Why did Irish Independence fracture along sectarian lines?

For starters, I am NOT Irish, and I am neither a Protestant nor a Catholic but an atheist. (Aye, but are ye a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?:D)

I am, however, a history buff and I came across an odd and interesting fact in Irish history that bears discussion and perhaps explanation or debate.

From what I can see, 200 or even 100 years ago the struggle for Irish freedom was not sharply divided along sectarian lines as it is today. This is indeed strange because a couple of centuries ago most people cared if you were Protestant or Catholic. Today, almost nobody in the West cares what religion you are except in Northern Ireland.

It is amazing how many Protestant Irishmen were leaders of nationalist causes. For example, James Napper Tandy (1740–1803) was an Irish rebel leader and a Dublin Protestant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napper_Tandy He is the “Napper Tandy” mentioned in the lyrics to “The Wearing of the Green”.
When listening to the Irish rebel song “Come out You Black and Tans” you will note the reference to how they “slandered great Parnell”, a reference to Charles Stewart Parnell (1846 –1891), an Irish Protestant landowner, nationalist political leader, land reform agitator, and founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Then there was Theobald Wolfe Tone, another Protestant, who is the founder of Irish Republicanism.

To cap it all off, listen to the Irish song on YouTube about the “Protestant Men” who were republicans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmPbC1rYYOA
So what the heck happened? How did the movement become so fractured along sectarian lines? Is Irish history going backwards or something?

Independence did not fracture along religious lines. It fractured along settlement lines where the Northern counties, with their greater proportion of citizens descended from the Scots and Northen English who had been “settled” on plantations, displacing the original Irish, tended to have two traits: a greater affinity for Great Britain rather than independence and a greater percentage of Protestants.

Following the revolt of 1798, which tended to be a unified effort, there were splits throughout trhe 19th century in which the Catholics and Protestants began to take different sides.

Once independence had been achieved and the split had occurred, the Protestants in the Republic were simply treated as fellow citizens and the issue was ignored. (The first president, Eamon de Valera, was Protestant.)

In the North, however, the nineteenth century cultural split solidified as the Catholics tended to want to be part of the Republic and the Protestants tended to want to remain in the Union. As a minority, Catholics suffered from discrimination in jobs and housing, eventually leading to protests and then on to bloodshed.

With a large number of the IRA being godless Marxists and only a few loons such as Ian Paisley talking against the Whore of Rome, theology has almost nothing to do with the split, but the church one attends marks the social class to which one belongs.

DeValera was Catholic, and had in his youth considered becoming a priest. He also wasn’t the first president of Ireland. The first president was Douglas Hyde, and he was Protestant (Church of Ireland).

Right factoid; wrong player.

I almost forgot Johnathan Swift, another Protestant, the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin (Church of Ireland) who in 1729 published A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public, a biting satire against English oppression in which Ireland’s poor are told to escape their poverty by selling their children as food to the rich.

So, is there any way this geographic/sectarian split could have been prevented or is the situation insoluble?

I will point out, though, that while theology doesn’t, religion does. I’m not entirely sure how to put this, but the problem that the Orange Order, for instance, had with Catholicism wasn’t so much theological differences, but that they associate Catholicism with despotism. The Unionist slogan, for instance, "Home Rule is Rome Rule"wasn’t an objection to transubstantiation, so much as the fear that Catholicism was anti-democratic and coercive.

As far as I can see, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland Protestants were cold-beds of uptight, socially conservative, repressive religious attitudes until well into the late 20th century. Eire obediently voted down divorce legislation under the watchful eye of the Catholic Church as late as the early 70s, as I recall. As for abortion. . . . .

Homophobia was and is rife both North and South. Idiots on YouTube take great delight in implying the IRA or the UDF are gay, that being the vilest insult they can dish out.

When Britain joined the EU, Northern Ireland had to decriminalize consensual adult gay sex, which inspired Paisely to launch his **Save Ulster from Sodomy **Campaign with declamations that would make Fred Phelps sound like a homophile. I believe the Republic decriminalized gay sex late in the 20th century only because it wanted to join the EU.

Even today the North and Eire are the only parts of the EU west of Germany who have no gay marriage or civil union provisions of any kind, since the EU does not require this of its members.

Oh well, I guess decriminalization is better than nothing:

Decriminalization a new day will herald
For Gerald Fitzpatrick and Patrick Fitzgerald

Same sex civil partnerships take place in Northern Ireland, the ceremony for the first such partnership in the UK took place in Belfast (BBC link).

I sit corrected. I have a world map of GBLT rights from last year and both the North and the Republic were indicated as not having that. Thanks.

Just for the record, Northern Ireland recognizes same sex civil partnerships, along with the rest of the UK, as per the Civil Partnership act of 2004. Civil partnership is currently being debated in Ireland.

It remains a cultural byproduct of older feuds, consistent with my earlier comment:

Rome has not dictated any of the Republic’s laws. The various efforts to decouple Catholic belief from civil law are fought on the basis that a very large number of people are, (or had been), Catholic, yet the cry of the Ulstermen still was that Rome was pulling strings that have long since been cut. The IRA still identifies itself as “Catholic” even though the overwhelming majority of its leadership neither practice nor believe. Religion, through most of the 20th century, was simply a marker for the have-littles and the have-nots.

This is factually incorrect within the lifetime of many people who read these boards. I still remember a time when you couldn’t pass a law that was going to be dissapproved of by the catholic church. In fact it wasn’t until the moral facade of the church crumbled in the 80s that we realy got out from under the bootheel of the Vatican (and not uncoincidentally it was around that time we started doing a whole lot better economically).

To dismiss the fears of the Ulster protestant community as baseless is I think incorrect. Exaggerated you could argue for but both my parents as protestants living in Ireland and myself as an athiest ex-protestant also living here have been discriminated against and assaulted once the fact that we were not catholic was known. Ireland’s constitution when first written contained language pertaining to ‘the special position of the catholic church in Ireland’ and the church made damn sure everyone knew about it.

However, the special position of the Catholic Church was based on the large majority of Catholics in the country, (many of whom could recall their own anti-Catholic laws imposed by the Brirish parliament), not something imposed by Rome, which is the claim of many Orangemen.

Ireland was never under the bootheel of the Vatican; the Irish Catholics simply felt a burst of power when they were no longer held down. (I make no claim that there were never hard feelings or incidents of conflict in the Republic or that the Catholic church played no role in politics, but there was no widespread persecution and the chant in the South was “Religion from Rome, Politics from Home.”)

You need to read more history then. The leaders of the 1798 Rising were avowedly non-sectarian but there was a sectarian element to events of that year such as the notorious Scullabogue Massacre. The original UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) was established in 1913 as a primarily Protestant, Unionist militia to block Home Rule for Ireland.

Quite true. The Vatican, frankly, is usually too busy anyhow. The Church of Ireland, though, has some very deep and rather aggressive roots going back a very long way, and they have tended to be simultaneously devout but rather insular and inbred (theologically speaking). However, English idiots have long been hapy to accuse Rome of pretty much everything. (A cruel yet honest man would say they liked to claim that Catholicism was tyranny whenever convenient to ignore their own tyranny. I say this as a heavily English-blooded man myself.)

I remain largely ignorant of politics in the Republic, so perhaps someone can shed light on this memory. That there was provision somewhere in law or the constitution for recognition of other mainstream religions by name, such as Protestantism and Judaism for example. It was from something I read in relation to De Valera, but other than that, memory is scant.

Have there been Irish Protestants who fought for independence from England? Sure, just as there were white South Africans who fought against apartheid. But they were in the minority, for the same obvious reasons: in ANY unjust system, the people who benefit from the injustice are going to be more hesitant to rock the boat.

The problems of Northern Ireland have never had much to do with religion per se. Remember, the English BEGAN their conquest and oppression of Ireland when both sides were still Catholic, and the Irish understandably despised their foreign conquerors LONG before the Reformation.

In Northern Ireland today, religion is rarely the key issue. When “Catholics” who never go to Mass are engaged in hostilities with agnostic “Protestants,” you don’t have an actual religious war. You have a war in which religion is shorthand for something else.

Well Ireland was given to England by the Pope*, so the theologically correct thing for the Republic would be to immdietly beg the UK Queen (the successor to the English crown) to take them back.

*Granted an English Pope.

The whole Catholic-Protestant issue is pretty interesting. The 1798 rebellion (where the Catholic Church supported the British whole heartedly incidentally) was blamed by the British on the Protestant acendency’s excessess and one of the reasons for the Union of 1800 was to protect Catholics (yes I know there were others as well). The whole reason for denying home rule in the late 1800’s (at a time when the UK would have been ready to give all of Ireland the old heave ho) was to ensure that the Catholics in Ulster were protected, and the sending in of the British Army in 1969, was to protect Catholics as well. So for nearly 200 years, Protestant Britains actions in Irelans have been motivated in part, by a desire to protect Catholics.

That’s correct. The 1937 Constitution originally provided that

These paragraphs were both deleted by the Fifth Amendment, passed in 1972.

While Ireland (south) is no longer officially Catholic the influence of the Catholic church remains, IMHO, unacceptably strong. 95% of all primary schools are run by the Church and so are most public hospitals. The Church’s influence is still seen in certain key areas of social policy, and the “national” broadcaster still begins its nightly news with a Catholic call to prayer.

However, I don’t really think things are much better in the North. There is some slightly more liberal legislation (largely imposed by London) but they still don’t have abortion, most of their schools are run by churches, and the dominant party in their government is virulently homophobic, anti-evolution and of course opposed to women’s reproductive rights.

No, it was already in the EU by then. It did so after losing a case in the European Court of Human Rights (which is unrelated to the EU).

Standard nitpick, btw, it’s not called “Eire”.

Talking to some old blokes in Galway they said that after independance the local protestants were seldom offered work and ended up moving away from the area.

Chatting to an old lady in Dundalk which was considered to be I.R.A. heartland she said that post partition the prods left the area to go north while they received a good few catholics from the north to replace them,they were known as “Blow ins” to the locals.