I’m a fairly occasional visitor to Ireland – indeed our post-Easter week in Donegal is the longest we’ve spent there in a while. It’s always tempting to try and work out what is happening – just so long as you know that you are probably wrong. So here are two impressions
The first is that things have moved on in terms of economic crisis. Ireland was never Greece. People didn’t take to the streets as the economic screw was tightened. There are signs that the Household Tax of €100 – modest considering that there are no rates or Council Tax – may be one too many for some people. Something like one third of households haven’t paid and there are a lot of ‘Can’t Pay – Won’t Pay’ posters around
But, more importantly, moving on seems to mean that people have taken their vengeance on a failed political generation and are now directing their anger at one another. It’s about recognising that people were prepared to continue voting for politicians whom they suspected to be both incompetent and corrupt – just so long as the good times kept rolling.
The second is really fascinating. The Association of Catholic Priests has commissioned an opinion survey among Irish Catholics. That is in itself a remarkable development. Ireland is still overwhelmingly Catholic but 75% now say that Catholic teachings on sex are not relevant. The figures suggest that the majority view is that priests should be allowed to marry and that women should be allowed to become priests. But 35% of Catholics attend Mass weekly or more often. Rural Irish churches are still full – to an extent which Scottish Piskies could hardly imagine
We’re recently back from Orthodox Easter in Cyprus where the whole village turns out for Easter services, many people not obviously religious, standing around having a bit of a chat, throwing fireworks but all waiting go get their Easter candle lit including the teenagers. Something about it bring part of their culture and family identity. Hard to escape services of course. Every morning during Holy Week the bells rang at 6.30am and the priest sang a 2 hour service over a tannoy for the whole village to hear.
Hi Laurene – yes I’d love to be there for that. Orthodox Churches with their long services pass what I sometimes call the ‘herd of goats’ test – that means that it is possible for somebody to drive a herd of goats through the middle of the service without anybody turning a hair. We’re a bit more uptight than that.
The churches in Ireland have good numbers but the atmosphere is awful. I attended mass in Co Tipperary recently for a family event. It was very depressing. The congregation seemed very switched off. No one sings the hymns. People sit at the back of the church……
There is a slight drift to the Church of Ireland. The Irish Times recently had an article by a Labour party TD who said that 25% of the congregation in his Dublin Anglican congregation were born and bred Roman Catholic. It is quite a step in Ireland to cross that divide but I know of others who have thought about it. Interesting times…..
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