Ireland's Holy Wars: The Struggle for a Nation's Soul, 1500-2000

Ireland's Holy Wars: The Struggle for a Nation's Soul, 1500-2000

by Marcus Tanner
     
 

In this vivid and perceptive exploration of the enduring conflict in Ireland and the people who sustain it, Marcus Tanner contends that the roots of "the troubles" are inescapably religious. Through detailed research into the Irish past and a deep personal knowledge of Ireland today, Tanner shows that Ireland's persistent conflict can only be understood in the context…  See more details below

Overview

In this vivid and perceptive exploration of the enduring conflict in Ireland and the people who sustain it, Marcus Tanner contends that the roots of "the troubles" are inescapably religious. Through detailed research into the Irish past and a deep personal knowledge of Ireland today, Tanner shows that Ireland's persistent conflict can only be understood in the context of five centuries of failed attempts by the English to impose Protestantism on the Irish state.

Editorial Reviews

The New Republic
[A]stute, well-written, . . . formidably researched, drawing on both primary archival research and previous scholarship and supplemented by his journalistic investigations.
Publishers Weekly
Tanner chronicles the conflict between Protestants and Catholics from the 12th century Old English who first settled the Pale up to the "New Ireland" of the past decade in this intriguing unorthodox history. The heart of the volume is a consideration of the Unionist and Nationalist movements of the last century, as the author (Croatia: A Nation Forged in War) attempts to demonstrate that it was "Ireland's religious struggle that forged the political and national identities" of its people. He examines the Rising of 1916 from the unusual perspective of the alleged homosexuality of Padraig Pearse, the "President" of the Provisional Government. (Pearse, a schoolmaster who liked to write poetry about the limbs of young boys, was selected as president largely on his writing and oratorical skills.) Tanner investigates the Church's domination in the new nation, touching on the banning of books, which became a source of pride for Irish writers, and the anti-Semitism of the bishops. He also looks at the founder of Northern Ireland, Sir Edward Carson, whose resume includes the prosecution of Oscar Wilde, and the cooperative arrangement between the two states during WWII. The turning point for the modern country, Tanner argues, was the election of Mary Robinson as president of the republic in 1990 when "liberal, agnostic Ireland [beat] Catholic Ireland." Some readers may object to Tanner's insistence that political movements be viewed as religiously motivated instead of independent, secular events, or his tendency to blame the Church's media problems on liberals and gays getting even for years of persecution. Still, salient points in a coherent history make this a provocative read. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Economic disadvantage was considered the root of "The Troubles" until Ireland belatedly enjoyed economic growth in the late 20th century, and still the conflict raged. A foreign editor with the Independent, Tanner (Croatia: A Nation Forged in War) visited the Republic and Ulster, chummed around with Orangemen and Republicans alike, and looked at the island's history purely in religious terms. He pronounces not politics or economics but religious differences to be the root of centuries of violence. Nothing can be so simple, of course. Catholics, with higher birth rates, now outnumber Protestants in Ulster. With the Good Friday Agreement creeping toward enaction amid evidence that Britain wants out, the Orange Order, seeing the future of an elective government, is panicked and lately is guilty of violence comparable to that of the IRA's worst days. What terrifies the Protestants? Their perception of Catholic-inspired social conservatism in the Republic? Tanner dismisses this by pointing out the balky but persistent growth of a secular Irish state, as well as the peculiar phenomenon of minority immigration to Ireland. Tanner seems to be suggesting that the Orangemen should just calm down, as the Irish Republic will soon look more like England. Irregular, perhaps visionary, and certainly provocative, this book should start arguments if anyone is still listening. Robert Moore, Parexel Corp., Waltham, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tanner (Croatia, 1997, etc.) painstakingly scrutinizes the Irish struggles of the last half-millennium through the lens of religion, which by necessity brings to bear facets of ideology, class, politics, and the distribution of wealth and power. Five hundred grim years in the making, the religious strife that continues to bedevil Ireland is not a pretty picture. The animosities among the various parties-the natives, the Old English, the New English, the Presbyterians, the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, with the odd Methodist, Calvinist, and Congregationalist thrown in-seemingly have forever been at or near the boil, and have been since the Middle Ages. Tanner's marvelously detailed study traces tensions back to the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169, but it was Henry VIII's split with the Pope that started the troubles in earnest. It is a miracle that Tanner can make sense of the byzantine convolutions that make up the political-religious matrix, though it requires careful reading and the memory of an elephant: "a Dutch Calvinist prince allied to the Catholic Habsburgs and the Pope, who was claiming the throne in the name of his Anglican wife, daughter of the English Catholic king." It also feels just plain ridiculous, though always mortally so: slaughters haunt this tale. It is not Tanner's intent to suggest that religion is the sole motivating factor behind the endless turmoil-he is aware of the political and economic machinations at work and weaves them into the narrative-though he does feel that the religious angle, now that the Sinn Fein, the RUC, and the bombing have taken the limelight, give religion short shrift. Ironically, he sees religion as having lostimportance in the last decade, as church indiscretions, and its lack of employment opportunities, have undercut its authority and sense of sanctuary. Tanner's concurrent personal explorations of the real and symbolic Irish landscapes bring an immediacy to this ancient fight. Unfortunately, such immediacy doesn't lend much hope for a solution ere long.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300090727
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
02/28/2002
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.78(d)

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