Ireland Needs Vision and Focus

 Posted by on March 25, 2010  Add comments
Mar 252010

A post I wrote last week seems to have struck a chord, judging by the reaction to it.  In The Non-fighting Irish I was trying to articulate a sense of how meekly we accept whatever injustice or scam is inficted on us by church, state and business.  I wondered where this docility came from and suggested how we might move on.

It seems to me that the Catholic church is guilty of more than just abusing our children.  I think it abused our souls, though isn’t alone in this crime, being ably aided and abetted by the self-interested legal and medical professions.

By force-feeding the Irish a diet of pious absolutes from the time of Cardinal Paul Cullen onwards, I think they blunted the critical faculties of an entire nation.  Perhaps as a reaction to the Irish Shoah —  the Great Famine —  an authoritarian Catholic church set about gaining a grip on the previously hedonistic and irresponsible Irish, strangling the last vestiges of gaiety and free thinking from the population.

They took over sporting activities.  They imposed a new style of music and dance on the children, a cold robotic style filled with their  hatred for the human body that has today become a parody of itself.  They filled the countryside with the droning of their Rosary mantra, and created an occult pantheon of demigods to be feared and worshipped, led by the Virgin Mary.  They required people to believe the most facile nonsense and those who refused were shunned.  They whipped up anti-Protestant and anti-Jewish sentiment at every opportunity, and most important of all, they grasped control of the primary schools from a British government only too willing to accept their assistance.

When these clerical absolutes were combined with simplistic nationalist sloganeering, I think a toxic mix emerged.  It was the primeval soup from which our national prototype crawled, grew legs and walked the land in all its infantile certainty.

Some will remember the Arch-confraternity in this very town, Limerick.  A Catholic movement that held almost every Catholic Limerickman in its grip and whose meetings were reminiscent of the Nuremberg rallies.  These meetings were lectured by fire-and-brimstone Redemptorists, whose thundering sermons were liberally and seductively sprinkled with the stirring rhetoric of the action novel, which was the only form of literature available at the time, thanks to a puritanical, and Catholic-driven censorship regime.

I recall my own father, a literate and curious man, confined to a diet of trash westerns, murder mysteries and war novels, thanks to successive governments of every political shade that didn’t trust their people to think for themselves.  The authors banned in those days, not a million years ago, included Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, DH Lawrence, Brendan Behan, Aldous Huxley and Honoré de Balzac.

The list of Irish authors banned in the 30s and 40s is so distinguished that it reads like an anthology of the best of Irish writing: Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey, Liam O’Flaherty, Sean Ó Faolain, Frank O’Connor, Francis Stuart, Austin Clarke, George Moore, Kate O’Brien, Norah Hoult, Oliver St John Gogarty, Maura Laverty, and Walter Macken.  Ó Faoláin is said to have called himself the leader of the banned.

The country, under the dark puritanism of the clergy, became a cold place for independent thought, and an even colder place for anyone with red blood in their veins, because if there was one crime worse than thinking freely, it was to be sexually active.

This is a country in which, until recently, clerics were held in such regard that nobody — not even our police force — believed them capable of a crime.

This is a country in which celibate, sexually-dysfunctional clerics felt entitled to lecture grown women about inserting thermometers to check their fertility, and felt entitled to terrify schoolchildren into believing sex was a dirty and shameful thing.  As Woody Allen once remarked when asked if he thought sex was dirty: Only if you’re doing it right.

This is a country in which the same clerics constantly sought to influence the law of the land in relation to family law and sexual relations between consenting adults.  It reached its most absurd and obscene when the cloistered order of Poor Clares were marched out en masse to vote down a constitutional amendment permitting divorce.

That was not in 1886.

It was in 1986, the year Elvis Costello released two albums: King of America and Blood and Chololate that included the aching I want You.  The Pet Shop Boys released Please and REM unveiled Life’s Rich Pageant.  Paul Simon released Graceland that year, Talking Heads told True Stories and Jennifer Warnes gave the world the sublime Famous Blue Raincoat.  Movies that year included Top Gun, Aliens, Platoon and The Fly.

But in Ireland, silent nuns were preventing divorce.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

This is the country in which a prime minister voted against the party of which he was the leader, in deference to the sexual strictures inposed by the same clerics and that didn’t happen in the 19th century either.  It happened in 1974.  Brian Ferry, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Tom Waits and Fleetwood Mac were in the charts.

Liam Cosgrave crossed the floor of the chamber to vote down his own government’s bill,  confining the importation and selling of contraceptives to licensed persons and making it an offence for unmarried people to buy them.  It was a most conservative measure, forced on the government by the McGee supreme court case, and even at that, their knees buckled in the face of ecclesiastical displeasure.

Cosgrave’s actions happened in a country that dared to call itself a republic, and they show how an intelligent, educated man could yet bring himself to bend the knee in a childish deferential display of submission to the men with the rings.

At this remove, such behaviour seems insane, but that’s how it was, and today, in 2010, some government ministers are just as much in thrall to the  church as Cosgrave was in 1974.  After all, we still have a constitution which was in large part dictated by the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.  Not too many years back, Michael Woods and Bertie Ahern meekly handed over €1.27 billion of our money to bail out the religious orders after their mass rapes and beatings were revealed.

What’s perhaps worse is this: the Catholic church hijacked morality and ethics in this society, and held them as a monopoly, stifling all rational humanistic tendencies in the people.  Consequently, now that the people have lost all respect for them, a void has been created.  Instead of an internal, self-generated ethic, we had an imposed artificial structure, and consequently, society is now left with no frame of reference for what is right or wrong.

Whatever about blind obedience to the instructions of the Catholic church, there’s a more insidious consequence, which is the training of generation upon generation to accept arrant nonsense with a straight face and without question.

Hence we have an entire nation institutionalised, and ready to accept not only the fairytales of the priests, but also the nonsense of the bankers and property developers who promised endless prosperity.  Or the nonsense of a government in the pockets of the wealthy, telling them that billions of public money must be pumped into the same banks to save the vested interests from their own criminality.  Or the nonsense of a heavily-funded health service that simply doesn’t work, because it’s geared towards making rich consultants even richer at the expense of poor people.  Or the empty, meaningless sloganeering of A Nation Once Again, the monster that ate and spat out so many victims.  Or the fact that the same crooks who fuelled the economic disaster have been re-employed and now work for NAMA at a healthy profit.  Or the recent salary increases for the people who run the cancerous Anglo-Irish Bank.

Where do we go from here?

Why not begin with something very simple, but symbolic of a new start?  Why not turn our backs on the old, failed, inward-looking ways by removing the meaningless titles from our two main, failed political parties.  Let there be no more Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.  Let them adopt titles that reflect what they believe in, and if they have no beliefs, let them be disbanded and gone from our parliament.  Let them make way for new thinking, and let us once and for all bury their outdated, Civil-war, priest-ridden deference and collusion with authoritarianism.

Back in the Eighties there was something called the New Ireland Forum, set up by Garrett Fitzgerald to examine ways of giving stability and peace to Ireland, north and south.

It seems to me that we need another New Ireland Forum, but with a different focus.  We are in the middle of a war without bullets, potentially more destructive than either the civil war or the Northern Ireland conflict, and this war has been triggered by the treason of the banks, the property developers and certain corrupt government ministers.  It threatens to destroy this country if we don’t wake up.

No guns will win the new war, though I greatly fear there will be blood on the streets whether we like it or not.  The only thing that will save us from annihilation is a new way of thinking, and the most important part of that is to finally shake off our pathological deference to all things authoritarian, whether priest or politician, doctor, lawyer or bureaucrat.

We need to learn that we are not children and that we do not need to be treated like children.  We need to stop looking to the hollow men of politics and church for our ideas and instead start to look inside ourselves.

We need to trust our own hearts for once and begin to heal the soul of the nation that has been so badly damaged by the self-serving priests,  politicians and pampered elites who have held this country by the throat for too long.

Forget about looking for a strong leader.  That way engenders demagogues and rabble rousing opportunists.

The place we’ll find a new vision and a new focus is inside ourselves, but first we must face up to the reality of how childish and docile we have been , how much it has cost us as a nation, and how much it will cost our children.

Then we can begin to grow up and order our affairs for ourselves.

  17 Responses to “Ireland Needs Vision and Focus”

Comments (17)

    Excellent stuff again Bock, it must the sap rising.

    Having moved here 8 years ago to this free and independent escape the narrow minded north. I hoped to find a more enlightened way of life here. Unfortunately I was wrong. People seemed to accept political corruption, dictatorial bureaucracy and clerical abuse / domination as a way of life. They re-elected crooks and gangsters as a matter of form. I could never determine whether this was down to fear and oppression or laziness. Whinging and pointless moaning seemed to be a national pass time.

    The idea of a new New Ireland forum is an excellent one.This should not be an exercise in guilt or retribution, All that matters is the future .However what must change is the attitude of our nation. Granted it may be learnt behaviour, but if we continue to let the powers that be, kick the shit out of us on a daily basis nothing will ever change.


    Things are changing, but social change is often imperceptible in the moment. Many, many people who knew deep down that religion and the church were all bollocks but didn’t have the courage to say so, are now coming out of the closet and joining the secular world. There is no going back from this. I always thought my generation would be the last of the blind, obedient religious sheep, but I thought it would happen because people would figure out it was all nonsense. It’s happening now because people realise that the religious institution, rather than the beliefs themselves, is corrupt and evil and pointless. Any institution founded on a lie as big as the god myth is bound to crumble at some point.

    But it’s the right direction, so enjoy the times we are living through and allow yourself a wry smile. We are saving the country’s future.


    I salute your follow up BOCK to the non-fightiong Irish in this post. You are for sure possessed of a real ability in the thinking stakes. I’m not, but I know it when I see it.
    I hope this thread may stir up the beginnings of the formation of a new group of citizens with a real desire for change through this New Ireland Forum, if you can get such a proposed Forum up and running.

    Now; just how is that done? Or will you be arrested first for dissent?


    Good article as usual.
    Many interesting points. The big one that struck me first was this;

    ‘What’s perhaps worse is this: the Catholic church hijacked morality and ethics in this society, and held them as a monopoly, stifling all rational humanistic tendencies in the people. Consequently, now that the people have lost all respect for them, a void has been created. Instead of an internal, self-generated ethic, we had an imposed artificial structure, and consequently, society is now left with no frame of reference for what is right or wrong.’

    People, including many on this forum, can and do wax lyrical about how much damage the church has done and how it has reached it’s end. But a serious consequence of this is that those who until recently looked to the church for moral and ethical guidance now have nowhere to turn. They now know what is wrong witht he church but maybe do not now know what is right. They, maybe, also see the rot in the legal system, the unions, politicians, bankers even many of our ordinary citizens.
    What is wrong with the system is very well noted on many web forums but alternatives that inspire individuals are currently lacking.


    Excellent post Bock! I think this will be plagiarised by some supposedly expert journalists.
    I didn’t know all those authors were banned. Very informative. I think shame is a very binding phenomenon and a lot of the inflicting of that stems from the English I’m afraid with the torch being taken up by the Catholic Church.
    I hope their wont be blood on the streets. I remember reading in a history book of a small Irish Clan that overtook their English captures, can’t remember which century.. but anyways they led them and their families up to a hill, where they hung them all, saying.. “now we’ll show you what animals are”. Understandable I suppose, but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind as they say.

    Obviously all in the past, but I think the the English invasion/treatment of the Irish had a huge effect on the Irish psyche, which got passed down through the generations.

    I wouldn’t agree with Cynical Joe where he says “Any institution founded on a lie as big as the god myth is bound to crumble at some point.” A lot of people will always want to believe in a creator. Stating it’s a myth is a personal belief, which anyone is entitled to believe but I don’t think the institution would crumble because of this. It would crumble because people want to attend to their beliefs in private and don’t want to be forced into any kind of indoctrination by hyprocrites. It’s a shame that the original message got lost in so much dogma and pomp. All it was, was just to love.. simple as that.

    Brilliant article though, gets people thinking for themselves.. a gentle nudge in the right direction.


    I have said for years that Ireland was ruled by a trinity that retarded our development and matuirity as a nation. That trininty is the church, FF and GAA. The latter 2 have been infested by the former with bishops welcoming JFC at Shannon to throwing in at All Ireland finals. The GAA was the nest of many a tee totaller facist who hated evrything non Irish and everything English. FME if we are going to blame invaders for our moral impotancy we may as well start with the Danes. The wealth and ostentatiousness of the church must surely be at odds with the visions of Jesus as must the current workings of the Dail with those of 1916. We were handed a blank canvas to form a republic for all men yet we managed only to draw a picture which appealled to the cutehoor and gombeen. It’s time to go back to the drawing board, to open our borders to those who want to live here as Irish men and women and have something to contribute. Is this possible? Can we ever invisage welcoming the Vlads, Borris’s and Svetlanas of this world to be Irish?


    No. 8, my mother was actually born in England, half my relatives are English.. so just wanted to state that. But I do think their particular history of savagery, with it being more recent than the Normans, had a more direct effect on our psyche. They shamed us for being us. e.g. they shamed us for our language, they shamed our way of life, they took our land . ( might have something to do with our obsession with owning a property?) I just think that, that history also had an affect on our current infantile, docile nature of bowing down to authority (i.e. the Church and why they haven’t been told to fucked off at this stage).
    Ironic the ones who hated all things English, were more similiar to them than the ordinary person. I think shame is kind of like a hot potato stuck to your hand, you just want to pass it on.. But anyways just a small point I wanted to make regarding our history affecting our psyche or as excellently put in the post “our pathological deference to all things authoritarian”.


    A lot of serious thought needed to fully digest this, it gets right to the root, Thank you.
    I thought after reading it of an incident that happened years ago, I had this truly obnoxious Trade Union Leader, cigar smoking, statue crawling Uncle who was bowed and devoted to the Arch Confraternity you mentioned, He repeadly interfered in our family life via my Mother, his Sister, much to disgust of my Father ( very anti religion) however my eldest brother was spending a ” wild ” summer in Kilkee and the other brother was made stay home to study for exams, The eldest brother wrote to the other telling him to get down to Kilkee fast because ” The ridin was great !” The letter was intercepted by the Uncle who unknown to my Father went and brought my brother back and sequestered him in a College to become a Religious brother ! Unbelievable, and that was after he recieved a good trashing from a Redemptorist brother, He ran away and went to Jersey, eventually returned, it changed a lot for us back then and my Father became sober after that, But the sheer power of the bastards.
    I was lucky I think, my Father used to go to Northern Ireland and bring back great books, many Authors which you mention above, he gave them to me to read and encouraged a real love of reading, One of my daughters suggested to-day that she might buy me a ” kindle ” I had no idea what it was, but apparantly it’s like an ipod for books, but i decined because i love books so much, I’m grateful I was given that love.
    Anyway, i’m going to continue to digest all of this, i’m asking myself now, ” what do i love about Ireland ” I’m going to have to come up with some answers.


    You know I hope that these blogs make a difference and hope that over time, they become important as credible sources of information and that media as we know it will evolve and either incorporate blogs or perhaps be replaced by them . Today when honest brokers are scarce, the good blogs are reliable.

    I copied this from FMC’s place cause I said it over there too.

    Bock, where’s the petrol, I know how to make a cocktail.

    This is a good.

    I loved Sean McGahern and I think they banned him too. He might feel left out from Ó Faoláin’s list.


    Iam afraid–I just cant get over it———The Non-fighting Irish———-I am not a member–I still want to snot the lot of the Bastards


    Excellent and constructive post – It resonates strongly with me particularly the issue of the external Magisterium enforced moral code which was never internalized and thus collapsed in parallel with the decline of the institution.


    Good stuff, Bock.

    Ireland’s problem now lays in trying to cope with a mind shift that embraces everything from the Enlightenment to Postmodernism at one go.


    Expect nothing in the pursuit of the purulent catholic clergy or their bureaucratic enablers from that skip of fools OUR Oireachtas. According to Professor Camillo Bica at S V A New York “Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes”. Yes Bock we as a nation must fix this ourselves but without a ground-swell of vociferous public demand for justice it seems unlikely. At second best we can take this to Europe.


    Take it to Europe? Hell, why not sue the Pope…


    Sue the Pope, Absolutely! Win in Europe and you will have him by the ass. (ware gloves)


    This is a fine articulation of how Ireland came to harbour the despot and the slave.
    I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud.
    This is the background document. It will be important next to articulate the Ireland that we want to make.


    Great stuff Bock.
    Change self and the rest will follow.

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