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Historical origins and relations between Catholics and Protestants

Protestants and Catholics in the Republic of Ireland are part of the larger Protestant and Catholic populations on the whole island of Ireland. After the Reformation in the 16th century, the native Gaelic Irish continued to adhere to the Roman Catholic faith. Settlers of English and Scottish origins were supported by the British Crown and in turn supported the Union with Britain. In the aftermath of the Irish War of Independence thousands of Protestants emigrated to Britain and Northern Ireland when the nationalist government came to power, although the level of inter-communal violence was low by international standards. However, the main issue of tension, especially from the Protestant point of view, was the Catholic Church’s strict rules on intermarriage which sought conversions and pre-nuptial commitments on the Catholic upbringing of the children. Up to the 1970s the great majority of the children of intermarriages were brought up as Catholic.

Relations between Catholics and Protestants in the Republic of Ireland have always been peaceful and have become more cordial since the 1970s. The relaxation since the 1970s of the Catholic Church’s rules on intermarriage, the increasing ecumenism involving the Churches and the wider secularization of society have largely dissipated the historical tensions.

D 21 September 2012    ARichard O’Leary

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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