A QUESTION OF FAITH & A MATTER OF FACT by Donal Kennedy


When I was in school an ultra-devout teacher explained the difference between Faith and Fact. I inferred that neither the Pope nor the most dogmatic atheist could know for certain whether there was one God, many Gods or no gods at all.

I read in a booklet accompanying a DVD called IRELAND- ,from Famine to Freedom, produced by the DISCOVERY Channel, that, “Regarding religion, the (1937) Constitution recognised a number of Christian denominations and the Jewish faith, but granted a special position to the Roman Catholic Church.”

That statement remains an Article of Faith for many commentators on Irish matters. It might even have been for the normally very well- informed Garret Fitzgerald. For he launched a Contra-Constitutional Crusade, apparently believing that Ulster Unionists could be seduced into a United Ireland, by the severance of the illiberal shackles of Rome.

In the January/February issue of HISTORY IRELAND, Niall Meehan blows that Article of Faith out of sight. On page 44, Article 44, which dealt with religion, is reconsidered.

That Article’s wording was very largely the work of John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin 1920/1939.

Foreigners reading this might think that a body calling itself the Church of Ireland represented most Christians in Ireland. Most Christians in Ireland were Catholics, affiliated to Rome, and identified simply as “Catholics” and called Archbishop Clegg’s congregation ” Protestants”. In everyday speech those terms were accepted by all.

The Church of Ireland, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is conscious of its Catholic origins and resents the idea that  those of us who never broke with Rome speak of ourselves as if we are the only Catholics .When  Eamon de Valera consulted with Clegg, the latter pulled from his shelves a copy of the decrees of the Council of Trent, which identified the participants as members of the  HOLY CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC AND ROMAN CHURCH. De Valera checked with Rome, which confirmed that title.

So the Constitution mentioned the Churches and other Congregations by their own official names. Neither Cardinal McRory in Armagh nor Pope Pius XI was totally happy with the Constitution as it DID NOT RECOGNISE their Church as the ONE TRUE CHURCH, which they and their co-religionist believe it to be.

De Valera was determined that all citizens have freedom of belief or unbelief, and that nobody be denied eligibility for state office or state employment arising from either.

Article 44 does say -“The State recognises the special position of the Holy  Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the majority of the citizens.”

Recognising a  clearly manifest fact is not the same as granting a special position.

Dev also consulted a Presbyterian Minister who had stood on platforms with him in the United States in 1919-20 as witness to the fact that Irish Republicanism was not sectarian.

That falsehood has remains central to British propaganda a century later. Niall Meehan identifies  Irish historians and journalists who still spread it.

Incidentally, Dr Gregg was transferred to Armagh in 1939 and was Archishop there until 1959. And he never indicated that he was unhappy with the Constitution’s Article 44.



 and would seem to have d the late Garret Fitzgeral

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