowan and Deric Henderson sat down on Thursday evening to discuss their contributions to the book ‘Reporting the Troubles’, they had no idea of the tragic events that would happen just a few hours later in Creggan.

A legacy process should be about why the Troubles should never happen again

Brian Rowan and Deric Henderson speaking about Reporting the Troubles at a Creative Holywood conversation.

On Thursday evening, hours before Lyra McKee was fatally shot in Creggan, Brian Rowan was speaking about Reporting the Troubles in Holywood. Throughout the event, he often pivoted away from pure reminiscence and returned to the subject of legacy, arguing for an inclusive and society-wide process that asked less about what had happened but instead focussed on why it happened and crucially why it should never happen again.