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Revolution and Evolution


Edited By John Strachan and Alison O'Malley-Younger

The essays in this collection all revolve around the notion of change in Ireland, whether by revolution or by evolution. Developments in the shared histories of Ireland and Great Britain are an important theme throughout the book. The volume begins by examining two remarkable Irishmen on the make in Georgian London: the boxing historian Pierce Egan and the extraordinary Charles Macklin, eighteenth-century actor, playwright and manslaughterer. The focus then moves to aspects of Hibernian influence and the presence of the Irish Diaspora in Great Britain from the medieval period up to the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century celebrations of St Patrick’s Day in Manchester. The book also considers the very different attitudes to the British Empire evident in the career of the 1916 rebel Sir Roger Casement and the Victorian philologist and colonial servant Whitley Stokes. Further essays look at writings by Scottish Marxists on the state of Ireland in the 1920s and the pronouncements on the Troubles by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The book also examines change in the culture of the island of Ireland, from the development of the Irish historical novel in the nineteenth century, to ecology in contemporary Irish women’s poetry, to the present state of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Contemporary Irish authors examined include Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor and Martin McDonagh.


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Contemporary Irish Catholicism: Revolution or Evolution? EAMON MAHER 211


Contemporary Irish Catholicism: Revolution or Evolution? Eamon Maher One of the greatest changes of recent decades in Irish society has been the inexorable decline of religious practice. This is clearly due to a multiplicity of factors, most notably the revelations of clerical sex abuse in the 1990s, increased prosperity, greater mobility and disillusionment in relation to the former pillars of Irish society, Church and State. There are occasions, of course, when religious fervour still makes itself felt. For example, in the summer of 2001 the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux (affectionately known as ‘The Little Flower’) did a tour of Ireland and were visited, some main- tained, by an estimated 75 per cent of the population. Similarly, pilgrim- ages to Knock, Croagh Patrick and Lough Derg still hold an attraction for a significant number of Irish people. In addition, the percentage of the population who attend Mass and the Sacraments is relatively high by continental standards. My thesis in this chapter will be that there has been a type of revolution or evolution in Irish Catholicism, one that has led to significantly changed attitudes to the concept of organised religion and the role that it plays in people’s lives. Certain key events serve as signposts or symbols that prefigure change. One of these occurred on 31 January 1984 when a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl died after giving birth to a stillborn son. Ann Lovett was not in hospital when she gave birth; she was in a grotto within the...

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