March 15, 2014

Saint Patrick's Day - We need to end the identification of Irishness with monolithic Catholicism.

There is not such thing as a proper Irish person. There is no doctrinally orthodox and prelapsarian pure way to be an Irish person. It may exist as a demented ideal is some puritans, but these notions are racist, xenophobic and the most obvious bar to peace in Ireland. This is the Celtic nationalism that worked to make Irishness irrevocably incompatible with Englishness. It is a dangerously and wrecklessly conservative, idiosyncratic and reactionary view of identity. On par with the purist ideology of the BNP and EDL.
Éamon de Valera typified the little-Irelander mentality perfectly. Gearoid O Crualaoich explained that de Valera had 'a static conception of a "truly Irish" way of life.' De Valera and others cherished and pursued the "fior Gael" ("true Irish"). This was explicitly shown in his famous but loopy 1943 speech 'The Ireland That We Dreamed Of'.
It was the ireland of "cosy homesteads", the rural countryside, neo Gaelic, Catholic Arcadia. As J. T. Morahan said in 1931*:
"[English] culture is not the culture of the Gael; rather it is poison gas to the kindly Celtic people."
Taoiseach Éamon de Valera said in 1951:
"I am an Irishman second: I am a Catholic first and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in 2013:
 "I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic, but not a Catholic taoiseach."

Things have changed. Fintan O’Toole embraced the plural notion of Irish identity in his dissent against the 2014 Saint Patrick's Day Parade that has banned the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization (ILGO). He said of Irish identity:
"Our Irishness, if “our” has any meaning in this context, is pluralist and non-sectarian. A taoiseach “for all the people” surely understands that the people are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, atheist and 100 shades of belief and non- belief."
However, things haven't universally changed. Certainly, many mindsets haven't changed much from what J.T. Morahan said in 1931*. In 2014 the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York "is explicitly and exclusively Catholic." Even though "most Irish-Americans are Protestant." The parade organisers themselves said, "the parade is a celebration of Irish Roman Catholic heritage." Fintan O'Toole continued:
"[The organisers] that among the unwritten requirements for inclusion in the parade is that no group admitted have a political agenda or an agenda contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. They argue ILGO advocates the right to pursue a homosexual lifestyle and is thus in violation of church doctrine."
John P. McCarthy (Professor Emeritus of History, Fordham University, NY) backed up Fintan O'Toole, when he said that many Irish-Americans are Protestant:
"I must acknowledge Mr [Fintan] O’Toole makes a valid note, often unappreciated in Ireland, about the substantial portion of the Irish American population, including many of the presidents, who were Protestant."
Therefore Taoiseach, Enda Kenny is profoundly mistaken: the parade is not about "our Irishness", for "the parade is a celebration of Irish Roman Catholic heritage."

We need to end the identification of Irishness - as the organisers wants - with monolithic Catholicism. 


As Fintan O'Toole said:
"On St Patrick’s Day, the international spotlight will be on Ireland and [Enda Kenny] will have to make a statement about what he understands “our Irishness” to be. He must not tell those who think of it as diverse, open and inclusive to take a walk."
Fintan O'Toole in full here.
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