Tuesday 6 December 2016

Eoghan Harris: Obama is literally a black Protestant

Published 27/06/2010 | 05:00

'There's no one as Irish as Barack Obama,' says the song. Steve MacDonogh's Barack Obama -- The Road from Moneygall proves that this is partly true -- but only if you believe that the President's Irish Protestant ancestors were as fully Irish as their Roman Catholic nationalist neighbours. And the answer to that question is still problematical among sections of the Roman Catholic majority.

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For much of our modern history, many Roman Catholic nationalists rejected the notion that ordinary Irish Protestants (by which I do not mean the Anglo-Irish aristocracy) were as Irish as the Roman Catholic majority. MacDonogh believes, with good reason, that a reactionary Roman Catholic nationalism -- as distinct from the pluralist Irish republicanism to which MacDonogh, a Southern Protestant, subscribes -- bears much of the responsibility for alienating Irish Protestants from the republican ideal.

This kind of tribalism thrives in surprising places. In a recent book, David McWilliams recorded an anecdote showing that Seanie FitzPatrick saw himself not just as a profiteering capitalist but as some kind of Catholic nationalist putting uppity Prods in their place. Sadly, this is not the sole example of Roman Catholic capitalists presenting their profiteering as patriotism.

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