Friday, 19 June 2009

A few more notes on the Irish election

Ireland maintains a blurring of lines between church and state that, in America, I would find frightening – all public schools, for example, are nominally Catholic schools. It doesn’t bother me here, though, because both state and church are very different. The Irish government has problems, but it doesn’t regularly invade and occupy Third-World countries as the U.S. federal government does, nor does it maintain several hundred overseas bases – the military exists for the defence of borders, and that's it.

Religion is also different here. It has been abused sometimes -- see the recent scandals about church abuse, or the conflict in Northern Ireland – but it is not commonly aggressive or messianic, as are modern strains of U.S. fundamentalism. When the Irish go to church, they do not imagine themselves to be giving the finger to a snobbish elite, or assembling as armies for Armageddon. They are, simply, going to church. The federal government's memos on Iraq, tying together nationalist hubris with an evangelical crusade, would not happen here.

Also, the Irish seem to have a good sense that politics is about government – roads, projects, medical care – and not celebrity sex scandals. The only micro-scandal in the last election, which involved local candidate Emma Kiernan, a girls’ night out and some subsequent Facebook photos, merely resulted in some amused newscasters and, for Kiernan, a large number of marriage proposals.


Leo said...

Just a small note about public primary schools in Ireland - they're not all nominally Catholic schools, although the vast majority (I believe 92%) are. There are also Church of Ireland schools, Educate Together schools and I believe that some Gaelscoileanna would not be Catholic either.

Brian Kaller said...

Thanks for clarifying that, Leo.