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What the F…. April 29, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Irish Politics, Secularism.
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A new law on blasphemy? These people should be ashamed of themselves. Especially Rabbitte, who should be opposing this outright, not proposing amendments. Utterly anti-democratic. It’s hard to believe that someone with Rabbitte’s background in a militantly secular socialist party – no matter how far he has moved from the socialism – should be so utterly lily-livered on this. More proof, if it was needed, that a proper left voice is needed once more, and that the battle for the secular politics envisioned as part of the republican ideal continues.

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1. D.J.P. O'Kane - April 29, 2009

This latest development in our little circle of hell raises two questions: what is the current relationship between the state and the church (and the churches)? Also, what was the real relationship between the state and the church (sorry, ‘The Church’) in the decades after the revolution?

John Banville’s assertion that Dev’s Ireland with it’s powerful clerics and so forth was a sort of ‘demilitarised totalitarianism’ is a piece of demented nonsense, an insult to the intelligence and an insult to the victims of genuinely ‘totalitarian’ regimes. But as anyone with any awareness of our history knows, those powerful clerics did exist. Which leads to my next question: how did they get that power, or who gave them that power, and why? I submit that from 1922 onwards the power structure in this ‘republic’ involved a close relationship between the state and the church; but contrary to what we tend to assume, the church was always the junior partner in that relationship. Why does the state today feel the need to revive that partnership?

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2. Stevo - April 30, 2009

Great, no more Fr. Ted.

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Starkadder - April 30, 2009

No more Family Guy,South Park or American Dad either.

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3. D.J.P. O'Kane - April 30, 2009

Every cloud has a silver lining, Stevo.

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4. CL - April 30, 2009

The State gave control of primary education to the Church in the 1830s. They still have that control.

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5. D.J.P. O'Kane - April 30, 2009

And later on, a Home Rule party controlled at local level by local notables – many of whom were involved in what Dr. Paisley charmingly referred to as ‘the hell-soaked liqour traffic’ – had to negotiate a relationship with a Catholic church which was the only one of its kind in the whole world to support a mass temperance movement.

The choreography of that relationship would have always tended to the complicated side – which is what I’m trying to get at when I invite people to rethink the real nature of church-state relationships in this part of the world.

And in response to your main point, CL, is control of primary education (exercised through a veto over hiring resented by many members of the 19th century teaching profession) a firm enough basis for the control of a whole society?

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6. Garibaldy - April 30, 2009

Religion always reflects the ideas of the society right? So Irish Catholicism reflected the interests of the rural and urban middle class and petty bourgeoisie. No better example than the attitude to sex, which was rooted in inheritance patterns.

DJP is right to suggest that the church gave backing to the state rather than the other way about.

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7. CL - April 30, 2009

I’m not suggesting that ‘control of primary education..is a firm enough basis for the control over a whole society’. I doubt it.
There were other ways, I’m sure, besides education in which the symbiotic relation between church and state attempted to control people. Denouncing radicals and republicans from the pulpit was not uncommon. Mick O’Riordan used to say that he received a few mortal sins in the ballot box after the bishop in Cork declared that it was a mortal sin to vote for him.
I find it peculiar that after nearly 2 centuries the church still controls primary education. Entrusting the educational care of the young to the facilitators and protectors or child rapists cannot be healthy for society. Ireland badly needs a modernisation programme.

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8. Wednesday - April 30, 2009

I reckon this amendment might be a quid pro quo for civil partnership, which Fianna Fáil seem to be having an awfully difficult time bringing in legislation for.

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9. WorldbyStorm - April 30, 2009

It is bizarre. It really is… I think you’re right Garibaldy, why on earth was Rabbitte not declaring that this was wrong to begin with. Incidentally the fun to be had in deciding what is ‘artistic… etc’ will no doubt bring joy to the next few years…

I hadn’t thought about that Wednesday. Certainly makes sense…

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10. Tomaltach - April 30, 2009

When I read the piece in the Irish Times I had to check if it was the right date, not April fools day. This is unreal. And I agree, incredible that Labour are not four square against it.

As well as education, health care was another area where the church became heavily involved and is an sphere of life over which they retained very strong influence right up to the latter part of the twentieth century. Certainly they were still going strong at the time of the mother and child scheme. There are still remnants of the religious control over the health system, for example there are three or four clerics on the board of the national maternity hostpital.

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11. smiffy - April 30, 2009

It is absolutely bizarre, and Carol Coulter’s piece in today’s Times is very good on the subject (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0430/1224245681506.html).

The most peculiar aspect, I think, is where this is coming from. Unlike others, I’m sceptical about whether this is being driven by the RCC, or other religious bodies. I’m not aware of any previous public suggestion on their part that the position on blasphemy be legislated for, although it would be interested to know if it formed part of the formal dialogue between the government and various religious groups (and the plucky humanists).

I’d be very surprised if the RCC is pushing this, and certainly if it was part of a quid pro quo with regard to civil partnerships. There’s absolutely no need for such legislation, even if one accepted the need for the recent ‘incitement to religious hatred’ laws introduced in the UK, as the current Irish incitement provisions serve equally well. It’s also very hard to see anyone ever being convicted under this, as – just as in incitement to hatred crimes currently – the burden of proof on the prosecution is extraordinarily high. However, the threat of prosecution, or even investigation, is sufficient to have a significantly detrimental effect on freedom of expression.

My guess, and this is nothing more than a guess, is that this is being driven by a certain senior individual in the Department of Justice well known for being extremely conservative and going on fliers like this. If that were the case, hopefully it’s something to which the government aren’t particularly committed (although it would be interesting to hear the GP position, given that all legislation must be agreed at Cabinet) and which would be dropped if public opposition were strong enough.

That’s why, however, I completely agree with Garibaldy that Labour/Rabbitte’s position is an absolute disgrace. By suggesting amendments of that nature, he’s implicitly supporting the principle that the crime of blasphemous libel should be enshrined in the law. Between him and Ruairí Quinn, it’s becoming harder and harder to find any positive reason to vote for that party at all.

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12. Garibaldy - April 30, 2009

Thanks for that link Smiffy. Very good piece indeed by Carol Coulter. I’d agree that the impulse for this is most likely not coming from the churches, but from the political right.

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13. Wednesday - April 30, 2009

I don’t think it’s necessarily a quid pro quo for the Church, but perhaps for certain FF backbenchers and Senators.

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14. Libero - April 30, 2009

Maybe it’s a simple as this: Minister Ahern thinks he’s a smartie with leadership ambitions, and fancies identifying himself with the religiously-minded, even if it involves a fatuous piece of proposed legislation that is never intended to pass.

Lots of sensible people think the depression will see a relative upsurge in religious identity. The politically ambitious will accordingly throw shapes to get onside and be seen as pro-religious.

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15. Seán Ó Tuama - May 1, 2009

Maybe the whole thing is aimed at a different religion entirely and the aim is to avoid the consequences of an Irish “Danish cartoons” affair? While at the same time clothing this in a way to appeal to both RC and PC opinion?

No religion, Catholic or Muslim, should have this form of protection through censorship.

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16. Niall - May 1, 2009

The thread title sums up my reaction to the news. The number of people who’d welcome a law prohibiting blasphemy are so few that it’s hard to imagine why anyone would bother courting them, especially in the case of FF since they can probably those few individuals amoung their supporters already.

It may well be the case that there is some sort of black hole in the Irish legal system regarding the subject of blasphemy, but I’d wager that it’s not unique. The government have cowardly avoided their duty to legislate in the past, so Ahern’s excuse raises as many questions as it answers. The Conway case was in 1999. Why now?

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