In recent weeks I have been courting a Protestant woman from rural Ireland. Consequently, and within this short period of time, and almost over night, I have started to hate Ireland for her open and blatant sectarianism. Yes, for it is clear to me now that to be Protestant in this so called republic is no easy thing, for the contempt and sneers amongst the majority is open and indulged at every turn. Whether it be in public houses, the workplace, or in the fabric of every town land and parish.
Yet thankfully I know much better, for the truth is, and in general terms, the Catholic Irish (like my unfortunate self) are a weakness. Yes, for on the one hand we will complain about our subjugation and persecution over the centuries, whether it be to Britain or to Rome, yet on the other we are passive and willing participants in this danse macabre. In truth we are not a proud people and perhaps we glorify our misery and slavery in song, story and drink; a learned helplessness of the masses. Yes, we who have taken the soup and the blood of Christ!
Indeed, across Ireland there is the misconception that the war for Irish freedom has only ever been a religious one; that is to say Catholic green against Protestant orange. But in actual fact, it was the Irish Protestant who first envisioned the Irish republic and the freedom thereof; those proud and fearless people who ignited the flame of rebellion in this land; like Wolfetone, Orr, McCracken and Hope. Or those like Lynn, Walsh and Ffrench-Mullen who wished to rid the world of hate from the banks of Ballina. Or the great Robert Emmet, ‘oh breathe not his name!’ Or Constance Markievicz, Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Grey and Erskine Childers ‘who died the Prince he was’.
So perhaps Protestantism is the true stalwart of the Irish republic, and if the case we surely have a lot to owe and should hang our heads in collective shame. And maybe we can inspire the next generation of Protestant, so rather than fill them with hate we might instill them with hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.
So please take me back again, to once upon a time in Ireland.