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And another thing! Coolacrease and Harris… we should have guessed…it’s not the past, it’s the present! November 11, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History.
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I thought it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong. And now, due to Eoghan Harris, we see the Coolacrease situation become elevated to a semi-political issue, hence my posting this to Irish Election as well as the Cedar Lounge Revolution.

Eoghan Harris in today’s Sunday independent writes about Coolacrease (Tom McGurk also writes about it sensibly in the SBH). Have to say, this is a perfect storm for Harris, isn’t it? He’s in the Senate, in the Sunday Independent and handed an issue which he can run and run with.

But for those who can’t be pushed to read his column here are some choice highlights from it. As with David Adams there is no engagement with the piffling ‘facts’. Why should there be? The end is rather different from an academic debate on the events of 1921.

And that end? Well, Harris is much much more unrestrained than either Sammon, Adams or Hourihane. He just comes right out and says it…

Let’s hope RTE — and the rest of the Irish media — is robust enough to reject any attempts to stifle challenges to the tribal take on Irish history. After all, if we can’t face the truth about the IRA atrocity against Richard and Abraham Pearson from Coolacrease, 86 years ago, how can we face the truth about the IRA atrocity against Paul Quinn from Cullyhanna a few weeks ago?

But wait a second. The police forces of this island have said that they do not have any evidence that this was an ‘IRA atrocity’ against Paul Quinn. And let me be very clear, in the North this week we saw the threat by dissident Republicanism to serving members of the PSNI – a force which has undergone enormous changes for the better in the past five years and is now fully (if not uncritically) supported by the political representatives of the people of the North. Still no mention of that when yesterday’s battles are so much more attractive and so much less difficult to deal with than an intransigient and undemocratic rump (indeed, in light of that and on the weekend where the UDA finally, finally, after years announces a stand down of theirs and the UFF units perhaps it seems almost perverse to be attempting to construct this narrative). No charges have been brought. No evidence submitted. No sentences passed. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness continue their improbable love-in, and does the good Senator believe that that love-in would survive one nano-second longer than the announcement of evidence that the IRA had indeed committed an atrocity?

As with Adams he says:

May I also draw Fr Murphy’s attention to the dangers of doing business with amateur historians as outlined by the sub-heading on Davy Adams’s cogent column on Coolacrease in today’s Irish Times.

Which is interesting as a charge from a man with no track record as an historian whatsoever (although his wiki entry states that he had degree in History – still we’ll see in a moment how he is as quick to dismiss those with historical qualifications as those without).

Yet again we have an attack on the Aubane Historical Society – for being the Aubane Historical Society, rather than the actual facts.

Davy Adams demolishes any attempt to present the Pearson killings as an IRA execution, as well as Aubane’s attacks on the Coolacrease programme. “Their campaign seems designed merely to sow doubt, create confusion and muddy the waters around the Coolacrease murders. If they are lucky, it might also have the effect of ensuring that no other such programmes are made.”

Firstly Adams didn’t do any such thing. He attacked the AHS and merely alleged with no substantiation that what they were saying was incorrect (incidentally – I’m still unsure is Muldowney a member of the AHS – does anyone know?). But the irony here is that Harris is using the same tactics as the AHS because, and that is unsurprising both have a common political lineage, through the influence of the British and Irish Communist Organisation (for more see here), even if they’ve ended up in different places (well, not so different seeing as both idolise Fianna Fáil and Bertie Ahern – ah, these ‘elite’ conflicts…).

It’s been a busy week for Harris.

Senator David Norris kindly lets me look at a letter to him from a Pearson critic, historian Philip McConway, which accuses me — and not the IRA murder gang — of deciding to “fan the flames of hatred”. How? By saying I believed the IRA gang were aiming at the boys’ genitals.

McConway goes on to complain about David Norris’s passionate defence of the Pearson boys in the Senate: “As a contributor and researcher for the RTE Hidden History documentary, The Killings at Coolacrease, I take grave exception to your remarks. I was awarded the M.Phil in Modern Irish History in Trinity College Dublin in 2007. My dissertation, entitled The IRA in Offaly 1920-21, was awarded a 1:1 which is a first class honours grade. The Pearson episode featured in this dissertation.”

To which David Norris replied: “I have received your letter. I am not in the slightest bit intimidated by your M.Phil nor did I specify you or your research. I do not withdraw a single atom of what I said.” No keeping the head down for Norris.

This latter reference is as regards the condescending line that Harris has taken as regards ‘speaking up’ for Protestants in this state. How good of him to do so. How strange that he never asked those of us – like myself – with a background in that community before taking this weight upon himself. But then, it seems that Protestants are to be no more than bit players in this war of the words waged for his own political ends. And nice to note that ‘academic historians’ are given no greater shrift than ‘amateurs’ when they dissent from the Harris line…

….in my extensive experience, any attempt to challenge the tribal taboo on this subject produces a five-part protocol which goes as follows:

First, some brave soul challenges the nationalist consensus about some atrocity against Protestants in some part of rural Ireland, in the period 1919-1923. Second, just as decent local people are pondering some public atonement, a few local historians start to split hairs and decent people desist. Third, local Protestants are persuaded to say there was no sectarian agenda in the affair. Fourth, anyone who publicises the affair is accused of “fanning the flames of sectarian hatred” or “damaging the peace process”, or not “moving on.”

Problem is this is all rhetoric. Harris can’t point to a ‘tribal taboo’ about atrocity (or ‘countless numbers’ of atrocities against Protestants – as David Adams put it in Fridays Irish Times) because there isn’t such a taboo. There is no such taboo because there is no evidence of more than a very very limited number of actions with a clearly sectarian face during the War of Independence. And this, I think, is to the credit of those who fought in that war, arguably on both sides, that it didn’t descend into that particular pit and that it remained very much a conflict where nationalism took centre stage rather than religion (although it would be wrong not to accept that the latter dimension was very important in the North).

Note the use of the word ‘atonement’. Just what manner of atonement is possible or even relevant at this remove? And to who is it directed at?

Then we have the idea that ‘local historians’ (a breed almost as low in his personal hierarchy of the historical as the ‘amateur historians’ he refers to earlier) ‘split hairs’. Well. No.

The point of a serious historical analysis is to present all the facts and then to construct a narrative which can be held up for critique. You will note that there are two key parts of that process. ‘All the facts’ and ‘held up for critique’. But if we are to take the Harris line neither is as important as the narrative.

Note too the way in which ‘Protestants’ are wheeled on once more as passive bystanders, there to be ‘persuaded’. The idea that citizens of this state who happen to be Protestant might eschew ‘tribalism’ or worrying about a past which is apparently being reconstructed before our very eyes seems not to have occurred to Harris.

And there is a central oddity to this, which actually links into his point about ‘fanning the flames of sectarian hatred’. The entire thesis he presents is built upon constructing a narrative of sectarianism where one does not exist. So, in a sense, that is certainly generating a sectarian discourse, although hatred might be putting it too strongly.

Fifth, and most formidably, as can be seen from its websites, the Aubane Historical Society, and its allies, bombard the media with a massive mailbag of tendentious and tediously argued letters. These create so much fog around the facts, that Roman Catholics and real republicans retreat from any act of atonement — and local Protestants learn once again the lesson of keeping the head down.

I keep saying it. I have little or no time for the AHS. But… many of those linked to it appear to have a least some credentials as ‘academic’ historians. Their conclusions may well be tendentious, but… so what? It is the factual data which is of relevance.

Or that was how it worked until Canadian historian Peter Hart published The IRA and its Enemies. Although Hart was subjected to a series of violent verbal polemics by the Aubane Society (assisted more temperately by priest historian Fr Brian Murphy OSB, who often launches Aubane’s books), he touched a deep chord among decent Roman Catholics and real republicans.

Listening to Liveline, I have a hunch that the 86-year taboo is being broken and that the the Pearson boys will be hard to bury.

Hart was critiqued by many many more than the AHS. Any examination of History Ireland will demonstrate that his thesis was considered to be overblown – although much of his research was interesting. But again we tip into a near sectarian discourse of ‘decent Catholics’. Quite apart from sounding as if this missal was delivered by a time tunnel from the latter part of the 19th century it seems strange to place it within a framework of ‘real’ Republicanism which surely would eschew all such categorisation.

And finally, he reiterates a point which is at the heart of all this contention…

At first sight it would seem hard to deny the facts of the murders at Coolacrease. A gang of 30 IRA men, in broad daylight, dragged out Richard and Abraham Pearson, two members of the pacifist Cooneyite sect, and shot them in the groin and abdomen — as the family later testified — in full sight of their mother and sisters.

In defiance of the Pearson family’s testimony, Pat Muldowney, in a letter to Village magazine, denies the Pearson boys were shot in front of their family. In defiance of common sense, he describe as “salacious” my inference that because the Pearsons were shot in the groin and lower abdomen, the IRA gang were aiming at their genitals.

The problem is – from any viewpoint beyond Harris and those he cheer leads, that none of this is uncontentious. The facts are not as he proposes – or at least there is sufficient other evidence to suggest a much more complex situation both in the time leading up to, and on the day of, these events. The shooting of the Pearson’s did not occur in a vacuum (both the Irish and British authorities then extant said that the Pearsons had shot at an IRA unit prior to the murders). The events of the shooting appear not to be as he presents them (medical reports indicated numerous gunshots not limited to the groin (not genitals) area) and the situation after the shooting is not as he proposes. What happened that day in 1921 was awful. Whatever the motivations on either side it reflected poorly on both. Two young men lost their lives in what was a murder. But the nature of that murder remains as difficult to draw clear conclusions about today as it did two weeks ago, or indeed at the time. In that context to propose this as a seamless narrative impermeable to criticism is a folly.

To then, as has been done, criticise those who would – entirely rightly (whatever their own ideological proclivities) – provide a criticism of the narrative he presents is entirely ahistorical. That this is being touched on tangentially in the Senate is a serious indictment of the understanding of historical processes and methodologies and an inability to see that history does not offer up neat little narratives with which to attack opponents but is, by contrast, complex and open to multiple interpretations, none of which should be seen as comforting to any partisan opinion.

Comments»

1. Simone Burns - November 11, 2007

“The police forces of this island have said that they do not have any evidence that this was an ‘IRA atrocity’ against Paul Quinn.” – isn’t this the problem, with the Provos entrenched in government they never will rule on that organization being directly involved – doesn’t stop it from being involved as is widely believed in the local community and by respected observers. Are we now to wait upon the establishment enforcers to demarcate the truth? Obviously the message of the damage committed by the sectarian state that was created in the 26 counties is damaged by it’s self appointed opponent – Mr Harris – but to claim that sectarianism was not a driving force in large swaths of Irish nationalism during this period is questionable – the proof is in the pudding – long at the state they established and the suffering the Catholic clergy where allowed to impose of generations of young people and those that did not fit into their perverted moral code.

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2. Garibaldy - November 11, 2007

Another great post. You must be exhausted. Interesting to see Harris refer to Murhpy’s criticisms of Hart, without explaining that he caught him cutting a sentence in half to change its meaning about the Bandon thing.

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3. WorldbyStorm - November 11, 2007

Simone, my thoughts would be this. It is up to the police to gather the evidence and then for that evidence to be presented in court and for the legal system to take its course. As for their being entrenched in government. That was not the case in the previous powersharing administration so why you think that particularly with policing powers not yet devolved it would be different I’m not entirely sure. And yes, I think it is beholden on us in democracies to look to the security forces to give us some sense of a situation rather than self-serving screeds in the press. That said, I’m no fan of drawing conclusions prior to all the evidence being in – and frankly I thnk the PSNI (and the Gardai) have been put in impossible positions in the past in just those sort of circumstances.

As for the sectarian state in the South. Well, I’m not so sure that it was as you characterise it (and that’s before we even get to the nature of the original SF which was very much filled with Protestant activists who had come on board during the Gaelic Revival – indeed in my own historical research over the past deacade and more I’ve been struck by how many Protestants were instrumental in forging the identity of the 26 county state across a range of areas). Whether Catholicism has a perverted moral code – more so than what other religion? – this was socially and culturally a largely conservative state – as indeed was the one to the direct North. Seems to me that liberals and socialists – as ever – were the ones in the minority in both parts of he island.

Garibaldy, I’d actually intended not to write today, or if doing so to write about the amazing George Melly prog on BBC4 during the week. But… read papers… blood boils… fingers start to tap. I’m genuinely hoping no more comes up on this matter – otherwise the CLR will start to look like the AHS… and that would be a very very bad thing…

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4. Grendel - November 11, 2007

“….(Well, not so different seeing as both idolise Fianna Fáil and Bertie Ahern – ah, these ‘elite’ conflicts…)”.

I was reminded of the climax of John Frankheimer’s the Manchurian
Candidate, where (SPOILER ALERT!)….

…..the Communists and Angela Lansbury’s Mccarthyite turn out to
be on the same side.

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5. Eamonn McDonagh - November 11, 2007

This whole debate is based on a false idea; the idea of a clean national liberation struggle, of the possibility of a Virgin Birth. Such things don’t exist. Harris and his ilk, who would have us believe that all and everything to do with nationalism in Ireland is morally corrupt, are just as much prisoners of this view as their opponents.

Few post-colonial states came into being without some level of slaughter and atrocity and the great majority of nation states are based on the crushing of the identity of one or more ethno-linguistic or religious group within its frontiers. Not infrequently, the birth of new states has been accompanied by the expulsion/emigration/fleeing of some or all of the members of the groups who have lost out.

At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious; Irish nationalism, just like Argentine, Azerbaijani and Uzbek nationalism is a multifaceted thing and *some* of those facets are very dark indeed. An essential part of it is the creation of one identity, “Us”. At crunch moments in history those not perceived as being part of “Us” tend to have a very bad time of it. This fact no more morally dislegitimates Irish nationalism than it does British, Palestinian or Chilean nationalism. There’s no nationalism that doesn’t have the potential – in not a few cases, realised – for slaughter and genocide of the Other, not ours and not anyone else’s either.

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6. Garibaldy - November 11, 2007

Always preferred Roger Melly to George Melly myself. And much better designed than AHS website.

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7. WorldbyStorm - November 11, 2007

Eamonn, that’s absolutely correct. There is no clean national liberation struggle and Aubane and Harris weirdly both follow this… it’s a sort of pseudo-pacifist reading… and very very bourgeois (sorry, I hate to use the word -but it sort of fits). But the project is to delegitimise it today, by delegitimising it yesterday… isn’t it?

Garibaldy, I have to be honest I’m still not a fan of GM in music terms, but it was an amazing program…

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8. Simone Burns - November 11, 2007

Don’t get your thinking here WBS. Socialists should always question the activities of the police, not sit back allowing them to make calls which have wide-ranging political impacts – just put you’re thinking into the hands of the historic RUC or current Gardai – can you not see how contrary it is to progressive politics?
The northern state may have been conservative, many states have and are conservative but few, outside of the some African cultures use of circumcision, and I believe have allowed what would seem to be the wide scale practice of sexual child abuse which was carried out in this country. It is unfortunate that many people failed to have a voice on this issue and the case has been quieted up by government and some deranged people that have been associated with it. There certainly was nothing on its scale in Northern Ireland. Harris is of course over the top, that’s his style of charlatanism but what should be dealt with here is the real issues. The sectarianism of the southern state and the brutality and political backwardness that was born out of the failure of the Irish revolution during the Independence period rather than some media flurry that is going on over the Pearson incident.
If it takes a Harris showboat to bring this issue into the left’s public debate but on this calls lets just blame the messenger not the message.

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9. WorldbyStorm - November 11, 2007

Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. What I’m trying to say is that given the choice between a newspaper commentator like our friend or the PSNI I’ll go with the PSNI.

As regards the scale of sexual abuse (and do you mean to link this into sectarianism?). I would entirely disagree with the characterisation that this was ‘allowed’. The society in the South was entirely comfortable to subcontract education (and aspects of health as well) out to the religious. It was convenient, it was inexpensive, it was expedient. Without proper state oversight the obvious happened. Similar patterns are evident in the US church and indeed in certain parts of the UK health service. In a socially conservative state the opportunity was even greater. I actually doubt that it was ‘wide scale’ in the sense of endemic, but it happened far far too often. As for NI, who can tell. These things take generations to come out. In any case – and here is further whataboutery, others sorts of abuses and repressions happened there.

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10. sonofstan - November 11, 2007

…. don’t want to derail this, but i think i would agree with the characterisation of sexual abuse as being ‘allowed’. I went to three different all boys secondary schools and in each one there was a priest or brother of whom it was common knowledge that you didn’t want to find yourself alone in a room with him, and, having discussed this with others, i think this was probably true in the majority of catholic boys schools up to the late 70s when the numbers of clergy began to seriously decline – and parents did complain, and priests were moved, but it was expected and understood that it was a church matter and so much the worse for the child. It stretches credibility that state agencies – the Depts. of Health and Education for starters – didn’t know about some of this; so yes ‘allowed’ isn’t too strong a word.

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11. WorldbyStorm - November 11, 2007

I don’t discount what you say, but I think there was a willful naivety about the realities of abuse. As you say, there was always talk about such things on a sort of colloquial level, I had a very similar experience. But my own father who was in primary education from the 1950s onwards was genuinely shocked by the extent of abuse and he was by no means aligned with the Catholic Church. I think that was a sort of blindness to what the talk meant in actuality. I’d tentatively suggest that some within the Depts knew but not all or they chose to not know, and more knew as time progressed but it was only as you say in the 70s when the situation began to change that it became more obvious. Actually I’d also suggest that it wasn’t until the 1980s and later that the true enormity of the situation became obvious and perhaps only after the early 1990s once the Church was discredited by other issues which is ironic in its own way.

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12. Simone Burns - November 12, 2007

“Naivety” – sorry WBS but that is something I would expect from an establishment appoligist not a socialist. Maybe individual’s where unaware but I find it highly dubious that people can claim there was not a widespread knowledge within the state apparatus of these crimes – of course people felt powerless to act – that was the power of the Catholic ideology – and yes on a personal level I would see Catholicism as it has developed within Ireland post famine as possibily the most preverted mainstream religous establishment within this country in is scale of activity. That this group’s power was enthroned post the War of Independence I question very much what went on here on many levels durring that period. What made a political movement like civil rights possible in the North and not here – was it really the greater scale of oppression, was it that there was exisiting anti-state traditions to draw upon, was it the lower scale of working class emigration was it the British state education system? These are questions for socialists not attempting to conjour up some massive amount of institutionlised sex abuse in the North – there where different problems there, not lesser, prehaps greater but certainly not the same. I think this discussion is showing up a greater truth of even socialist’s seeming unwillingness to geninely engage with the social crimanility that occured in the southern part of this island post 1922 towards numerous minority groups.

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13. Simone Burns - November 12, 2007

Just on your case of believing the police – I don’t believe anything that Harris says about the Quinn killing. What I concern myself with is respected commentors reports on the incident, community repersentives and people within the Republican Movement who have no doubt who is behind this and are quite concenred themselves…by the way most of those expect the PSNI and the Gardai to minimlise the im[pact for SF once they keep on being the little good boys they are now

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14. ejh - November 12, 2007

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the particular relationship of Church and State in Ireland allowed not only the conditions for widespread sexual abuse to take place, but also enabled it to be ovelooked, covered up and even condoned. (As an aside, I’m interested to knowq if the same things happened in Spain during the same period, where the aforesaid relationship was even stronger. There do not appear to have been the same revelations, but whether they will be made remains to be seen.) But I don’t see that this means that other forms of oppression necessarily took place and were necessarily covered up and I don’t think that reactions to allegations should be assumed to constitute a self-defensive processs whereby cherished institutions are being protected by their supporters.

I don’t think it can be ignored that some people who paint themselves as being heoric isolated voices battling against an overwhelming powerful nationalist myth and tradtion are, in reality, the intellectual and political mainstream and that rather than being sidelined in discussion, they are people who expect to have it all to themselves in a process whereby some people condemn and other people confess.

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15. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2007

Simone, a number of thoughts. It’s not apologist to suggest that for most people within and without education there was a naivety. I’ve seen it myself, we’ve seen how even in the 1980s and 1990s following abuse scandals in the UK and elsewhere there was still a complete disbelief about the issue here and a lack of engagement “such things couldn’t happen in Ireland” being the line. Well they could and they did and on some scale. And I think you misunderstand the level of prudishness in this society as well. For better or worse, and I think worse, there was an almost Victorian anathema to matters of sexuality or discussions of same in the public space – and that was where the state apparatus was… nice people didn’t talk about such matters. Horrors were brushed under the carpet.

To me the RC Church was as much an expression of the society as vice versa. I’m unsure as to your point about ‘most perverted’. How does one gauge such a thing and to what point? It is clear that within the hierarchy there was a knowledge that abuse was taking place. It’s also clear that the majority were not involved. It’s also clear that some within it sought repeatedly to bring this to temporal and civil authorities.

I’m genuinely unsure as to what argument you’re making. Is it that because of later events as regards the Church that invalidates the War of Independence? I’m certainly not trying to argue that there was massive institutionalised abuse in the North. I simply don’t know one way or the other. Kincora is the only name that springs to mind – but consider the links there between the ‘establishment’ and that boys home. Incidentally – again thinking about the horror with which that was greeted in the south at the time little aware that greater horrors that were to come in the south…

As for social criminality, I’m again unsure as to what you mean. There was such, but which examples are you thinking of in particular.

As for the Quinn killing. Again, I don’t know. How could I? But the thought that strikes me is that if there was PIRA involvement it would be at a most stupid point in time and to no clear end.

ejh, I was wondering earlier, what the situation was in Spain (and now I think about it what of Italy?). We’ve seen how in the US Church there was considerable abuse. Frankly I think the cynicism in the hierarchies was atrocious and it is clear they knew from the off, even structured the situation to minimise the fall out from abuse…

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16. Ed Hayes - November 12, 2007

Did this disucssion start with Cooraclease? On sex abuse, frankly who knows? At Kincora at free Prysbeterian secretary tried to alert people to what was going on and was silenced and her name blackened by that church’s leaders, including Dr. Ian. But that doesn’t mean the north was the same as the sex abuse in the south.
Large parts of the British working class, ie those of Irish, Polish and Italian descent, of which there are many, went to Catholic schools; what was their expereince? Better or worse than their contemporaries? I don’t know. As for civil rights in the south in my reading no section of the left or the republican movement had very much problems with the south’s Catholic ethos until the 1970s. Labour had not one, but two, Knights of Columbanus as party leaders.

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17. Ed Hayes - November 12, 2007

A further thought. Maybe Simone Burns above simply thinks that Catholicism per se is a reactionary religion. This view has often been held on the American left for instance. It usually goes along with thinking that another religion, Judaism or Protestantism for example are more progressive.

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18. ejh - November 12, 2007

Large parts of the British working class, ie those of Irish, Polish and Italian descent, of which there are many, went to Catholic schools; what was their expereince?

Havig been to a Catholic school myself, albeit one with very few clerics about, I can say that I’m aware of absolutely none at my oled place. Of course it doesn’t follow that there was none.

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19. chekov - November 12, 2007

I think the situation with sex abuse and the catholic church was probably particular to Ireland, and rested on the fact that the catholic church had a hegemonic position supported by the state as well as Irish catholicism’s peculiar and particular focus on repressing sexuality as a means of exercising control (probably as a consequence of famine era demographic pressure). Italian and Spanish catholicism lacks almost entirely the sex = evil focus of Irish catholicism and in places like England, Australia and the US, the church was never in a position of strength vis a vis the state, so they always had to be careful what they did.

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20. ejh - November 12, 2007

Italian and Spanish catholicism lacks almost entirely the sex = evil focus of Irish catholicism

It’s an interesting idea but is it true? Would that be true of rural Italy and Spain?

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21. Garibaldy - November 12, 2007

Depends which parts I think. So Sicily was more restrictive than other parts of Italy. And let’s not forget the different political traditions, especially the importance of left wing politics which meant that the Church did not have the same dominance across the range of areas it did in Ireland.

There’s a very good argument that Irish Catholicism was the way it was in terms of sex because of paranoia after the Famine about the danger of “overpopulation”. Given the prevalence of priests from lower middle class and small farmer backgrounds throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries this seems entirely plauisble to me.

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22. ejh - November 12, 2007

And let’s not forget the different political traditions, especially the importance of left wing politics which meant that the Church did not have the same dominance across the range of areas it did in Ireland.

Not an argument that works with Spain though…

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23. Garibaldy - November 12, 2007

Very large anarchist and communist and anti-clerical traditions in Spain. Hence the massacres of priests during the Civil War. These tendencies may have lost that conflict, but they didn’t just disappear. The Spanish CP emerged as a fairly significant party post-Franco. Franco may have given the church a lot of power, but couldn’
t force people to accept its teachings.

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24. chekov - November 12, 2007

Not an argument that works with Spain though…
It actually works more so with spain. The Spanish anarchist movement put down strong rural roots from the 1870s onwards and for the next 65 years or so spain had the world’s most radical peasantry. Although they were eventually crushed by Franco, the anti-clerical sensibility continues to this day.

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25. ejh - November 12, 2007

Yes, but between 1936 and 1945 most of them were killed or exiled and the Church had enormous, entrenched power for thirty years. Granted that didn’t mean there were no survivors (I know some of them) but the church pretty much could do what it liked with children. And this in a country absolutely littered with monasteries and seminaries as well as churches on every corner – if you thought Fifties Ireland was priest-ridden, it was like Jean-Paul Sartre’s funeral in comparison.

It’s not that I don’t take your point: popular trust in the Church was surely far greater in Ireland than elsewhere. But ability to do anything about the Church was lower here than anywhere in the world, and their power was great indeed.

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26. chekov - November 12, 2007

Yes, ejh, but my argument was that in the Latin countries, where the church did have some degree of state support, repression of sex was not the focus of the church’s contol over the population. In spain, for one, the church was an austere insititution which used its control of land to control the population and never really cared that much what the peasant’s actually believed. In contrast, in Ireland, the church was pretty much stripped of its assets in the aftermath of the reformation and so had only the ideas in people’s heads to use as an intstrument of control.

I’m of the opinion that sexual abusiveness is an inevitable consequence of attempts to repress sexuality – biological urges will express themselves somehow. I think Ireland had a particularly terrible mix of a powerful church that focused on sexual repression in comparison to other countries, which created the conditions for much more widespread abuse here than elsewhere.

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27. Conor McCabe - November 12, 2007

The Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandals in America go against the Church hegemony argument. The Catholic church in America can hardly be compared to the halcyon days of McQuaid here, and yet we have the litany of abuse cases in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orange County in California, Louisville, and Phoenix.

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28. Ed Hayes - November 12, 2007

Although the Church in America was, until recently run by Paddies…
Heres a radical idea folks. In Spain, France and Italy the Catholic Church was associated with the aristocracy, the landlords, the powerful. Here for a fairly obvious reason, from the 1640s onwards it was associated with the oppressed and the landless. A left winger may know the churches role in ’98 etc, or the reasons why Maynooth was set up but to an Irish peasant being Catholic was often part of their identity. Especially because the landlord wasn’t. Now the Famine and the devotional revolution is another thing but ‘faith of our fathers standing still, in spite of dungeon fire and sword’ wasn’t a big hit for nothing. It can incidentally be found on Larry Gogan’s latest compilation, Hits of the 1840s.

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29. ejh - November 12, 2007

Chekhov – you may be on to something, but I wouldn’t go overboard on the idea that Latin societies are not (or have not been) sexually repressive.

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30. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2007

Meant to say that earlier when I said I doubt it was ‘allowed’ I meant that in the sense that it wasn’t sanctioned, but I do agree that it was close to – if not quite – condoned. I know these are probably imprecise terms but I hope people understand what I’m getting at.

Ed, your last point is very interesting. The relationship between Church and people was much closer here which built up the trust between both…

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31. Niall - November 12, 2007

Some of you guys seem to believe that Catholic clergy members were significantly more likely to abuse than their married counterparts. Is there any evidence for this? I know that there are those who claim that this is not the case.

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32. Conor McCabe - November 12, 2007

The hegemony argument only holds within the context of societal power structures. The fact that The Catholic Church in the States had paddies in it does not a hegemony make. If someone can show me that the Catholic Church in the States held hegemonic influence – that is, it was up there with corporate elites, political power-brokers, the law-makers, judges, the media, and ivy-league universities in making America what it is today- then I’ll buy the argument. Until then, it’s quite weak, as an explanation of sexual abuse, no?

And Maynooth was set up by the British government to stop revolutionary continental influence on Irish Catholicism. It was paid for, in part, with British money.

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33. Conor McCabe - November 12, 2007

One last thing, the sexual repression associated with Irish Catholicism is a hangover from the Victorian influence on 19th Irish society. The repression is in fact Victorianism. That’s why we have it in common with Britain and not, say, with Spain or Italy.

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34. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2007

Niall, the answer to your observation is that I simply don’t know. It seems that those likely to abuse gravitate towards professions/areas whereby it is easier to do so – one thinks of the swimming association as an example of that. In that context any social group/organisation/structure where unchecked contact was available would suffice… the Church(es) being onesuch.

Conor, those are excellent points… although if I may add I suspect that one effect of the Famine was to shift the society towards a more repressed model as well…

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35. Conor McCabe - November 12, 2007

spot on, WBS. One of the points that Irish historiography holds extremely dear to its heart is the post-famine rise of “respectability.” Now, anywhere else, this would pass as a class analysis – the rise of a particular set of middle-class values which end up becoming dominant in the culture once those values merge with the rising economic and political power of that very same middle-class – but we don’t do class analysis in Ireland, so we have “respectability” as the theory instead.

It’s an Irish class-analysis solution to an Irish class-analysis problem.

And because it’s so damn close to a materialist reading, it’s extremely frustrating! I’ve had historians poo-poo class analysis to me and in the same breath talk about “respectability” and how this cultural trope ended up as part of the economic, social and political discourse of Modern Ireland! As Peter Ryan, who I used to work with in the civil service, used to say, “They have you every way.” I’m telling yeah, there’s mountains of wisdom in them Finglas lads.

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36. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2007

Yeah, that’s it Conor. These were essentially middle class values. And.. we can see that the language suffered too from that – although ironically it began to re-emerge later as part of a cultural project emanating in part (though in fairness not whole) from an unlikely alliance of nascent Catholic and extant Protestant middle and upper middle classes.

Why do you think that ‘respectability’ has this hold on historiography? It seems so – meh! Or is it simply, as you say, ‘we’ don’t do class analysis…

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37. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2007

or I should add, more likely ‘we’ don’t understand class analysis and therefore don’t have the methodologies to apply it to Ireland. Incidentally if you want a sick laugh check out the “intelligence of black and whites” thread on Politics.ie. Some genius proposes that:

“I am of course assuming that since the early part of this century (through to recent times), there has been a relative distribution of people with high IQ towards the higher social classes due to the inevitable, logical phenomenon of hardworking people with genuine talent advancing in society based on merit (which is by and large, the case). So if we removed these welfare benefits (sink or swim!) and perhaps increased educational funding, would see a greater increase in the IQ of Ireland. This is the theory of negative eugenics.”

Granted an idiot… but… God help us…

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38. ejh - November 12, 2007

It is astonishing how stupid people often are when they talk about intelligence (just as they are often ignorant when they speak about education).

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39. WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2007

In a way I’m not trying to get a dig at the writer, however much s/he deserves it, but this is a cultural narrative that is so ingrained in some circles that it’s not funny any longer. Sorry, this is dragging things in yet another tangent…

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40. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

i think ‘respectability’ holds its own because it makes a lot of sense. What gets me is the fact that some historians will use it and not realise that they’re actually putting forward not only a class analysis, but in a small way a cultural materialist one. That’s what I find interesting.

Of course, one of this matters when you have Eoghan Harris searching for bullet holes in bollixes.

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41. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

By the way, the negative eugenics stuff sounds like something simon on irishelection writes when we wants to get a rise out of people. I’m actually hoping that’s the case, but I know it’s not.

The irony with the IQ thing is that first to suffer would be the daft fucking idiots who believe in it. If we really had a meritocracy, those prats would be shoveling shit in Louisiana.

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42. chekov - November 13, 2007

“the sexual repression associated with Irish Catholicism is a hangover from the Victorian influence on 19th Irish society. The repression is in fact Victorianism. That’s why we have it in common with Britain and not, say, with Spain or Italy.”

That doesn’t really make sense though – my understanding is that the Irish catholic focus on sexual repression arose independently and for different reasons than the victorian moral crusades in England (which were a response to population shifts during industrialisation). Due to the lack of similar changes here – until very recently – it seems unlikely that the same dynamic was in play. What’s more, even if it did share a common inception, that still doesn’t explain the relative persistance in Ireland – which again suggests that something else was at play.

Also, with respect to the US catholic church, I don’t think the scandals there really detract from my thesis. Firstly, they were on a much smaller scale than the ones here (for example, greater Boston’s population is roughly the same as Ireland’s – they had one major scandal in the equivalent area, we had hundreds. Secondly, the US church was, not too long ago, largely made up of first or second generation Irish priests who would have learned their doctrine in Ireland and would have pretty much just applied it as was in their new home. They obviously weren’t in a hegemonic position, but it takes a good while for people and institutions to adopt to new environments. The enormous loss of assets that they have experienced in the last little while will have emphasised to them how unwise it was to operate in such a manner without the hegemony they enjoyed in Ireland where the state is still picking up the tab for them.

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43. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

The Victorian moral crusaders were extermely active in Ireland. In fact, the Irish poor offered the crusaders something more than just the English poor – it offered them converts. Proselytism lay at the heart of charitable work in Ireland. Dr. Jacinta Prunty covers this point in her book on slums in Dublin. Irish society was in no way immune from cultural movements in England. The rise of the GAA had as much to do with the sports craze of the 1880s than with simple nationalism. Both acted together to create the GAA. Then you have the fact that laws related to sexual attitudes and/or morality enacted by Parliament applied to Ireland as well – us being part of the Union and all that. I mean, what are these independent reasons that you´ve mentioned which explain the creation of an Irish sexual repression ?

The idea that Ireland had to have industrial cities in order to have been influenced by Victorian attitudes to sex is one that ignores how culture works. The rise of moral crusades may have had rotts in industrialisation, but once it enters the wider political culture, its influces goes where that culture goes. There is not a strict deterministic link between victorian attitudes to sex and cities and nothing else. Once it becomes part of victorian culture it goes where the victorians go.

Secondly, your idea that the Irish played a defining role in the American Catholic Church. It seems to me that you´re saying that the Irish brought a sexually-repressed attitude to the American Catholic Church. Are we talking about seminaries here? Archbishpops, cardinals, etc? I mean, what was specifically “Irish” about the way priests were trained, and the doctorines taught, that whittles the sexual repression down to the influence of Irish priests in the American Catholic church? Were Irish seminares out of step with Rome? This seems to be what you are arguing by placing the sexual repression down to the Irish influence in America on a Rome-centered intenational religious, cultural, political, and economic institution.

Also, what are second-generation Irish priests doing being taught in Irish seminaries?
you say:
“the US church was, not too long ago, largely made up of first or second generation Irish priests who would have learned their doctrine in Ireland and would have pretty much just applied it as was in their new home.”

Are you saying that those born in America came to Ireland to study for the priesthood, were then infected by Irish catholic repression, and brought it back to America with them? Also, first generation Irish priest we being sent to American dioceses? An Irish man is trained in Maynooth, or Carlow, or Drumcondra, and is then sent by his bishop to an American diocese to work? Are you talking about missionaries? Or is it just priests who emigrated?

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44. Niall - November 13, 2007

“the sexual repression associated with Irish Catholicism is a hangover from the Victorian influence on 19th Irish society”

That’s a pretty frank statement. If that was the only reason why did it persist so long? Surely it was a combination of things, with adherence to strict Catholic teaching and lack of education being fundamental ones. I agree the Church’s hegemonic position springs from the fact that it was associated with the poor. I would go so far as to suggest it was before independence a proxy government in lieu of a popular government authority and its grip on the Irish psyche was very much a consequence of British oppression.

To get back on topic, on the Coolacrease episode, there are two questions that have to be asked and those who have justified the actions haven’t answered:

Was the action necessary?
Was the action proportionate?

To both questions the answer is no. With days to go before a truce was declared and full knowledge that this was in the air, there was no strategic purpose to killing the Pearsons.

If the action was taken in response to the Pearsons firing at an IRA squad, and I accept shots were fired, then what should the appropriate response be (if one ignores the fact there is no strategic military advantage to the action). One would think the person who was responsible for firing would be executed, yet the death warrant was signed for the father and two sons. If the father had been at the farm at the time he would undoubtedly have been shot as well. Even if you accept that both brothers had fired shots or had been guilty, what was the purpose of destroying the house? The only purpose that it served was to drive the remaining, presumably innocent in the eyes of the IRA court martial, members of the family off the land.

To label this as a solely sectarian attack is to paint it in broad brushstrokes for political expediency, however. It is more complex than that and borne, in my opinion, from a loathing of that particular family in the vicinity and of revenge, not out of a general sectarian attitude. Other Protestant families were unharmed and continue to live peaceably in the area.

It seems to me the Pearsons were guilty of fraternising with the RIC and the army and of being obnoxious neighbours. That’s bound to mark you out in a close-knit rural community but is hardly grounds for murder.

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45. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

A lack of education as a reason for sexual repression is a pretty frank statement as well. Given the role and influence of conservative Catholicism among the middle-classes and ruling elites in Ireland post-independence, hardly a sustainable one either. and its nice to see that Emmet Larkin’s thesis on the role of the church in pre-independence Ireland is still doing the rounds.

nothing is mono-causal, but if you ask me to explain in a blog comment the one of the core factors in sexual attitudes in Ireland in the 19th century, i’d say we have to factor in the Victorian culture in which Ireland was immersed, which nobody seems to want to do that here. Hence we get stuff like Irish seminaries exporting sexually repressed priests to America, and other such statements.

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46. Slawomir - November 13, 2007

At least Niall’s comment above can form the basis of a rational discussion. Were the IRA justified in ordering the execution just before the Truce. Were they justified in killing more than one of the Pearsons? Was it proportionate?

The claims in the RTE documentary that the reasons for the killings were a “land grab”, “sectarian”, sadistic (“they shot them in the genitals”), have been shown to have no basis in reality.

But why were these claims broadcast in the first place?

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47. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

They were broadcast because they are sensational. The commercial objectives of a 52 minute progamme with three ad-breaks (before, during, after) are not the same as the scholarly objectives of historical research.sometimes a compromise between the commercial interests and the scholarly interests can be trashed out, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case here at all. So, they went with Eoghan Harris’ anti-Sinn Féin bile and, guess what, Eoghan Harris has, post-programme, taken up his stick and ran with it! and, they’ve got two weeks of media coverage out of it. In historical scholarship, the show has damaged the (admittedly already-tarnished) reputation of the Hidden History series, but in commercial terms, they have something that the History channel might buy as it’s got the IRA in it, and genitals as well. I mean, it;s where last year’s Ireland’s Nazis ended up – the history channel – so, you know, you’ve got to keep an eye on your market.

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48. Niall - November 13, 2007

“its nice to see that Emmet Larkin’s thesis on the role of the church in pre-independence Ireland is still doing the rounds.”

For somebody who lambasts Eoghan Harris’s fact-checking you make some pretty grand assumptions yourself, Conor. I’ve never read Emmet Larkin’s thesis on the role of the church in pre-independence Ireland. It just strikes me as a logical enough conclusion to make. With no parliament on the island and no popular loyalty to the British government, what structure of authority does the populace put its trust in? Is it conceivable the parish priest in Ireland had importance beyond his canonical role that his Spanish or Italian counterpart did not due to the imposition of foreign power?

“A lack of education as a reason for sexual repression is a pretty frank statement as well”

Agreed. I was merely pointing out that there were myriad causes of this phenomenon, the main one in my mind being the Catholic Church, which may have filtered Victorian attitudes. I would however find connections between lack of education and religious observance – as societies become more equitable and wealthy they also seem to become more secular and permissive. There are exceptions I’m sure, but there does appear to be strong evidence of this as well.

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49. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

Professor Larkin’s analysis of the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the creation of independent Ireland is well over thirty years old. Joe Lee called it ground-breaking. It had enormous influence. Given its influence and status, I would have thought you’ve read it, or would have known of it.

I would question your assertion that the Church’s power came through its hold over the poor. It came from its hold over the middle classes. The church always had the poor, but it didn’t have the type of power and influence we associate with it in Ireland until the Catholic middle-class itself took over positions of power and influence. That’s when you see hegemony take hold. The church had millions more poor pre-famine, but it doesn’t get the type of power to influence government policy, laws, etc, until the Catholic middle class itself take over.

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50. sonofstan - November 13, 2007

I’d agree with your last paragraph – power is always class power; no institution is going to have the kind of hegemonic influence the CC had here without piggy- backing on the emerging dominant economic cadre.

And, as we survey the shoreline after Catholicism’s ‘long, withdrawing roar’, I think its last redoubts are among the middle-classes – the Dublin working classes, at any rate seem to have pretty much abandoned the church. Anecdotal, I know, but among my friends and wider circle, it seems that, although nobody will admit to any real faith anymore, the more middle class they are, the more likely they are to get married in church, baptise the kids, send them to a (fee-paying) denominational school and so on. It’s generally an entirely conventional allegiance, but its nearly all the church has left – perhaps a little strange given that the church, freed of its job of being the nation at prayer might show signs of becoming a valuable advocate for the poor and a critic of the current economic dispensation.

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51. Niall - November 13, 2007

“I would question your assertion that the Church’s power came through its hold over the poor. It came from its hold over the middle classes.”

What better way for the middle and ruling classes to manipulate the poor than through the common obsession of religion?

“The church had millions more poor pre-famine, but it doesn’t get the type of power to influence government policy, laws, etc, until the Catholic middle class itself take over positions of power and influence.”

Sure but the middle class that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century mostly descended from the pre-famine poor, their upward mobility facilitated by the end of the Penal Laws, so the sense of being outside the British establishment and having a strong folk identity as defiantly Catholic would have remained.

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52. Dublin Opinion » Blog Archive » Blogs Bang the Drum While RTE Beats its Chest - November 13, 2007

[…] of debate is as form of censorship, as I’ve argued before and which is being discussed over at Cedar Lounge Revolution in relation to the treatment of the Coolacrease story in a recent Hidden History documentary on […]

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53. Grendel - November 13, 2007

I know this is slightly off the point, but I read the Eoghan Harris article.
in the Sunday Independent. Didn’t think much off it, but I did think it was fascinating that Harris told his readers to google the Indymedia article
“From Peking to Aubane”.

The Sindo telling folk to go to Indymedia. We’ll not see this
the likes of this again for ages, if ever……

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54. WorldbyStorm - November 13, 2007

Funny you should say that Grendel, because looking at the info WordPress offers up on searches that lead people here I saw that the term… Peking to Aubane… figures a lot…

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55. ejh - November 13, 2007

When they get there they’re going to find a piece that could do with some rather more merciful paragraphing.

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56. Starkadder - November 13, 2007

While on the Hidden History thread on Indymedia, I (correctly)
pointed out Bose’s fascist links and B&ICO’s support for Unionism, as well as the sectarian origins of the “two-nations” theory.
Mr. John Martin got very cross with me, while flattering the
other posters who agreed with him.

Still, what’s the average John or Mary going to think
if they learn of Aubane’s Stalinist/Loyalist past?

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57. Conor McCabe - November 13, 2007

Actually Niall, tonight’s Hidden History you might find interesting, as it deals with William Martin Murphy within the context of the rising power of the Catholic Middle Class. I have to declare an interest as I did a bit of work on it. What the programmer maker is arguing is not a million miles from what you’re saying here. It should be interesting anyway.

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58. Blogs Bang the Drum While RTE Beats its Chest | Irish Election - November 13, 2007

[…] of debate is as form of censorship, as I’ve argued before and which is being discussed over at Cedar Lounge Revolution in relation to the treatment of the Coolacrease story in a recent Hidden History documentary on […]

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59. WorldbyStorm - November 13, 2007

Up to eyes with work, Conor, but Hidden History is taping to the hard drive now and looking forward to seeing it tomorrow…

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60. Conor McCabe - November 14, 2007

i won’t get to see it myself. hope it turns out a bit better than the coolacrease one 🙂 I enjoyed working on it anyway. cheers.

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61. Conor McCabe - November 14, 2007

i won’t get to see it myself. hope it turns out a bit better than the coolacrease one 🙂 I enjoyed working on it anyway. cheers.

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62. WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2007

I could put it on DVD for you and post it to you.

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63. chekov - November 14, 2007

Just a brief response to Conor.

“what are these independent reasons that you´ve mentioned which explain the creation of an Irish sexual repression”

I’ve mentioned them already – the church’s loss of its property in the reformation and the famine-era demographics (with emphasis on the land inheritance laws).

This, to me, is a much more convincing explanation than just blaming the victorians in general. In particular blaming the victoriians fails to explain the fact that this attitude has persisted much more in Ireland than it did in England. Also, while the victorians may have imported their moral crusades to the slums of Dublin, over 80% of Ireland’s population was rural and it was the peasantry which was the catholic reservoir, a group that was relatively resistant to such crusading.

Secondly, you are not convinced by my speculation about Irish influence on the US church:

“Are we talking about seminaries here? Archbishpops, cardinals, etc? I mean, what was specifically “Irish” about the way priests were trained, and the doctorines taught, that whittles the sexual repression down to the influence of Irish priests in the American Catholic church? Were Irish seminares out of step with Rome? This seems to be what you are arguing by placing the sexual repression down to the Irish influence in America on a Rome-centered intenational religious, cultural, political, and economic institution.

Also, what are second-generation Irish priests doing being taught in Irish seminaries?”

And you accuse me of not understanding how culture is transmitted! 😉 People don’t learn their faith from seminaries and they especially don’t learn their attitudes towards sex from them – that is and was beaten into small children (“don’t touch that or you’ll go to hell…”).

Finally, to sonofstan:
“as we survey the shoreline after Catholicism’s ‘long, withdrawing roar’, I think its last redoubts are among the middle-classes – the Dublin working classes, at any rate seem to have pretty much abandoned the church. Anecdotal, I know, but among my friends and wider circle, it seems that, although nobody will admit to any real faith anymore, the more middle class they are, the more likely they are to get married in church, baptise the kids, send them to a (fee-paying) denominational school and so on. It’s generally an entirely conventional allegiance, but its nearly all the church has left”

There is a country outside the pale – visit Tyrone or Roscommon and you will find that the masses still practice their religion and I don’t think there is any significant division along class lines – age and rural / urban are the important divisions vis a vis religious attitudes in Ireland today.

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64. sonofstan - November 14, 2007

To Chekov – that’s why I specified Dublin, and emphasised that the evidence was anecdotal – I’m not totally sure if you’re right about rural/ urban being quite as significant as it used to be, although a Leinster and Munster versus BMW and NI division might be – arguably because much of the country in the east and south has become semi- suburban.

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65. Idris of Dungiven - November 14, 2007

Here’s something you might want to chew on.

It is entirely right and proper that the sexual abuses connected with the church and other institutions in post-independence Ireland are well known. It is, I suppose, entirely correct that people today regard these past outrages with contempt.

This being the case, why is there such utter indifference to the sexual abuses of post-catholic Ireland? Someone I know to be a reliable witness told me that she had been sitting in a cafe on Dame street, looking out the window, and and saw this charming scene; a yuppie’s Mercedes pulls up to the kerb, and from it emerges a person who was a) a prostitute and b) almost certainly underage.

Then there’s the sex trafficking issue, and the utter underfunding of services for vulnerable children (a record number of children are now in ‘care’ in Ireland).

But let’s keep the focus on the church, and the crimes of the past. After all, we don’t want mister Jones the farmer to come back, do we comrades?

As for Eoghan Harris, I suspect that he lost the run of himself over the genitalia issue because he himself dreams of shooting people in the genitals.

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66. Conor McCabe - November 14, 2007

“People don’t learn their faith from seminaries and they especially don’t learn their attitudes towards sex from them – that is and was beaten into small children (”don’t touch that or you’ll go to hell…”).”

We we weren’t talking about people in general ,we were talking about priests. At least, we were. you said “the US church was, not too long ago, largely made up of first or second generation Irish priests who would have learned their doctrine in Ireland and would have pretty much just applied it as was in their new home.” I’m asking you what’s the slant on Irish Catholic doctrine that leads to sexual abuse -what’s so different about what Irish priests are taught that leads them to abuse? I mean, that is the point you were making when you linked the sexual abuse cases in America to “first or second generation Irish priests who would have learned their doctrine in Ireland and would have pretty much just applied it as was in their new home.”

Or is your point now that education is at the chart of Irish sexual abuse, in particular corporal punishment and the threat of hell. I’m thinking about your point that “People don’t learn their faith from seminaries and they especially don’t learn their attitudes towards sex from them – that is and was beaten into small children (”don’t touch that or you’ll go to hell…”)” If that’s the case, surely Irish sexual abuse would have dropped off in the last 30 years.

Thirdly, I didn’t pick up on your argument that loss of land and famine-era land inheritance laws combined to create sexual repression and sexual abusers in Ireland, simply because I didn’t believe that that was your argument.

now, the church lost its land in the 1530s. How come it took three hundred years for its effect to kick in? And when it did, as sexual repression? As for land inheritance laws leading to sexual repression and abusers? I’m afraid that’s just way too clever an argument for me. On that point, Chekov, you win. I mean there is simply no comeback to that logic. I’ve heard land and the land issue being used to explain almost everything about Irish history. That’s no longer the case because now, I’ve heard it used to explain absolutely everything about Irish history, and society, and culture. you’re right. I’m wrong. When it comes to sexual abuse, it’s the land, stupid.

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67. WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2007

The idea of post-Catholic Ireland abuse raised by the last two comments is worrying. The radiant glow of the Tigers coat may well have blinded many to the really really bad stuff happening in our society…

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68. sonofstan - November 14, 2007

Idris – I take your point about post- catholic Ireland not being free of abuses, but I’m pretty sure a similar scene to the one you recount – minus the merc. – could have been witnessed almost any time in Dublin from the 17th c onwards; and I’d be willing to bet there were way more women and girls engaged in prostitution in Dublin during the Irish church’s Victorian heydey than now. In other words, there’s nothing post- Catholic about it.

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69. chekov - November 14, 2007

Conor, why are you so unilaterally antagonistic to the point of rudeness?

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70. Starkadder - November 14, 2007

Octave Mirbeau, the French writer, wrote about sexual abuse
being rampant in 19th century French Monasteries. It’s
not a new thing.
Having said that, the sexually perverted priest/monk
/bishop has been a staple of anti-Catholicism since the
Reformation( Why do you thing Paisley used call the Pope “the Whore
of Babylon”? ).
Perhaps this is why some people were initially reluctant to believe the
abuse stories. Another example of history’s complex narrative.

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71. Starkadder - November 14, 2007

The reaction of a local paper to the Hidden History documentary (a good overview of the issues raised)

http://www.offalytoday.ie/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=3808&ArticleID=3431237

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72. WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2007

Very true Starkadder, on both points. Re Offaly paper, as I read it I thought to myself doesn’t E Harris have something akin to Steve Jobs ‘reality distortion field’ because when the whole controversy is put down on paper he doesn’t come out of it well…

Re a slight bit of heat entering into this thread, it’s a solid discussion (albeit distressing), no-one here is putting forward an unreasonable or malicious viewpoint, everyone is making good sound points and it’s making me (for one) think about the issues more deeply than I might otherwise have done, therefore no harm in keeping it just a degree or two cooler… (for unreason may I direct your attentions to the Cork Communist Organisation thread…)

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73. Garibaldy - November 14, 2007

I think the point about the current sex trade is an extremely good one. The increased commercialisation of sex over the last several decades (although clearly there were more prostitutes in the past than now) and more importantly the human trafficking aspects are exteremely disturbing. The acceptability of strip clubs and brothels is worrying, particularly if you stop to think how the women got there.

As for blaming everything on the church. Religious beliefs reflect social realities. Or to put that another way, base and superstructure.

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74. Conor McCabe - November 14, 2007

Chekov, I have quite a confrontational approach, that’s true. sorry for being rude.

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75. WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2007

Conor, went to bloody hard drive this evening to find it had not recorded the prog. Any chance you know someone else who can forward it to me, or is it being repeated anytime soon?

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76. Conor McCabe - November 15, 2007

I don;t. I’ll get in touch with the dicumentary mkaer and I’ll see what the craic is. If I’ll get it I’ll swap you for a copy of the Great Western Squares. 🙂

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77. chekov - November 15, 2007

“Chekov, I have quite a confrontational approach, that’s true. sorry for being rude.”

No worries, I’ve been known to get quite worked up in online conversations myself 😉

Also, for the record, I recognise that it is quite possible that you are entirely right and that the Irish catholic church’s sexual oppressiveness is merely due to victorian influence. I just find my explanation slightly more convincing (although I am hardly a fan of the church so I may have some sort of bias there).

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78. Conor McCabe - November 15, 2007

One last point on this. I’m not saying “merely”, I’m saying that it’s been underplayed or simply ignored. It’s changing, of course, and it’ll be interesting to see where the present scholarly research into the poor laws in Ireland leads us. So far, they’ve thrown up some interesting facts. I’m thinking of the project headed by Virginia Crossman. More on this here.

http://ah.brookes.ac.uk/staff/details/crossman/

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79. WorldbyStorm - November 16, 2007

Conor, that’s a deal… Indeed I’ll get you both GWS albums…

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