In trying to eradicate Ireland’s Christian heritage, secularists could destroy Ireland’s identity, writes David Quinn
Once French presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, was damaged by the scandal of paying his wife and family out of public funds for jobs that seemingly did not exist, it was inevitable that Emmanuel Macron would win the French election. Le Pen was just too unacceptable.
Fillon was the most Catholic-friendly of the candidates and was also a good half-way house between the stridently nationalistic tone of the National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, and the globalist, internationalist, post-nationalist, multi-cultural policies of most of the other candidates including, I think, Macron. So, it was regrettable that Fillon’s candidacy fell by the wayside.
In the end, Macron beat Le Pen by two-to-one. But that still means 11 million French people voted for Le Pen, a big constituency and illustrative of the new divide that has opened up in Western politics between globalism and nationalism. As always, you can be somewhere on the spectrum between extreme nationalism and extreme globalism.
What does extreme nationalism look like? It looks like raising protectionist barriers against free trade and closing your borders to immigrants. It wraps itself in the national flag and very strongly emphasises national symbols, including sometimes religious ones. It is hostile to multi-culturalism and is anti-EU.
Extreme globalism is the opposite of this. It doesn’t really believe in national borders at all, or in the nation-state. It dislikes national symbols and is very pro-immigration and pro-multi-culturalism. You might be for or against religion. Some globalists see a place for religion in their world and others do not.
As I say, you can put yourself anywhere between these two poles. A writer in the UK, David Goodhart, has written a very interesting analysis of Brexit called The Road to Somewhere. There are two roads a nation can follow, he maintains, a road to ‘somewhere’ or a road to ‘anywhere’, which can also be a road to ‘nowhere’.
Voters who want to follow the road to ‘somewhere’ like the familiar, the customary, the traditional. They are not necessarily social conservatives by any means, or particularly or at all religious. But they do basically like where they live and they don’t want to see it becoming something else. They have deep roots in a given place and they are not cosmopolitan in outlook.
The ‘anywhere’ people are cosmopolitan. They do not feel strongly attached to any particular place, local custom or traditions. They are very multiculturalist in outlook. In their hands, ‘somewhere’ quickly starts to look like ‘anywhere’ because, in the name of diversity, they tend to leech local communities of their own identities. The local culture becomes submerged.
In Ireland today, there is a very strong attempt to make Ireland an ‘anywhere’ place, to leech us of our particular colour and identity even when that is harmless and inoffensive to any reasonable person.
The main target at present is any public trace of our religious heritage. Ireland has been a Christian country for 1,500 years but the people running this country at present want us to pretend that this is not true. Therefore, they are attacking the big and the small markers of our Christian heritage.
The TV version of the Angelus, for example, has been turned into a sort of ‘art and crafts’ item set to bells. Can it survive much longer? The restrictions on alcohol sales on Good Friday look set to go unless someone mounts some decent resistance.
Amazingly, the Dáil prayer has survived for now. Maybe the hard left TDs in the Dáil annoyed everyone else about it so much that the rest of the TDs opted to keep it, in common with parliaments in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
These things are small, admittedly, but they are also symbolic. They give a place its particular colour.
The big things are also under ferocious assault. RTE’s Would You Believe? last Sunday night asked ‘Who’s running our schools?’ The non-denominational body Educate Together was delighted with the programme, and no wonder as it featured a preponderance of views criticising the present denominational system and praising the alternative.
This is all part of a general push against Catholic and other faith schools.
Catholic hospitals are also under enormous attack. We are led to believe that Catholic hospitals are an ever-present threat to the health of patients, especially women even though the proposal is to replace them with hospitals that are ‘pro-choice’, which is to say with hospitals that will abort the unborn patient in the womb and eventually old and infirm patients as well, if and when we move towards assisted suicide.
A country that is so willing to jettison 1,500 years of history is a country that wants to become either anywhere or nowhere. If Ireland does this, it will be an entirely different place compared to what it is now. Such a development would, of course, please some people enormously because they think no good came of our 1,500 years of Christianity, something only an ignoramus could truly believe.
Ireland is obviously becoming more secular and must adapt to that fact. Changes have to be made. There ought, for example, to be fewer Catholics schools than at present.
But to eradicate all public traces of 1,500 years of Christian history in this country goes much too far. A compromise suggests that we ought to keep some symbols of that history like the Angelus or the Good Friday drinking laws, as well as more substantive things like enough publicly-funded faith schools to meet whatever is the demand for them.
An unwillingness to compromise on the part of secularists begins to smack again of the sort of aggressive secularism that Bertie Ahern spoke of some years ago, of a deep-rooted antipathy to religion that ought to have no place in a supposedly pluralist country willing to recognise its deep roots.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is willing to praise and defend Britain’s Christian heritage. As Dr Martin Mansergh asked in this newspaper last week, will any leading Irish politician do the same?