A country once dominated, one might now safely say oppressed, by the Church of Rome keeps demonstrating that it has come of age. It has happened, as it were, before our very eyes.
The ‘freedom of choice’ victory in the abortion referendum held yesterday was overwhelming numerically. It is also overwhelming sentimentally, as the baleful, often cruel, influence of the Roman episcopacy recedes with each passing year. The Church never did know its place, unless it was one of defining and controlling the country’s moral well-being. Well, it knows it now.
Ireland’s moral well-being is now in perfectly good hands, or at least in hands that are not tied by medieval religious strictures imposed by sinister clerics. The Republic even has a gay taoiseach, which would have been unthinkable twenty-five years ago.
It has always been hard to dislike the Irish, even for Englishmen who have often been reviled in return, for the palpable sins and excesses of Sir Walter Raleigh, Oliver Cromwell and countless other imperial adventurers.
I have never approved of the murderous and indiscriminate tactics of the Irish Republican Army, or Sinn Fein, or certain other manifestations of Irish nationalism. But nor, these days, do most sensible Irish citizens. We English have admitted our terrible mistakes of the past, and the Irish have by and large forgiven us. The Queen’s visit a few years back, when she laid a wreath on a monument to the fallen in ‘The Troubles’ seemed to draw a line under all that. The poor old dear did what no British politician could have done, or even thought of doing.
Personally, I would be far from unhappy if the cause of the island’s more recent troubles, that pestilential province to the north, were to be absorbed into the Republic. I have no idea how such a thing might be accomplished, but time and a rising Catholic population (you can’t win everything at once) will take care of that. Not, perhaps, in my lifetime, but probably in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. By then, I can only assume that the ruling Conservative Party will no longer be clinging to office by virtue of the nine parliamentary votes of a repulsive gang of revisionist Protestant extremists too blind or stupid or both to acknowledge that the world has moved on.
Brexit has of late thrown a small spanner into the works of Anglo-Irish relations but the engine can and will be repaired. Brexit has thrown a spanner into a great many things besides. Britain is now the nation ill at ease with itself, and will have to sort out Brexit and a great many other issues if it is not to descend into social and administrative chaos. The Irish, having wrenched themselves free of religious intolerance, seem perfectly at ease with themselves. The Brits could learn a great deal from them, even how to put together a decent rugby team.
Erin go bragh!