The Catholic Church and revolution in Ireland

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Ó hAdhmaill, Féilim
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Despite the involvement of radical socialists like James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising and the unanimous passing of the Democratic Programme (a socialist manifesto for the new Government) by the First Dáil in 1919, the Irish state has since its inception exhibited a highly conservative approach to social and economic policy, and politics generally in Ireland, North or South, have never faced a serious challenge from those seeking radical change. Several factors have played a part in this and this article focuses on one of these - the power and conservatism of the Catholic Church and its influence in shaping the political landscape. Despite a decline in recent years, the Church remains influential north and south of the Border in education provision, the current debates in relation to abortion and in culturally important aspects of life - baptism, communion and burial. In the past the Church’s political influence among Ireland’s majority Catholic community had been even more pronounced. The article begins by looking at the Church’s attitude to revolutionary change in Ireland historically before focusing on its influence in the North during the Stormont years and during the more recent ‘Troubles’ – 1969 - 98. It shows how the Church attempted to influence political thought and discourse in Ireland when it was at the height of its power. Whilst it is true that the Church was not a monolith, and there have always been individual priests who have adopted a more radical approach, the general thrust of the Church was conservative, attempting to ally itself with the power elites of the day where possible. It is this influence which appears to have stood the test of time despite attempts in past generations to radicalise the Irish population.
Ireland , History , Conflict , Republicanism
Ó hAdhmaill, F. (2013) 'The Catholic Church and revolution in Ireland', Socialist History, 43, pp: 1-25.
© 2013, Socialist History Society.