March 05, 2018

Religious apartheid in 1940s southern Ireland

As has been a recent theme on this blog, I've been a little alarmed at the growing narrative that only protestants and unionists are bigoted, something Sinn Fein and republicans appear to be promoting.

As Jenny McCartney wrote in 2004 following the complete exit of protestants from a catholic estate in Belfast:
"Mr Eoin O'Broin - steeped so long in Sinn Fein’s myth that Northern Ireland’s Catholics must always be oppressed and Protestants the oppressors - simply cannot bear to admit the truth about the intense anti-Protestant bigotry in many working-class Catholic areas... It is pure dishonesty, however, for anyone to pretend that the sectarianism flows in only one direction."

Douglas Hyde was an Irish language activist and Ireland's first President, and he was a Protestant. When he died in 1949 the rules of the Roman Catholic Church were such that the members of the Irish government meant they could not attend the service, as this would involve entering a Protestant building. Instead they waited outside and did not join into the ceremonies until the funeral procession had left the Cathedral on its way to the graveyard.

Patsy McGarry wrote about the infamous event in the Irish Times in 1999:
"Douglas Hyde’s funeral service provided one of the sharpest illustrations of the cultural exclusivity which marked this island for so much of the 20th century. It took place at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and was attended by just two Catholics, the French ambassador and poet Austin Clarke. 
Clarke remembered the occasion caustically in his poem Burial of an Irish President: 
"… . at the last bench/Two Catholics, the French/Ambassador and I, kneltdown./The Vergers waited. Outside/ The hush of Dublin town./Professors of cap and gown,/ Costello, his Cabinet,/In Government cars, hiding/Around a corner, ready/Tall hat in hand, dreading/ `Our Father’ in English. Better/ Not hear that `which’ for `who’/and risk eternal doom …" 
It was then a reserved sin in most Catholic dioceses, pardonable only by a bishop, for a Catholic to attend an Anglican/ Protestant service. 
Fianna Fail was represented at Dr Hyde’s funeral by Mr Erskine Childers, a member of the Church of Ireland. The party leader, Mr de Valera, attended the burial at Portahard, Co Roscommon, with the president, Sean T. O Ceallaigh. Both stayed in the graveyard "right to the end of the service”, The Irish Times noted. 
The same religious apartheid operated at Hyde’s inauguration in 1938. The ceremony itself was preceded by two religious services: one at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, attended by the then Taoiseach, Mr de Valera, his government, the Opposition, the diplomatic corps, and other State representatives, and the other at St Patrick’s Cathedral attended by Dr Hyde and some fellow Church of Ireland members. All later attended the same reception in Dublin Castle, which was hailed as a great advance."
In contrast both Sir Edward Carson, the then unionist leader, and James Craig, his immediate successor, attended John Redmond’s requiem mass in Westminster Cathedral in March 1918. Likewise John Miller Andrews, Craig’s eventual successor as leader and prime minister in 1940, was present at the requiem mass for Joe Devlin in 1934 and that for TJ Campbell in 1946.

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