Ireland’s rebellion against God

In his 2015 book Black Earth: the Holocaust as History and Warning, Timothy Snyder describes how, on 12 March 1938, the Jews of Vienna were made to scrub the streets of the city.1 Yet, as Snyder points out, this notorious incident was much more than a cruel and arbitrary act of public humiliation. In fact, it held an almost ritual significance. Prior to the Nazi seizure of power, the Chancellor, Kurt Schuschnigg had planned a referendum which he believed would decisively reject Hitler’s plans for a takeover. The government’s main propaganda slogan was just one word: Österreich — Austria. This slogan appeared everywhere, in newspapers, on posters, and in keeping with Austrian tradition, it was even painted on the streets. But no referendum took place. At 19:57 on Friday 11 March, Schuschnigg delivered a radio address informing the Austrian people that their country had ceased to exist as a sovereign nation. The next day, triumphant Nazi stormtroopers forced Viennese Jews to scrub the word Österreich from the roads and pavements. The message was clear; the old regime was being symbolically erased.

Snyder argues, quite convincingly, that it was the destruction of the states of central and eastern Europe that created the circumstances in which the Holocaust could occur. Across Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and in the Baltic nations, those who sought to distance themselves from the old regimes invariably became the worst persecutors of the perceived enemies of the new order.

For those puzzled by the rapid social change that has swept through modern Ireland, the shifting loyalties of the people of occupied Europe may also help to explain how a solidly Catholic country has become filled with such vehement hatred for the Christian faith. 

Irish independence and Catholic political influence 

From the sixteenth century onward, being Irish was virtually synonymous with being Catholic.2 This association was so well established by 1912 that James Joyce, then living in Italy, wrote mockingly, “O Ireland my first and only love, Where Christ and Caesar are hand and glove!”3 Ten years later, the founding of the Free State meant this sarcastic remark would nearly become a reality. Men of genuine faith were leading the country. In a radio broadcast delivered on St Patrick’s Day 1943, Prime Minister Eamon de Valera described his hopes for Ireland:

“The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit… The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.”4

The Catholic Church came to be regarded by many as a junior partner in the unofficial government of Ireland. To Protestants in the North, the Republic was a priest-ridden country. To the disgruntled left-wing critics on the fringe of Irish politics the problem was a “yahoo-ridden” Church.5 Nevertheless, this relationship continued almost without interruption through decades of economic stagnation and hardship until the 1990s when de Valera’s “antiquated” vision was held up to merciless ridicule. 

When child abuse scandals within the clergy (some of which both state and Church officials were aware) came to light, politicians who had spent their careers chasing the Catholic vote turned on the Church. As a consequence, the ferocity of the media inflicted damage on the bishops’ perception of their own authority. A blow from which they have not yet recovered. The truth, however, is that for years the facade of the Irish Church had been undermined from within.

The interpretation of omens

Like a financial collapse, Ireland’s moral bankruptcy happened in two ways — gradually then suddenly. It would be impossible to compile a comprehensive list of turning points in Ireland’s downward trajectory. Social scientists could chart the rise in the use of birth control and the decline in Mass attendance but, while statistics can reveal a trend, they cannot explain it. Perhaps the most significant factor consistently overlooked is the superstitious nature of Irish society. Unlike the rest of Western Europe, Ireland was not infected by the cynicism of the Enlightenment6 and largely untouched by the materialism of both the Industrial Revolution and Marxist theory. The centuries of persecution and the ever deepening poverty it produced ensured that the majority of Irish Catholics were uneducated, insular and convinced of the reality of folklore and myth. In Ireland, popular belief in banshees, fairies and pookas persisted long after similar myths across the Western world had been forgotten. After a visit to Ireland in 1989, the Lithuanian archaeologist and anthropologist, Marija Gimbutas wrote:

“Old European monuments stand here in all their majesty. In its legends and rituals, this country has preserved many elements which in other parts of Europe vanished long ago. Much that stems from pre-Indo-European times… is still very much alive in Ireland.”7

Generations of farmers whose lands held Neolithic tombs, or “fairy-forts”, left them untouched for fear that some misfortune should befall them.8 While these folk beliefs were held by a largely rural, Mass-going population, they were seldom problematic. Arguably, however, they have made the Irish a superstitious nation. For instance, on the planes of the Irish budget airline, Ryanair, the seats are numbered so as to omit row 13. In 2013, the system for numbering vehicle registrations was changed to avoid the number 13 on licence plates. The Irish preoccupation with good and bad omens has led foreigners to confuse the Shamrock, a symbol of the Blessed Trinity, with the lucky charm of the four-leafed clover. In the 1990s, when British late-night television was advertising sleazy chatlines, Irish TV was running ads for psychics and clairvoyants. And the interest in fortune tellers and mediums has only grown since then. Irish society has moved almost directly from a pre-enlightenment mentality to a post-Christian worldview. 

The New Age cult has found fertile ground in modern Ireland, and the Church has not escaped its influence. Many people have been introduced to the use of enneagrams, centring prayers and transcendental meditation through Catholic institutions. One of the most troubling examples of this made its way into religious education in Catholic schools. In 1993, the Irish Bishops’ Conference launched a new RE program with the title Alive-O. Among the worst feature of this curriculum was a project called “Little Beings”. In a detail analysis of the program published in 2019 by Dr Éanna Johnson, he wrote the following:

“A particularly disturbing resource in Alive-O is the use of ‘little Beings’, which are plasticine models which each child is required to make. The ‘little Being’ can be anything the child imagines, with a personality and name which is not to be disclosed to anyone, not even their parents nor teacher. Parents will not even be aware of the existence of ‘little Beings’, because they are kept in school and are not mentioned in the Pupil’s Book. A ‘little Being’ could be harmless or malign, giving a dangerous opening for the sinister or even occult. Children are invited to place their ‘little Beings’ on their desks, pray in the presence of their ‘little Beings’, even hold the Being in their hands while going into deep meditation with altered mental consciousness when they are invited to talk to their ‘little Being’ and listen to what the ‘little Being’ is saying to them.”9

The Church has always taught that superstitious practices are a violation of the First Commandment. They can also open the door to demonic influence. The Catechism warns us that:

“All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” (CCC 2116)

The Irish Republic was the first nation in the world to legalise abortion through a popular vote. The ecstatic scenes that followed the result of the referendum repealing Ireland’s pro-life laws could be seen as evidence of a demonic influence. No doubt some of those celebrating owed their lives to Ireland’s abortion ban. Not satisfied with achieving their long-awaited goal, the political establishment has demonstrated its rejection of the past by criminalising pro-life vigils near abortion facilities. 

In recent years, a new myth has sprung up. The Irish now see themselves as doubly oppressed, first of all by the English but then by the Catholic Church. Ironically, it was only the value their ancestors placed on their Catholic faith that drew down English persecution. Support for abortion in many cases is motivated by the rejection of the old order. The violent abuse wielded by groups like Antifa against Catholics praying in streets and public spaces reflects a burning hatred for Ireland’s Christian past and a fanatical determination to erase the little that remains.


1. Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Duggan Books, 2015).

2. In a letter to John Thurloe, Secretary of State, dated 18 September 1655, Oliver Cromwell’s son Henry, a major-general of the Parliamentarian forces in Ireland, agreed to transport 1,500 to 2,000 teenage Irish Catholic boys to Jamaica. He expressed the opinion that slavery might be “a means to make them English-men, I mean rather, Christians”. The letter is cited by Sean O’Callaghan, in To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland (Brandon, 2000) p 149. An estimated 50,000 Irish Catholic men, women and children were sent as slaves to British plantations in the Caribbean between 1652 and 1657.

3. James Joyce, Gas from a burner: A broadside in verse (Printed for the author: Trieste 1912).

4. Eamon de Valera (1882–1975), Radió Éireann, 17 March 1943.

5. “You see Ireland in my opinion is not a clerical-ridden country, but it’s a yahoo-ridden Church! and it’s the black bastards of the laity who are the trouble in Ireland. And you don’t get an anti-clericalism movement among workers. They may stop practising their religion like many of the Irish who go to England, but they are not anti-clerical. Anti-clericalism is a middle class manifestation.” Peadar O’Donnell, author and socialist, “Peadar O’Donnell talks to the Monday Circle”, Nusight magazine, ed. Vincent Browne (Dublin, September 1969) p 80.

6. The impact of Enlightenment thought was minimal despite figures like Bishop George Berkeley and Edmund Burke. When French troops landed in the west of the country in 1789, the local peasants who flocked to join them believed they were fighting for the freedom of the Catholic religion.

7. Marija Gimbutas, Journal of Indo-European Studies, (1989) 17, p 195.

8. These sites are now legally protected monuments. See “The superstitions and mysteries around Ireland’s ‘fairy forts’”, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, 21 Oct 2021.

9.  Éanna Johnson PhD, Alive-O Legacy: Let the Children come to Me? 2019, p 26.