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This whole episode, which has resulted in no end of column inches in the Irish press, is the classic case of a storm in a teacup: Who ultimately cares all that much whether the largely ceremonial Irish President attends some church service organised to commemorate Irish Partition. As one letter writer pointed out, it also commemorates a partition of the imperial British Isles, as 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland left the united Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the same time as Northern Ireland was created.

But something still bothers me about this episode, and it is how the churches have been given a free pass in this affair, as if their organising of an ecumenical service was entirely innocent. I have therefore drafted another letter to the editor on the topic, with little hope of it being published: It reads as follows:

Most people probably feel it is past time for the "storm in a teacup" which resulted from President Michael D. Higgins' decision to decline an invitation to an Ecumenical service in Armagh on the theme of the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland is put to bed. The decision was made and is unlikely to be changed at this time.

But somehow the media have given the Churches a free pass on their organisation of the service. The protestant denominations will have been well aware that any commemoration or celebration of Partition would have been problematic for the President of Ireland.

Some eyebrows have been raised at the involvement of the Catholic Primate of all Ireland in this affair. Why did he agree to this particular theme for the service against the opposition of the nationalist parties in Northern Ireland?

It need hardly be said that the Catholic Church was the primary beneficiary of Partition in the south, as it enabled it to exercise almost untrammelled control over the body politic until the 1980's and allows it to control much of Irish education and hospital care to this day.

It is difficult to see how a united Ireland, created in 1921 on the lines of a secular republican tradition which included Catholics, Protestants, Dissenters and the odd socialist and atheist would have allowed any one church to achieve such dominance.

Similarly, in the North, partition enabled the protestant churches and allied organisations such as the Orange order to achieve almost unchallenged hegemony over the state until the civil rights movement and later, the Troubles, upset the apple cart.

The Churches, therefore, have much to atone for the sins of the past, and might well reflect on their role in partition. President Higgins, on the other hand, may prefer to concentrate his reconciliation efforts in secular settings.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 20th, 2021 at 01:12:04 PM EST

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