Church, State and society in Ireland since 1960

Girvin, B. (2008) Church, State and society in Ireland since 1960. Éire-Ireland, 43(1&2), pp. 74-98.

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<p>In 1967 The German Novelist Heinrich Böll described some of the changes that had occurred in the thirteen years since he first arrived in Ireland. While mourning the end of a society for which he had considerable affection, Böll noted two disquieting features of the new Ireland. One was the disappearance of nuns from the newspapers and the other was widespread discussion of "The Pill" (his emphasis). Böll was uncomfortable with this Ireland, but perceptively identified two aspects of Irish life that were to change dramatically over the next forty years: the nature of Irish sexuality and the role of the Catholic Church in Irish society.</p> <p>The architect of this new Ireland, Seán Lemass, had retired as taoiseach the year before and was now a member of the "informal committee" established to review the constitution under the chairmanship of Fianna Fáil minister George Colley. While Lemass was not a self-conscious radical, his impatience with the failings of Irish society in the 1950s set the scene for the changes that began when he succeeded de Valera in 1959. The Ireland described by Böll was conservative but was also in transition. Lemass was committed to economic development but could not predict (nor be aware of) the effect that policy changes would have on noneconomic spheres in the society. Even when he retired, relations between church and state seemed fixed and intimate. The society was homogeneous in ethnic and religious makeup while being remarkable for its intense religiosity. The evidence that exists suggests that weekly mass attendance reached 100 percent in rural areas and not far off that in cities.</p> <p>Criticisms of the intimate relationship between church and state were almost nonexistent within Ireland and were normally leveled by Unionists in Northern Ireland or from liberals in the United States or Britain. [Preview]</p>

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Girvin, Professor Brian
Authors: Girvin, B.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:Éire-Ireland

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