More must be done for a secular state

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Rev Dr Paul Ferguson mentions the “population of Protestants in the Irish Republic markedly declined since partition by over 70%” in his article of April 9 (‘Why Arlene Foster is right to consider emigrating if there is a united Ireland’).

Read original article here.

My book ‘Buried Lives: The Protestants of Southern Ireland’ points out the Roman Catholic church and violence reduced native Protestant numbers by 47% since 1911 (not 70%) through the ‘ne temere’ decree and during the War of Independence and civil war 1920-23, when there was an enforced exodus of up to 40,000 southern Protestants.

Undoubtedly there was discrimination, and the Irish language was used as a weapon to remove Protestant leaders from cultural institutions in the early days of the Free State.

But much has changed in recent years with a much weakened Catholic church, acceptance of gay marriages in a referendum, and the election of a gay Taoiseach.

More needs to be done to form a secular state. The public service broadcaster, RTE, still relays the Catholic Angelus bell twice a day on TV and radio – the only public service broadcaster in the world to do this – and Irish is force-fed to children from seven years old to 16/17 years in a country where people have chosen to speak English.

The Church of Ireland protested strongly about this for many years but was ignored.

The Orange Order has all-but disappeared, and in 2000 their attempt to hold a parade in Dawson Street to commemorate the foundation of the Orange Order in Dublin was abandoned after much bitter controversy, as detailed in my book.

Perhaps Arlene Foster should lead and not threaten to pack her bags in the highly unlikely event of a united Ireland.

She could mention the Fine Gael ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs said recently on the Nolan Show that his state could not afford unity. Also that Catholics in Northern Ireland are prospering and recent opinion polls indicate many would not vote for unity.

Robin Bury, Toronto, Canada