The Republic During the Troubles - Gordon State College
The Republic During the Troubles So what were the people of the Republic of Ireland doing while the Catholics & Protestants in Ulster were killing each other? Being glad it wasnt them. You might think that the Catholics in the Republic would be doing everything in their power to help the Catholics in the north, but youd be wrong. Sinn Fein & the IRA had existed in Ireland before partition, & as weve seen, they were Catholic & therefore the defenders of the Catholics, but its not like they had the real support of their brethren south of the border. And it WAS very messy, as weve seen, and support from the south would have meant bringing the wrath of the British on their heads. And they did have their own problems, although they really couldnt compete with the de facto civil war going on in the north. Emigration (thats people leaving) had been a way of life since the Potato Famine, but in the
1970s, it began to take a serious toll on the Irish economy. Each year approximately 70,000 people were leaving (most going to England but a large number going to the U.S.), and in the 70s & 80s, unlike in earlier generations, the emigrants were educated young people. So, according to Bartlett, Ireland was footing most of the bill for the education of people who then took their skills to another country. The government felt the need to try some drastic measures but were really too afraid to do so for fear of getting voted out of office by people who didnt like the measures. Only when the Fine Gael party, in 1987, agreed to support the party in power, Fianna Fail, were measures taken to cut spending. The economy began growing rapidly and got a nickname: The Irish economy was at its peak during the period between 1997-2007; and was thus named the Celtic Tiger. Ireland moved from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of
the richest in only a matter of years. One of the main reasons Irelands economy grew so much was due to job creation. Having low tax rates, specifically in the corporate world, helped to attract many investors to Ireland. Ireland also began to offer free higher education to EU citizens. Which thus created many new job opportunities (https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~falve22h/classweb/recession/recession/Celtic_Tiger.html). So what do you do when you hit an economic boom? Spend, but save some for when the boom ends, right? No. There was a worldwide home construction crash, & that, along with some bank scandals, turned Ireland back into one of the poorest European countries virtually overnight. If youre interested in more details, you might want to start here: https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1210/the-story-behind-the-irish-meltdown.aspx Weve talked about how Northern Ireland & the Republic took different paths & therefore developed in different ways. Its important to remember that
religion & politics had been tied together since the English first set foot on Irish soil. In the north, Protestants felt they were protecting themselves from the Catholic religion (Ian Paisley was noted for railing against the pope), and the Catholics felt that they were being persecuted because of their religion. (Thats all an oversimplification, but theres no doubt that religion played a large role in the conflict.) The Republic of Ireland became a strongly Catholic country after partition, with no competition. That doesnt mean any other religion was persecuted, but no longer did they feel they were being oppressed by English Protestants. Do you know what happens when people who feel theyre fighting for their religion no longer feel that way? Catholics are not united on everything. Some consider the popes word absolutely authoritative;
others are a lot more lax. Also, there have been numerous councils throughout the years that have changed the Catholic churchs stance on various issues. Devout Catholics dont believe in birth control. Contraceptives were made available in pharmacies [in] 1978 but only to married couples furnished with a doctors prescription (Bartlett, p. 529). In 1985, against the will of the Catholic church, condoms became available to anyone over 18. [Contrast this with the U.S., where birth control became legal in 1938 ( https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book-excerpts/health-article/a-brief-history-of-birth-control/). However, Catholic countries other than Ireland still didnt legalize it until the 1960s.) Abortion was legalized in Great Britain in 1967; in the U.S. in 1973; in France in 1975; in Italy in 1978. It was legalized in Ireland in 2018. Doubtless, the delay was due to the strength of the Catholic church in Ireland. Of note is the fact that abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland, where people still see themselves, to a degree, as fighting for their religion. Since it has been the Catholic church that has frequently stood in the way of both contraception and abortion, and since
evangelicals (which make up a significant portion of Northern Ireland) are also opposed to abortion, its worth asking ourselves whether the perceived fight for their religion makes both sides less likely to join the rest of the western countries in legalizing abortion. Divorce is also forbidden by the Catholic church. In the U.S. in 1969, California became the first state to create no-fault divorce, which was not a federal issue. Divorce was legalized in Ireland in 1995, but its still legal under only certain conditions. The 1990s were a disaster for the Catholic church in Ireland & abroad. In Ireland, the first scandal was over the revelation that some highprofile priests had fathered children. Then the scandal about child abuse broke in Ireland & abroad. The church went into deep decline, its moral authority and influence all but erased.
So whats the latest with Ireland? Its strengths and weaknesses are similar to those of the rest of Europe. Tourism is huge, and immigration is a problem. While immigrants reach Ireland later than they do the continent, Ireland has been relatively homogenous & struggles to adapt. As was mentioned earlier, the Celtic Tiger died, and Ireland went into a recession from which it has not emerged. It is one of the European Unions weakest economies. On the other hand, Ireland really likes Americans & celebrates the Fourth of July.
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