Walker, “The Labour Party in Scotland”

This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “The Labour Party in Scotland: Religion, the Union, and the Irish Dimension,” by Graham Walker (Queen’s University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book makes a timely contribution to our understanding of the dramatic political changes that have recently affected Scotland and thrown into doubt the Unknowncountry’s future position within the United Kingdom. Its focus is on the Labour Party and the loss of its traditional electoral support base. This theme is related to religion and its relevance to Scotland’s identity politics. The author examines how Labour was able to appeal across the ethno-religious divide in Scotland for many decades, before considering the impact of the new political context of devolution in the 21st century and the greater scrutiny given to the question of sectarianism in Scottish life. Walker demonstrates the role played by the sectarianism controversy in Labour’s loss of political control and its eclipse by the Scottish National Party (SNP). This book is also the first to assess the significance of the Irish dimension in Scotland’s political development, in particular the impact of the conflict in nearby Northern Ireland.  It will appeal to students and scholars of Scottish and Irish politics, political science and political/electoral history, as well as the interested wider reader.

 

Rafferty, “Violence, Politics and Catholicism in Ireland”

In February, Four Courts Press released “Violence, Politics and Catholicism in Ireland,” by Oliver P. Rafferty (Boston College).  The publisher’s description follows:

This collection of essays looks at the interrelated themes of Catholicism, violence and politics in the Irish context in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. setwidth440-rafferty-violence-politics-catholicismAlthough much effort was expended by institutional Catholicism in trying to curb the violent propensities of the Fenians in the nineteenth century and the IRA in the twentieth, its efforts were largely unsuccessful. Ironically, Catholicism had greater achievements to boast of in its influence in the British Empire as a whole than over its wayward flock in Ireland. But there was a cost in the church’s commitment to British imperial expansion that did not always sit easily with growing nationalist expectations in Ireland.

Although it provided support for the British forces in the First World War, by the time of the Second World War the church’s views of that conflict differed little from those of the government of independent Ireland, although there were sufficient differences that ensured Catholicism was not just nationalism at prayer.

These and other issues such as religious perceptions of the Famine, Cardinal Cullen’s role in shaping the ethos of Irish Catholicism and the role of memory, including religious memory, in Irish violence combine to make this a fascinating study.

Ganiel, “Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland: Religious Practice in Late Modernity”

In April, Oxford University Press will release “Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland: Religious Practice in Late Modernity” by Gladys Ganiel (Queen’s University Belfast). The publisher’s description follows:

Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland is the first major book to explore the dynamic religious landscape of contemporary Ireland, north and south, and to analyze the island’s religious transition. It confirms that the Catholic Church’s long-standing “monopoly” has well and truly disintegrated, replaced by a mixed, post-Catholic religious “market” featuring new and growing expressions of Protestantism, as well as other religions. It describes how people of faith are developing “extra-institutional” expressions of religion, keeping their faith alive outside or in addition to the institutional Catholic Church.

Drawing on island-wide surveys of clergy and laypeople, as well as more than 100 interviews, Gladys Ganiel describes how people of faith are engaging with key issues such as increased diversity, reconciliation to overcome the island’s sectarian past, and ecumenism. Ganiel argues that extra-institutional religion is especially well-suited to address these and other issues due to its freedom and flexibility when compared to traditional religious institutions. She explains how those who practice extra-institutional religion have experienced personal transformation, and analyses the extent that they have contributed to wider religious, social, and political change. On an island where religion has caused much pain, from clerical sexual abuse scandals, to sectarian violence, to a frosty reception for some immigrants, those who practice their faith outside traditional religious institutions may hold the key to transforming post-Catholic Ireland into a more reconciled society.

Fitzpatrick, “Descendancy”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases “Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories Since 1795” by David Fitzpatrick (Trinity College, Dublin).  The publisher’s description follows:

DescendancyThis book examines Protestant loss of power and self-confidence in Ireland since 1795. David Fitzpatrick charts the declining power and influence of the Protestant community in Ireland and the strategies adopted in the face of this decline, presenting rich personal testimony that illustrates how individuals experienced and perceived ‘descendancy’. Focusing on the attitudes and strategies adopted by the eventual losers rather than victors, he addresses contentious issues in Irish history through an analysis of the appeal of the Orange Order, the Ulster Covenant of 1912, and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Irish Revolution. Avoiding both apologetics and sentimentality when probing the psychology of those undergoing ‘descendancy’, the book examines the social and political ramifications of religious affiliation and belief as practised in fraternities, church congregations and isolated sub-communities.

Strategic Conversion

This is a rather odd news item about several al-Qaida records which have recently been discovered released.  Among the letters and other paraphernalia (including an exhortation to assassinate the President in order to profit from the asserted incompetence of the Vice President) is the speculation of one Adam Gadahn, “American al-Qaida spokesman” (I had not realized that there were national spokespeople for terrorist organizations), who said this about Catholicism in Ireland:

I noticed the sympathy of the Irish people to the Palestinian issue, and the soft treatment by the Irish Judicial system of Muslims accused of terrorism, and also not participating with its troops in [President George W.] Bush’s Crusade wars . . . . The other matter is the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals . . . . The people there are moving towards secularism, after it was the most religious of atheist Europe, and why do not we face them with Islam?

Brewer et al, “Religion, Civil Society, and Peace in Northern Ireland”

Very interesting-looking book about the role of organized religion in contributing to the peace process in Northern Ireland, Religion, Civil Society, and Peace in Northern Ireland (OUP 2011), by John D. Brewer (Aberdeen), Gareth I. Higgins (lecturer at Queens, Belfast, and Trinity College, Dublin), and Francis Teeney (Aberdeen).  The publisher’s description follows.

Religion was thought to be part of the problem in Ireland and incapable of turning itself into part of the solution. Many commentators deny the churches a role in Northern Ireland’s peace process or belittle it, focusing on the few well-known events of church involvement and the small number of high profile religious peacebuilders. This new study seeks to correct various misapprehensions about the role of the churches by pointing to their major achievements in both the social and political dimensions of the peace process, by small-scale, lesser-known religious peacebuilders as well as major players. The churches are not treated lightly or sentimentally and major weaknesses in their contribution are highlighted. The study challenges the view that ecumenism was the main religious driver of the peace process, focusing instead on the role of evangelicals, it warns against romanticising civil society, pointing to its regressive aspects and counter-productive activities, and queries the relevance of the idea of ‘spiritual capital’ to understanding the role of the churches in post-conflict reconstruction, which the churches largely ignore.

This book is written by three ‘insiders’ to church peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, who bring their insight and expertise as sociologists to bear in their analysis of four-years in-depth interviewing with a wide cross section of people involved in the peace process, including church leaders and rank-and-file, members of political parties, prime ministers, paramilitary organisations, community development and civil society groups, as well as government politicians and advisors. Many of these are speaking for the first time about the role of religious peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, and doing so with remarkable candour. The volume allows the Northern Irish case study to speak to other conflicts where religion is thought to be problematic by developing a conceptual framework to understand religious peacebuilding.

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