Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Unified Ireland?

How long? How long must we sing this song?
U2, from their tune "Sunday Bloody Sunday"

Now, with the help of God, there's a good start.
Gerry Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein party

From the time I was a young boy listening to my dad's record player blaring "The Wild Colonial Boy" in the background 'til when I myself was a dad and my sons listened to the sad story of Northern Ireland as I'd turn up U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" when it came on the radio, I had waited and prayed for this day. And now as I see the picture of the representatives of the Republic and Northern Ireland sitting together at the table I wonder: Has this day truly arrived?

Yesterday, a day in which Catholics celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation—a day late since the 25th fell on a Sunday—a potentially historical deal of power sharing between Catholic and Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland was announced. The deal was announced jointly by Ian Paisley, the fiery 80-year-old Protestant preacher once nicknamed "Dr. No" for his lifelong refusal to negotiate with Catholics, and Gerry Adams, president of the Sinn Fein Catholic party and a former leader of the Irish Republican Army who was once imprisoned for his revolutionary activities. While the whole of this accord is yet to be worked out, it is expected that Paisley, leader of the Protestant majority party, will head the government as first minister, while Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator will serve as second in command.

Although no one wants a united Ireland more than myself, I see two problems with the shared power solution. The first of course is political. It's hard enough to imagine, say, a Republican U.S. president working with a Democratic veep on a daily basis (as they did in our country's early days), but how will that work in a country where violence against one another is recent, and the leader (Paisley, who reportedly STILL can't shake his new Catholic partner's hand) calls Northern Ireland "this part of the United Kingdom," and Adams pointedly refers to it as "this island"?

Still, the far more serious problem, I think, is theological. Gone for the most part is the great Catholic/Protestant debate of forty years ago. While a few strong anti-Catholics remain, most of them, like Paisley himself, are old and gray. England now has more practicing Catholics than Anglicans, and the state church is largely composed of high church Anglo-Catholics leaning toward crossing the Tiber and liberal quasi-Christians leaning toward Dante's Inferno. Meanwhile, Ireland itself is not the Catholic country it used to be either, and with the legalization of abortion there, it's in the danger of falling into the abyss with the rest of Western Europe.

And so, while I would like to rejoice as many Catholics did when the Iron Curtain fell, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Fatima's promises for Russia were seemingly fulfilled, with the Russian populace now in worse economic straights than ever (and opponents of the new regime are still mysteriously turning up dead), I know that, as in Russia, the struggle for the Emerald Isles' soul goes on. It is not so much whether the Catholic or Protestant politicians take control, but whether the true Christians of both denominations—or the liberal secular politicians in each party—end up winning out.

The fine points of the accord are yet to be worked out; as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Meanwhile, I, along with Mr. Adams, pray that this time he (Satan) will not be.

2 comments :

Jack_Doolan said...

If it's true, Ill be heading home again for Ireland.

Andrew McIntyre said...

As a Scotch-Irish Protestant, let me add an "Amen."

Andrew