Monday 5 December 2016

The age of our craven deference is finally over

The Murphy report is a truly historic landmark in the squalid story of Church-State relations, writes Ronan Fanning

Ronan Fanning

Published 06/12/2009 | 05:00

Historic is a term from which professional historians traditionally recoil and rightly so. The banalities of popular usage have debased its meaning beyond redemption. But there are still rare events that not only deserve but demand to be described as historic. The publication of the Murphy report is one such event: a truly historic landmark in the sad and squalid story of Church-State relations in independent Ireland.

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To understand why this is so it is first necessary to understand how twin circumstances governing the foundation of the State shattered the non-sectarian idealism of Irish republicanism: partition (accomplished by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920) and the Civil War of 1922-23.

Partition created an unnaturally large Catholic majority in the 26 counties by amputating the Protestants of north-east Ulster who might otherwise have ameliorated the overweening Catholic triumphalism that came to characterise the Irish Free State. That effect was compounded by the repression of the Catholic minority in a Northern Ireland whose prime minister proclaimed "all I boast of is that we are a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state".

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