Afterword: Ireland's mysterious minority - A French-Irish comparison

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Ruane, Joseph
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Cork University Press
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How Irish Protestants see themselves and their place in the wider society is one of the remaining mysteries of Irish life. In a society where virtually every social category and institution has been brought into focus, meditated on and moralised about, this one remains elusive. It might be attributed to their very small numbers. But they loom larger in the public imagination than the numbers alone might warrant. They are central to the history of the island; their imprint is on the landscape and on its cultural institutions; their churches, schools and hospitals occupy central places in its cities and towns; they occupy leading positions in key sectors of the society; they are formally represented at public events; their historic university - Trinity College - remains at the centre of Irish cultural life; their cathedrals and once great houses are must-see places for foreign tourists. There is more than enough to talk about. Instead there is a wariness and a silence that points to a reluctance on both sides to engage with the issue. Protestants prefer to deal with matters of concern privately and discreetly, and Catholics are happy to oblige. This is consistent with the general pattern of majority-minority relations. Majorities tend not to think of minorities unless they are powerful, influential, or troublesome. Minorities feel vulnerable and dislike drawing attention to themselves. But there are also issues specific to the Irish case: the long history of Catholic-Protestant conflict on the island, the circumstances in which independence was secured, the question of how Southern Protestants were treated by the new state. One consequence has been a reluctance on the part of Protestants to be too explicit about how they see themselves, the wider society, and their place within it.
Protestant , Minority , Ireland
Ruane, J. (2019) 'Afterword: Ireland's mysterious minority - A French-Irish comparison', in d’Alton, I. and Milne, I. (eds) Protestant and Irish: the minority's search for a place in independent Ireland. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press.
© 2019, Joseph Ruane. Published by Cork University Press. All rights reserved.