‘Sectarianism alive’ in Church of Ireland – Archbishop

The Church of Ireland has become embroiled in a major internal row following allegations of sectarianism from one of its leading prelates.

Last week, as he addressed annual diocesan synods of his Church, Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin related his own “bitter experience” of sectarianism within his Church, stressing that “sectarianism is alive” in the Church of Ireland.

Now, fellow prelates have voiced their “disappointment” and outright confusion at Archbishop Jackson’s words.


His immediate predecessor, Archbishop John Neill said the accusations “didn’t ring a bell with me at all”. Referring to Archbishop Jackson’s youth in Co. Fermanagh, Archbishop Neill suggested that “coming from Northern Ireland it is easy to read everything to do with preserving ethos as sectarianism”.

Another former Dublin prelate, Archbishop Walton Empey, went further, stating he was “deeply shocked” at the sectarianism charge, which he rejected, as did Rev. Dr Robert MacCarthy, former dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral who stated he had never encountered sectarian attitudes among Church members. “I don’t understand what he means,” he said.

Continuing hurt

Any hope that the row would now subside were dealt a blow this week when Archbishop Jackson penned an opinion piece for The Irish Times in which he offered further insight into the attitudes of some Church of Ireland members who describe newcomers to the Church as “polyester Protestants” and who, he added, have caused great hurt to those members who have married outside the Church. The archbishop reveals that people “speak with me and write to me about the continuing hurt to which they are subjected from within the Church of Ireland community because they married someone of a tradition other than their own, most usually a Roman Catholic person”.

The archbishop also reports “deeply pejorative remarks …against the Roman Catholic Church by members of [the Church of Ireland] to me because of its stance and principle on abortion”.