Edward Norman

Conflict & Catholicism

Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change, 1970–2000


Allen Lane / The Penguin Press 240pp £20 order from our bookshop

Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789–2006


Oxford University Press 632pp £35 order from our bookshop

Since the 1970s the position of the Catholic Church in the Irish Republic has been, as Roy Foster correctly summarises it, ‘comprehensively destroyed’. The moral certainties of Archbishop McQuaid, guardian of conservative orthodoxy, have been replaced by those of Mary Robinson – the universally admired exponent of feminism and modernity. Gone are the popular rosary devotions: instead there are contraception and divorce. These changes are not in themselves especially remarkable, and they more or less parallel the collapse of traditional morality that has occurred in England, too, in the last three decades. But in Ireland there is one great difference, for Irish nationalism has been considered inseparable from Catholicism. ‘There has been’, as Foster observes, ‘a rewriting of the language of national identity.’ Such an undertaking has not been felt necessary in England: the ineffective Church of England – the State Church no less – is so characterised by internal moral incoherence that no one has considered it a bulwark of Christian morality, and its luminaries, indeed, have justified the deconsecration of public life by reference to theological constructions of their own devising. In Ireland a new kind of void has more openly appeared. There is not a clear replacement for the discarded Catholic teachings of the past but a disinclination to address the philosophical issues which lie at the basis of civilised human association. This is the age of no ideology, in which the acclamation of cultural relativism is considered not merely laudable but a politically correct necessity.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,