Post-referendum reflections on Irish Catholicism

There’s a lot of analysis about Ireland’s successful same-sex marriage referendum and the legacy of the Catholic Church: Here’s a sampling, starting with perhaps the most widely quoted post-election remark.

“The Church needs a reality check right across the board, to look at the things we are doing well and look at the areas where we need to say, have we drifted away completely from young people?” — Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told RTE.

“The Joyful Death of Catholic Ireland,” by James Matthew Wilson in Crisis Magazine, The Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity.

The reason the Irish—as Irish—are celebrating is that they have with this referendum delivered a decisive and final blow to their venerable image as a Catholic nation. They have taken their vengeance on the Church. They must relish the unshackling; they must love the taste of blood. But, finally, they take joy in becoming what, it seems, they were always meant to become. An unexceptional country floating somewhere in the waters off a continent that has long since entered into cultural decline, demographic winter, and the petty and perpetual discontents that come free of charge to every people that lives for nothing much in particular.

“Gay vote shows it’s not your grandfather’s Ireland any more,” By Niall O’Down in Irish Central.

Much of the mainstream media in the US missed … the death of monochrome, one holy and Catholic Ireland that passed away at least a decade or so ago and the new multi-ethnic ethos that prevails.

“Ireland has said ‘yes’ to gay marriage and ‘no’ to Catholicism,” by The Telegraph.

The Irish referendum on gay marriage was about more than just gay marriage. It was a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism.

“Gay Marriage in Ireland Isn’t a ‘No’ to Catholicism,” by Time.

Ireland’s historic decision to pass gay marriage by popular vote Saturday has led many to question the strength of the Catholic Church in the land of St. Patrick. For example, The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley wrote that Ireland’s “yes” to gay marriage was a “no” to Catholicism. But such simplistic reductions miss the complex and evolving Catholic worldview on civil gay marriage. … In fact, many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith, not in spite of it.

“Same-sex marriage vote an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for Church,” opinion column in The Irish Times that quotes several members of the liberal, pro-“Yes” Association of Catholic Priests.

“Catholic Church Ponders Future After Same-Sex Marriage Vote in Ireland,” by The New York Times.

Ireland approves same sex marriage in historic vote

Irish voters have enshrined same-sex marriage rights in the Republic’s constitution, becoming the world’s first nation to give such approval through popular referendum.

With all 43 constituencies counted, the “Yes” vote was just over 62 percent, compared to just shy of 38 percent “No.” Some Dublin constituencies approved the measure by more than 70 percent. Roscommon-South Leitrim was the only constituency to vote against. (My ancestral homeland of Kerry North-West Limerick voted “Yes” by 55.4 percent to 44.5 percent.)

Nationwide turnout was 60.5 percent.

The gun in Irish politics and revolution, 1914-1923

John Dorney at The Irish Story blog has produced a three-part series about “the decade of the gun.” It explores the hardware of Ireland’s revolutionary period, now the subject of centennial reflections. Up to 5,000 people were killed in armed conflict during this stretch, which Dorney describes as “a number of discrete episodes with different combatants arrayed against each other.” He continues:

Partisan debate raged at the time about whether the ‘Trouble’ amounted to political violence or warfare. The point has been made that it was not so much the quantity or quality of weapons that caused deaths and injuries as the willingness to use them.

Here’s the series:

Part 1, 1914-1916, looks at the run up to the Rising.

Part 2, 1919-1921, explores the War of Independence.

Part 3, 1922-1923, concludes with Ireland’s Civil War.

Anti-treaty IRA on Grafton Street in Dublin, 1922.

Anti-treaty IRA on Grafton Street in Dublin, 1922.

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles shake hands

This is the third “historic handshake” between Irish republicans and the royal family.

Irish Times coverage here. BBC coverage here.

Prince Charles’ great-uncle,  Lord Mountbatten, was killed nearly 36 years ago in an IRA bombing near Mullaghmore in County Sligo.

Charles and his wife, Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles, are visiting Ireland for four days.

Irish whiskey: whole lotta’ sippin’ going on

The Irish Whiskey Association announced an ambitions plan to grow global market share by 300 percent over the next 15 years, from 4 percent to 12 percent. The “Vision for Irish Whiskey” was released 12 May and is generating a lot press attention.

“Irish whiskey led the world in 1900, with 88 distilleries in operation – but a combination of events meant the sector went into decline and Scotch and bourbon took over,” The Irish Times reported.

What happened?

“After Ireland declared independence in 1919, England enacted a trade embargo against it, and then Prohibition shut down the United States market,” according to a story in the Daily Beast. “By the 1960s only a few Irish whiskey distilleries remained and they consolidated into Irish Distillers Ltd., which produced Jameson, Bushmills and Powers.”

The IWA plan calls for capital investment in new distilleries and brands, plus strong marketing and promotion, including the creation of an all-island whiskey tourism trail. Here’s a map.


Ulster Unionists gain seats in U.K. elections

The Ulster Unionist Party picked up two seats — one from the Democratic Unionist Party, the other from Sinn Féin — among Northern Ireland races in the 7 May U.K elections. The wins return UUP representation to Westminster after a five year absence.

The DUP remains the North’s largest party, retaining eight of the 18 seats. It made up for the loss to the UUP by taking a seat from Alliance, a nonsectarian party that advocates cooperation between nationalist and unionists.

Republican Sinn Féin has four seats, the nationalist Social Democrat and Labor Party has three seats, and party independent Sylvia Hermon retained her North Down seat.

“The election in Northern Ireland began with nationalists holding eight seats and unionists 10 seats,” The Irish Times reported. “It ended with unionists gaining an extra seat from Sinn Féin leaving the overall result, 11 unionists against 7 nationalists.”

Here are full results and analysis from the BBC.

Mitchell recalls his role as “Negotiator” in Northern Ireland


Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times, interviewed Mitchell at the event described below. He later filed this piece for his paper’s website.


Seventeen years on from the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell recalled the peace talks got off to “a very rocky start” due to the long history of mistrust in Northern Ireland and “no habit of listening to the other side.”

“They were geniuses and innovators in finding things to disagree about, but like walls of granite when it came to things to agree about,” Mitchell told an Irish Network-DC audience 6 May at the Dupont Circle Hotel. The former special envoy is promoting a new memoir, “The Negotiator.”

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, left, prepares to be interviewed by Irish Times Washington correspondent Simon Carswell.

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, left, prepares to be interviewed by Irish Times Washington correspondent Simon Carswell.

As bad, all the parties frequently got bogged down in “tremendously repetitious presentations,” Mitchell said. And on top of all that, the American had never visited Northern Ireland before. He struggled with Ulster’s distinctive accent.

“I didn’t understand a thing they were saying the first six months,” he said with a grin.

Mitchell said that women in Northern Ireland not directly involved in the talks played a huge role in the peace process. He did not mention fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, who some critics accuse of trying to inflate her role in the talks as First Lady in her husband’s administration, especially now that she is running for the presidency.

Mitchell said that Northern Ireland too often gets an unfair rap for “violence and dysfunction.” He tells people, “Look, I just came from the U.S.” But he acknowledged the “peace walls” that still separate Catholic and Protestant sections of Belfast. He added, “Reconciliation comes very slowly.”

Prior to being appointed special envoy to Northern Ireland in 1995, Mitchell, 81, had only briefly visited the Republic of Ireland during his Senate years. His father had been born of Irish immigrant parents but was orphaned at a young age. Growing up, Mitchell said, “I didn’t have any sense of my Irish heritage.” Becoming so deeply involved with people on both sides of the partitioned island “filled a void I didn’t know I had.”

Forecasting the fate of Fianna Fáil in 2016

Less than a year remains until the next national election in Ireland, which must be called by 3 April 2016. It will be the first general election since 2011, when angry voters ousted the governing Fianna Fáil party from power following the bust of the Irish economy.

Lately, there’s been a wavelet of political analysis in Ireland and the U.S. about Fianna Fáil’s prospects for next spring. But before speculating about the future, a little about the past. Fianna Fáil was founded by Éamon de Valera in the split from Sinn Féin following Ireland’s bitter civil war. Fianna Fáil were the anti-Treaty crowd. The pro-Treaty side, represented by Michael Collins, evolved into Fine Gael, Ireland’s second largest party.

A recent opinion piece in the Irish Independent further explained:

Fianna Fáil was founded in 1926 and has been in government 61 of the 79 years since, 13 times as a minority government or in coalition. Throughout that period Ireland has moved from a poor and rural, deeply conservative Roman Catholic country to become urbanised, industrialised, hi-tech, one of the leading economies in Europe, and on the verge of voting for same-sex marriage. (We’ll see about that come 22 May.)

The Independent suggests Fianna Fáil get credit for what’s gone right as well as what’s gone wrong. It says some of the anger directed at the party is softening, “which should come as no surprise as the economy lifts and people return to their daily affairs with something more of a spring in their step and the promise of a few quid in their pocket. The great irony is that as the economy lifts under the stewardship of Fine Gael and Labour, on a plan drawn up by Fianna Fáil, so too will the fortunes of Fianna Fáil rise, just as the cause and effect of austerity has damned them all too.”

At Irish Central, John Spain takes the opposite view, writing “at the moment the party appears to be going nowhere, condemned to the political wilderness by a population still very angry at what Fianna Fáil did to the economy and the country. In spite of faint hopes of a revival due to widespread unhappiness at some of the things the government has been doing, the outlook for Fianna Fáil remains grim.”

Here’s more coverage:

  • At the Slugger O’Toole portal, founding editor Mike Fealty offers this analysis of Fianna Fáil.
  • Hugh Linehan at The Irish Times, joined by other political pundits, did a recent podcast on the party’s fate.
  • And below, a Late Late Show interview with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin:

Marriage referendum campaign enters final month

Voters in Ireland go to the polls 22 May to decide two constitutional issues: whether to allow same-sex marriage, and whether to reduce the age of candidacy for the office of president to 21 from 35 (as in the U.S.)

The marriage issue, unsurprisingly, is getting most of the attention. If approved, Ireland would become the first country in the world to approve a national referendum guaranteeing same-sex marriage in its constitution. Other nations (France, Denmark, Argentina) have approved gay marriage through the courts or legislatively, as has happened in 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide same-sax marriage issue later this summer.

Recent polling in Ireland finds support for the “Yes” vote remains around 70 percent, though it has slipped since February. And a secret “No” vote could be waiting in the wings, David Quinn writes in the Irish Independent:

‘No’ voters and waverers will stay silent for the most part out of fear of being denounced as ‘bigots’ for the ‘crime’ of believing in the family of man, woman and child based on marriage. The ‘No’ side can win though, and if it does, it will be a victory for common sense and the severest rebuff for Official Ireland, which is willing to break every normal protocol to secure a ‘Yes’ vote.

An editorial in Irish Central says “what seems to be going for the ‘Yes’ side is the sheer hypocrisy of the ‘No’ proponents,” suggesting the “intolerance and moral superiority [of high-profile ‘No’ representatives] probably ensures the same sex referendum will pass.”

Or maybe not. IC continues:

There are many rural voters who will resent the Dublin 4 [a postal district of wealthy, liberal elites] attitude reflected in much of the media of ill-concealed derision for those who oppose same sex marriage. There is also the complacency factor. Polls showing the ‘Yes’ side so far ahead may lead many to decide against voting at all.

For more details and background, The Irish Times offers a Q & A about the marriage referendum, and a Q & A about the age eligibility issue.