Limerick – May 30, 2014 – You cannot escape religion in either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. It is a central part of the culture. It is embedded in its history, its myths, folklore, and traditions. It is embedded in people’s identity. You also cannot escape history.
For example, we are touring the city of Limerick and one of the comments the coach driver makes is that you will not find a Catholic church in Limerick that is older than 1829. There are a number of churches that were built as “Christian” churches (build prior to the split between Protestants and Catholics) that became Protestant churches. It was not until the repeal of the Penal Laws was it legal to again be a practicing Catholic. At that time the Catholic Church was offered some of the church structures that already existed. They were refused. Rather, the desire was to “build their own.”
Perhaps it was the early influence of the Abbey system. Perhaps it was the punitive actions by Cromwell. Perhaps it was the struggles for the English Crown between Catholics and Protestants, or maybe it was the use of the Irish as a convenient army. What ever the case, the struggle is written across the landscape.
It is still present in the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Apparently, when the Republic of Ireland was offered a place in the United Nations. The response was fine, if you give us Northern Ireland. The UN of course said no (as the UK is a permanent member of the Security Council) and so Ireland said “No thanks”.