Saturday, 10 September 2011

The making of the Gaelic Catholic State

I came across the following extract from an American educational publisher called Thomson Gale - an interesting, elucid account of how our rotten little republic came into being. Well worth a read...


Gaelic Catholic State, Making of

Independence was followed by few institutional or social innovations—the main exception was the increased prominence given to traditional Irish or "Gaelic" culture and to the Catholic religion in public life. Given the extent to which the independence movement was inspired by ideas of cultural and religious identity, this was understandable, but the result was apparent state adherence to an exclusive interpretation of "Irishness" that embraced only the majority community.

Gaelic symbolism was extensively used in the formal and ceremonial aspects of government and traditional forms of art and entertainment were encouraged, but the greatest effort was devoted to the cause of reviving the Irish language. Language enthusiasts believed that the best hope for this endeavor lay with the primary (or "national") schools. Beginning in 1922 the government implemented a policy of requiring all instruction of infant (elementary) classes to be in Irish. In the higher grades, as much instruction as possible was to be in Irish, and every incentive was offered to increase the total amount of Irish taught. Fianna Fáil Minister for Education Tomás Derrig was dissatisfied with the rate of progress in the national schools, and beginning in 1934 he reduced the time allocated to other subjects. Secondary schools were not subjected to the same requirements, but Irish was given significant prominence. In 1925 it became necessary to achieve a passing grade in Irish in order to pass the Intermediate Certificate, an examination usually taken at age 16. In 1934 the same regulation was applied to the final school examination, the Leaving Certificate. Secondary schools were also assessed for state grants according to the amount of instruction in Irish.

By the 1940s, teachers' organizations had become critical of the fact that there was little educational development other than that motivated by language revival, but the public and their representatives rarely discussed dissatisfaction. This may have been due to a commitment to the cause of language revival, or more negatively, a reluctance to be seen to be antinational. It may also have been because many jobs in the public service were reserved for Irish speakers. The one significant source of discontent was the Church of Ireland, whose members often felt culturally alienated and practically disadvantaged by the language policy. It was not easy for Church of Ireland schools to find teachers competent in Irish, and the general decline of educational standards made it more difficult for students to gain admission to universities or to secure jobs outside Ireland.

The state's commitment to the Irish language was largely confined to the schools, but the influence of Catholicism was more pervasive, if in some ways more subtle. Cumann na nGaedheal, the party in government from 1922 to 1932, had a close relationship with the Catholic hierarchy, which had contributed to establishing the government's legitimacy during the Civil War. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Fianna Fáil was no less anxious to display its Catholic credentials. Notwithstanding the formal separation of church and state, state occasions were imbued with Catholic ritual, and Catholic moral and social ethics had a profound effect on social policy. The state had inherited a denominational education system and all political parties accepted that they should not interfere with this arrangement. Catholic social teaching of the period was deeply suspicious of the power of the state, particularly in areas of education, health, and family welfare. Successive Irish governments were content to minimize their involvement and to permit the development of a concept of social services that was heavily dependent on voluntary organizations. This arrangement led to a destabilizing conflict of interests when these services were reorganized in the postwar period.

Perhaps the most obvious and controversial influence of Catholicism was in the area of public morality. In 1925, after consultation with the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, the government took steps to circumvent the power to grant divorces that had devolved on the Irish parliament from Westminster. Given that courts were not empowered to grant divorces, either, this meant an effective ban on divorce in the Free State. Though some Protestant clergymen and lay people supported the measure, others argued that because divorce was permitted by their churches, the measure represented the removal of an existing civil right. The matter provided the occasion for a speech in the senate by the poet W. B. Yeats in which he famously set out the achievements of the Anglo-Irish community, claiming that "we against whom you have done this thing are no petty people" (Brown 1985, p. 131).

Yeats and many of his fellow writers were also in the vanguard of opposition to the Censorship of Publications Act of 1929. This act was not draconian in its inception—it was intended mainly to prevent the free circulation of publications relating to contraception, an international concern at the time. However, the zeal of the Censorship of Publications Board established under the act led to the prohibition of many of the greatest works of modern Irish and world literature. These included Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Samuel Beckett's More Pricks than Kicks, and James Joyce's Stephen Hero. Until its liberalization in the 1960s the severity of Irish literary censorship was internationally notorious.

Cumann na nGaedheal failed to address two of the greatest sources of anxiety to the Catholic hierarchy: the widespread growth of unregulated dance halls and the question of contraception. In 1935 Fianna Fáil responded to these concerns with a regulatory Public Dance Halls Act and a Criminal Law Amendment Act that absolutely prohibited the importation and sale of contraceptives. It was a measure that was widely applauded, but one that also drew criticism from those who believed the power of the state should not be used to enforce Catholic values in matters of public health and private conscience.

The creation of a Gaelic and Catholic state reached its apogee in Eamon de Valera's 1937 constitution, which established Irish as the first official language of the state and recognized the "special position" of the Catholic Church "as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens." The Catholic ethos of the constitution was not purely symbolic: The text was deeply imbued with Catholic social theory and traditional values. The family was recognized as the fundamental unit of society, entitled as such to protection from the state. The family was also recognized as the primary educator of the child, and the state was relegated to a secondary role. In the context of family values the constitution recognized the support given by woman "by her life within the home" and stipulated that no law permitting divorce would be enacted.

In the 1920s and 1930s opposition to the increasing identification of the state with Gaelic and Catholic culture was muted, sporadic, and unorganized. It is inaccurate to regard these measures as motivated solely by a desire to establish an exclusive national identity; nonetheless, that was one of the results. Perhaps the most overt example of the confusion of nationality and majority culture is found in the preamble to the constitution, which acknowledges "all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial." This was not simply a statement of Christian piety, but an understanding of the nature of the state in the context of a specific historic tradition.


That, folks,  is what the past 89 years have been all about... 

 A bad idea from the start.

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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

UP DEV UP KERRY

Dakota said...

To know it when it is seen also leads one to ask what is its component parts. Well essentially it's poisonous. It is essentially absorbed into every fibre of interaction on the Island. It corrupts, undermines and poisons everything on this Island. It is a cultural phenomenon which is profoundly conservative, authoritarian, restrictive, constrictive, unhealthy, and ultimately intolerant in nature. GM the obvious
- and it's almost trite of me to say this, but - fact is that the members of this hegemony were and are Irish. Why do I say that, well were else would you have a revolution 90 odd years ago, in the western hemisphere, and have a population with such poverty? The clue is in the question....

Is it a case of putting your personal gain before your fellow Irish man, woman or child? The educational, health and legal systems have far too much power and control in this country. Very very unhealthy. Having said that, who can change it? Well the people obviously. But they won't. Why? Because there is too many with too much to loose. The system which was inherited from the British stagnated in a State which did and does not care. The begruder effect.

Dakota said...

A continuation, GM.

What do we get GM but an endless debate around the topic of subjugation on this Island. Ireland is a tiny spec on the map with a miniscule population. All of the problems with this nation are due to a history of virtually no resources, cute hoorism and a staggeringly dosile, nasty and begrudder majority population who know one thing and one thing only, and that's how to haul up a ladder and sneer at the same time. (What nationality were the merchants who exported the large amounts of foodstuff off this Island during the famine, yep you guessed it the were IRISH, what nationality etc).

The menace can be felt - literally felt - on the roads as you drive here. As you said yourself GM when is the last time you were warned by a fellow driver that there was a Garda speed camera ahead? (The only thing the Irish do with their lights is to increase the sense of anarchy on the roads).

Where else would you get a culturally dominant group which has infiltrated so far into the workings of the State? Ah the Whest and the Catholic Church......The mechanism of the state, don't make me laugh GM, the legal and health systems are a continuation of the British systems, the educational system has been usurped by a closed and narrow cabal whose primary concern is the brainwashing of the very young. It's back to front and upside down......It's Irish. All while the general population sit idly by and collude, albeit, with a self conscious and thoroughly self-indulent pout. Waiting for the prosperous times to return so they can splash out on a stretch limo to bring their child to first communion.

The illusion of caring now that's what the Irish do well.....It has to be remembered that Roman Catholicism incidentally created an Irish "society" based on the number of souls that you could bring into the world, and then caring not one iota for the welfare of these same individuals, as soon as they were born. It was not uncommon for poor and almost destitute families to have 20 children when there wasn't enough disposable cash on their part to feed, house, or educate one. Many would say the Catholic Church had a certain distain for the population they created. Was that right? What's even stranger to contemplate such circumstances remain within the gambit of popular resentment towards the authority of Catholicism perse, rather direct action, such as the logical and rational response of mass conversions, to other faiths. Afterall we are living in the time of pluralistic and agnostic belief systems. This fact in my opinion is even more cowardly on the part of the general public and organised authoritain hegemony. Why? There is the problem laid bare........I will let you ponder that yourself GM. Are you proud to be Irish?

The Gombeen Man said...

I think I mentioned “Patterns of Ethnic Separatism” by David L. Horowitz once before? He saw processes of national secession as being driven by emerging elites who saw their interests best served by autonomy.

The Irish ruling class that gathered strength in the early part of the 20th Century was particularly lucky to be endowed with an unquestioning, docile and not-very-bright populace. Which is why they did, and do, get away with all the nonsense of the past 89 years. How the Irish elite love democracy (only after the odd putsch and blood sacrifice, of course), given the idiots entrusted with ballot papers!

Am I proud to be Irish, Dakota? Can't say I see much to be proud of on that score, to be honest.

But given how the educational system was perverted (not just in the literal sense of child abuse) in the interests of Gaelic revivalism codology, religious indoctrination and rote learning, its hardly surprising the country never produced generations of critcial thinkers...

anna said...

excellent piece- who wrote it

The Gombeen Man said...

Not sure, Anna. Saw it here... http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/eich_01/eich_01_00165.html

Anonymous said...

aaaah yes indeed mr GM this sounds like the observations of an owl civic savvy yank, iwould ask him who built america anyway, a couple of lads from my hometown KILLORGLIN actually built the constitution on a long weekend which gave us freedom democracy and all that other stuff that dim yanks are always on about,i have had enough already UP DAW RAWPOBLIC-bh

The Gombeen Man said...

Killorglin, Mr BH?

I hope you're not acting the goat, my friend, with those high-falutin' claims on the part of your forebears? ;-)

Anthony said...

An excellent, thought-provoking piece. It's frightening how close we came to something like Iran with state-church control over everything. The Northern Unionists were absolutely correct to equate Home Rule with Rome Rule.