In the article on Bi-Nationalism Antaine Uas O’Labhradha says I lost him when it comes to Christian Ecumenism being the official religion of Ireland. At that junction it would have been helpful if Antaine had researched the concept and had written in objection to that. To be helpful to Antaine in his difficulty I have looked up "Ecumenism" on the Internet and have found the following accurate and acceptable description.
In its broadest sense ecumenism refers to initiatives at world wide religious unity. It is understood in this sense there is a vision of a greater shared spirituality across Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths as part of its core beliefs
In the narrower and more common sense, ecumenism refers to the movement towards co-operation among Christians. For some people ecumenism is based on the idea that there should be a single Christian Church, but normally it refers to Christian denominations working together. Thus ecumenism in reality is usually just the promotion of co-operation and better understanding between religious groups and denominations without aiming at unity.
It is clear that Christian Ecumenism is not a religious denomination, as Antaine claims, but is a movement of something bigger, better and more inclusive than that. It is difficult to understand where the difficulty lies in this definition of ecumenism. Surely ecumenism as defined in both the broad and narrow sense is an ideal concept for a country that is now of many creeds and has been historically polarized in bitter religious feuding as has been found in Ireland. Ecumenism stands for unity, or at least understanding, co-operation and fraternity in terms of religious division. Federal Unionism-Early Sinn Fein stands for the same thing so ecumenism fits its philosophy. It would have been helpful if Antaine had made clear in what way ecumenism is unsuited as a state religion in an Irish constitution. Free Presbyterians are implacably opposed to ecumenism and seem to favour division and apartheid in Ireland just as the Dutch Reformed Church favoured apartheid in South Africa. Does Antaine stand for the same thing? It would seem from his theory of Bi-Nationalism that he does.
After rejecting ecumenism and with it unity, and at least the understanding, co-operation and fraternity it implies, Antaine then moves to secularism asserting that Ireland is no longer mainly Christian. Before asserting that, it would have been preferable if the assertion had been backed by research and statistical data. While it is true there is a decline in church going in Ireland, the history of Ireland is a Christian history, and just because a person doesn’t go to church on a Sunday it doesn’t follow the person isn’t a Christian.
To look at the matter further one would have to examine in what way the Act is secular or non-secular. To do that requires a definition of secularism. The following is taken from the Internet and is correct and accurate.
“Secularism in its current usage is generally defined in two ways: -
1 Secularism in one sense asserts the freedom of religion, and freedom from government imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religion.
- Secularism in another sense refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on what is considered to be evidence and fact rather than on religious influence dealing with religious based doctrines and absolute truth, or divine law.
Secular law is based upon reasonableness, which was developed during the age of enlightenment. Secularists believe that all activities falling outside the private sphere should be secular not religious.”
Firstly secularism asserts the freedom of religion. In the Act, state freedom recognises, freedom of mind, of belief, of thought, of conscience and freedom to worship according to the behest of personal conscience. Secondly the Act asserts freedom from government imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral in matters of belief. Ecumenism as defined on the Internet is not an imposition upon anyone but is international and neutral, encouraging understanding, co-operation, and fraternity among the various disparate religions found not only in Ireland but also throughout the world. In Article 11, Schooling, in the Act there is recommended a National Curriculum of Christian Studies. This accords with established constitutional practice whereby religion is taught in the schools in the 6 and 26 counties. But if the article is carefully examined the National Curriculum in Christian Studies is not an attempt by the state to impose Christianity upon the people, but attendance at the curricular studies is voluntary and it is underpinned by freedom, such as freedom of mind, of thought, to dissent, of choice and to refuse. Attendance at Christian Studies can be opted out of on the grounds of conscience. However in a secular country like France or the U.S.A the teaching of religion is excluded from the schools. This stricture impinges on freedom of mind, of thought and conscience specified in the Act. In France the authorities have banned the wearing of Moslem dress in French schools the schools being secular. In terms of the Act such strictures would be open to question under freedom of conscience. It would be interesting to know what Antaine , as an undefined secularist, would do about the teaching of religion in schools through Ireland. Would he ban clerics from teaching and ban the study of the bible in schools?
The American state in its constitution is also secular and religion isn’t taught in its schools. Nevertheless the evangelical right interfere in schooling by bringing pressure against the teaching of Darwinian theory in science. In terms of the Act under freedom of mind and thought the teaching of Darwinian theory would be acceptable in Irish schools. According to the American constitution the Presidency is secular but even so President Bush seems to be under the thumb of the evangelical right.
In a secular state, church and state are separate. This holds in the Act. In the Act the Irish state is neutral on matters of belief. Christian Ecumenism holds a neutral position in relation to denominational religions, either Christian or non-Christian.
Furthermore the Act conforms to the vague generalizations, Liberty Equality Fraternity, which underpin the French secular state. Firstly liberty. This is specified in Article 4 in the Act. Secondly equality. The Act recognises equality of the religious denominations, of Catholics and Protestants, of Christian and non- Christian, of men and women, of gays and heterosexuals, and the equality of the Irish and English languages. Thirdly fraternity. The rise of Jean- Marie Le Pen has put paid to the notion of fraternity in France. However fraternity is recognised in the Act in Christian Ecumenism as defined.
The second meaning of secularism as defined previously is covered fully in Article 6 Government, Politics in the Act when examined.
What of the majority of us on the island who hold no loyalty to British monarchs? Are we wrong or somehow defective in our thinking?
I invite Antaine to go through all 22 Articles of the Act and find where "loyalty to British monarchs" is recommended or even hinted at. What is dealt with in the Act is a reformed democratically elected monarch in a reformed U.K. the Crown being defined as The Crown Irish and also as Christian, c.f. Article 3
But to answer the question in full one must go back in history and ask the question was Tone and Pearse wrong and defective in their thinking? For those who hold to the one true secular-religious belief about Ireland in Republican history, Tone and Pearse are the greatest thing in Irish history since sliced pan. Federal Unionism-Early Sinn doesn’t hold to that secular-religious belief and dogma but sees ’98 and sectarian 1916 as violent acts of criminal irresponsibility in Ireland and because of that Federal Unionism–Early Sinn Fein abjures dissents from, is opposite to, is apostate to and is a non–believer in the dogmas and tenets of Republicanism and in its historic modus operandi. Federal Unionism-Early Sinn Fein sees ’98 and 1916 as historic disasters which drove Irish history off course and into the backwaters of blood- letting division and partition. But Federal Unionism-Early Sinn Fein also abjures, is apostate to and is a non-believer in the tenets and dogmas of the secular-religious Right Wing Union Jack Unionism. Federal Unionism-Early Sinn Fein sees that grouping as being guilty of violent acts of criminal irresponsibility in Ireland, to wit Bloody Sunday in Derry and in the execution of the leadership of 1916 as a salutary warning to the British Empire. If the Right Wing Union Jack Unionist, General Sir John Maxwell had had the intelligence the sensitivity and the foresight to have imprisoned the 1916 men of violence and not executed them as was the practice with the men of violence in recent times in the 6 counties and if a package of socio-economic reforms had been introduced as had been the original intention of Pitt in 1801 but which was thwarted by George III, in the judgement of Federal Unionism–Early Sinn Fein there would not have been an ensuing violence and bloodshed on the island and the island would have remained a single unit within the UK, and would nowadays be a single independent sovereign nation under the Crown, a nation like Canada , in a manner similar to the early ideas of Griffiths. 1916 changed that course of Irish history but it was a change for the worse.
However if Article 22 Referenda of the Act is examined it will be found that A Republic of Ireland has a status that is equal to A Sovereign Nation of Ireland within the U. K. In a Referendum it would be up to the people to choose between the two. It will also be found if Article 22 is examined, the people of the 26 counties can opt to live apart and remain locked away in a Catholic foreign 26 county Republic if that is their democratic wish. The Act then is not the imposition of a U.K. constitution on those who object to it on spurious grounds of ‘loyalty’ but offers to the people of Ireland who are of a moderate disposition, a new constitution for a united Ireland that should be as acceptable to moderate people in Kerry as to moderate people in Derry. In a written reformed U.K. constitution the relationship of the ordinary Irish person to a reformed democratically elected Crown Irish would be the same as exists between an ordinary Irish person and President Mc Aleese.
The article on Bi-Nationalism accepts there are two identities in Ireland.Federal Unionism-Early Sinn Fein accepts that also but asserts that if the Irish problem is to be solved there should be only one identity in Ireland, an Irish identity which accepts a reformed democratically elected constitutional monarch as head of state. That can be realized in the Act. Antaine puts an apartheid solution to the problem in a register of Irish and British identities in the 6 counties. What is the difference between that and a register of black and white identities in South Africa? The idea of Bi-Nationalism would further destabilize an already Bi-National unstable 6 counties. There are two heads of state involved, the Irish and the British, two flags being flown, the Irish and the British, two anthems being sung, the Irish and the British and two passports being issued an Irish and a British. As the people now constitute it, the 6 counties is part of a Republic and part of the U.K. In the opinion of Federal Unionism – Early Sinn Fein such a state is unstable, ungovernable and is prone to communal violence.
The article on Bi-Nationalism proposes that dual national symbols on official buildings in the 6 counties be the norm so that both traditions would be equally respected. But why restrict the proposal to the 6 counties, why not extend it to the whole island and have the Union Jack flown with the Irish tricolour on the G.P.O.? In that way the whole of Ireland would be partly in the U.K. and partly a Republic as Antaine wants the 6 counties to be and both traditions on the island would be equally respected. But Antaine doesn’t seem to live in the same world as Federal Unionism- Early because the "Love Ulster Campaign" on the Shankill tried to parade their tradition by carrying a Union Jack through Dublin but were viciously set upon by Republicans in the city. So Antaine’s idea of Bi-Nationalism leads to violence in Dublin just as it does in the 6 counties. Why not do the sensible thing and combine the two flags into one as has been done in the Act and have that flag be a symbol of the synthesis of the two traditions in Ireland the synthesis being detailed in the Act. The Government of Ireland Act partitioned the island; only the National Government of Ireland Act can unite the island.
I will finish by inviting Antaine to forward another article to The Blanket dealing with the following:
- Antaine should read carefully the description of Ecumenism given
in this article and detail in what way Ecumenism as described is unacceptable to the Irish. Ecumenism isn’t acceptable to the Free Presbyterians, does Antaine agree with them?
- Antaine should read carefully the definitions of secularism given in this article and go through the 22 Articles of the Act and state in what way, if any, the principles of secularism are infringed in the Act.
- Antaine should go through the Act and find where "loyalty to British monarchs" is advocated or hinted at.
- Antaine should set out in what way a reformed democratically elected constitutional monarch within a reformed U.K wouldn’t be acceptable to Irish persons of reasonable and moderate dispositions.
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