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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture


Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration of its cultural, political, constitutional and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the dominant discourses and narratives that have seemingly defined the nation. The essays in this collection examine the ways in which established Irish socio-cultural structures of authority and their constructs of collective identity have been challenged within literary and cultural discourses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Every challenge to the purported wisdom of these authority structures adds a new facet to the complexity of Irish national identity and contributes to the continuous evolution of the ‘New Ireland’, a phrase often used to signify the momentous transformations of the country in times of change.
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Edwige Nault - Challenging Catholic Church Authority on the Abortion Issue since the 1980s


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Challenging Catholic Church Authority on the Abortion Issue since the 1980s

At the beginning of the 1980s, pro-life groups aroused fear in Irish society by suggesting that the Republic of Ireland would have ‘abortion in the back door’ (Alex White qtd. in Ferriter 2009: 469), inferring that it would be imposed by European regulations. The only solution to permanently protect the ban on abortion was to lock it into the Constitution, which in 1983 resulted in the Eighth Amendment acknowledging the right to life of the ‘unborn’. Whereas the liberalisation of abortion laws has taken place in most of Europe, Ireland’s position on abortion, both in legal and sociocultural terms, is one of the few within the European Union to follow Catholic tenets. Only Poland and Hungary have retained restrictive grounds for lawful abortion while it is prohibited in all circumstances in Malta. However, in the last two decades, change has been socioculturally under way in the shape of growing secularisation which has effected a change in Irish attitudes towards moral issues and religious beliefs. This sociocultural change has, in turn, challenged the Church’s moral authority already eroded, since the 1990s, by the uncovering of numerous cases of prolonged child-abuse in Ireland and institutions such as The Magdalene Sisters.

This essay will assess the degree of erosion of the long-standing authority of the Catholic Church on sexual ethics, and specifically abortion, in Irish society and will consider the manner...

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