We went from imperial rule to a Catholic State

The so-called terrible beauty that WB Yeats said was born in 1916 was nothing of the sort. What materialised, in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, was a Catholic state and the transfer of dominion from an imperial power to an ecclesiastical one, an outcome that Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen of 1798 would have abhorred.

We went from imperial rule to a Catholic State

Faced, as he once was, with the same difficulties that existed here, Thomas Jefferson, and the founding fathers of the US, also saw the need to keep religion out of the affairs of state, and acted accordingly, separating church and state in the constitution.

The soil of Europe, he proclaimed, had, for centuries, been soaked in blood, caused by religious conflict amongst Christians, and he didn’t want that to happen in the US.

Why, then, wasn’t cognisance taken here, in 1916, of what Jefferson was referring to, and deeply concerned about, just as Wolfe Tone and his followers had been concerned?

The lessons of history teach us that religion and politics are a toxic mix, and if there is to exist any hope of unity and peaceful co-existence amongst peoples of all persuasions and none, it is imperative that these two issues be kept poles apart.

Events of 1916, not surprisingly, have left us not with ‘a terrible beauty’, but with a shameful legacy, a people divided, geographically and otherwise, and more problems, politically and economically, than you care to shake a stick at.

Pat Daly

3 Suncourt,


Co. Cork

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