F Rosa Rubicondior: New Book: A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything

Friday 21 September 2018

New Book: A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything

My new book, A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything, is a bit of a departure for me, delving into other areas of interest - history and Ireland - and combining them into a coherent critique of religion and the harm it does.

Originally conceived many years ago as an objective background to the then prevalent 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, it quickly became inescapable that the underlying cause of them was religion. There are few if any other factors involved. There is no significant racial, linguistic or ethnic difference between what amounted to warring and mutually detesting communities.

The Catholics spoke English as did the Protestants, the 'Old English' had long been assimilated into the Catholic Irish community and the Protestants were mostly Scots whose divergence from the Celts of Ulster had been within the last 1500 years. Both communities now spoke predominantly English which had largely replaced a Goidelic Celtic language so similar and with such recent common origins that they amount to dialects of one another and are mutually intelligible.

The one major difference was religious, and yet the differences ran so deep that the two communities maintained a virtual apartheid; one faction seeing the other as a lesser people destined to be for ever ruled over by the other and that faction seeing the other as usurpers, occupying their ancestral homelands. A hatred that ran so deep that it became more important to avenge some half-legendary wrong done to grandparents than to ensure a peaceful future for grandchildren. A hatred that cost 3000 lives and gained not an inch of territory and not a single significant political concession.

In many ways, the separate development of Ulster is a continuation of its historic separation from the rest of Ireland, being mostly remote and accessible with difficulty. Ulster had its own distinct dialect of Gaelic and culturally was closer to the maritime culture of the Western Isles than it was to the south. The large–scale immigration of Scottish Presbyterians was a continuation of a population exchange that had been going on since ancient times, the difference being that the newcomers from Scotland now brought a different faith with them. Where once Ulster exported Gaels and Columban Christianity to Scotland, a reflux migration now brought Anglicised Scots and Presbyterian Protestantism to Ulster.

By 1911, Ulster Protestants had recognised that they could not continue to oppose Home Rule for the rest of Ireland but this realisation made them all the more determined to defend Ulster against inclusion in a Catholic-dominated independent state. The Ulster Defence Force was formed and armed specifically to fight this, to Protestants, unthinkable prospect. If Ulster Protestants had anything to be proud of it was their history in defending the faith against Catholicism and defending their way of life. These were the descendants of those who carved a living out of the wild lands in the north, who refused to surrender at Londonderry and who saved Britain from the curse of the Whore of Babylon at the Boyne and Aughrim.

They were also the descendants of those who were massacred at Porterdown Bridge. They were the people for whom the annual celebration of these great victories was an important event in the calendar. In the words of Lord Randolph Churchill, Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right. No Surrender!

A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything, Ch 8, p 77.

This new book examines the origins of this conflict and traces the influences of religion on Irish history and culture; influences that have rarely been beneficial but which gave the churches an unaccountable power and control over Ireland and it's people that has almost always been for the benefit of the church and its clergy at the expense of the Irish people. This was no less so in the Republic where the Catholic Church had an effective veto over government policies, than in Northern Ireland where the Protestant Orange Lodges effectively ran the province and it's Presbyterian founder, Sir Edward Carson, could declare it a Protestant state for a Protestant people.

The book concludes with an analysis of the reasons for the recent catastrophic collapse (from the Catholic Church's point of view) of the influence and importance of the Church in the Republic of Ireland which is now a de facto secular state. Meanwhile, power sharing between the two factions in Ulster is foundering on such issues as which dialect of Gaelic should be taught as a second language in schools - Irish or Scots.

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