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Another "New Deal" in America in 2021?

Another New Deal Coming?Gerry OSheaMargaret MacMillan, a distinguished Canadian historian and author, pointed out recently that a country emerging from a calamity situation is often ripe for sweeping political changes. The famous conservative economist, Milton Friedman, made the same point in a different way: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.”There are two areas of contemporary American life which, taken together, certainly qualify as harbingers of major movements in American culture and politics: the corona virus epidemic and heightened awareness of racism after George Floyd’s torture and death.We are not talking here about minor adjustments to the status quo, represented by the image of dealing with a bad storm blowing from the south; the far more appropriate metaphor is conveyed in the equivalent of a gathering tsunami that will engulf the whole country.The upcoming November elections may well usher in a new era. All recent polls, national as well as in t…
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Partition in Ireland

The Partition of IrelandGerry OSheaThe partition of Ireland which was finalized with the passage of the Government of Ireland Act (GIA) in December23rd, 1920, involved a momentous decision by the British Government. Dividing a small island into two political entities based on religious affiliation was bound to lead to major problems, especially when a clear majority of the people living on the island did not want the country broken up.This division was a reluctant second-best option for the Unionist/Protestant community in Ulster and for Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George and his cabinet. The nationalist community of all political stripes in Ireland opposed any partition of the island. The Unionists’ first choice was a continuation of direct rule from Westminster, but that was no longer an option after the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill in 1912. Fearing that they would be forced to accept a Dublin parliament, they organized the Ulster Volunteers, a 100,000 strong militia who swor…

Tradition and Modernity in the Catholic Church

Tradition and Modernity in the Catholic Church              Gerry OShea In an interview after retiring as president of Fordham University, the late Fr. Joseph O’Hare warned Catholics against thinking that the beliefs and rituals of their faith are static and set in stone. He warned that “you can betray your faith by trying to hold on to some frozen moment from the past.” The Catholic church is in crisis largely because of the division between those who want to change and adapt to contemporary life and traditionalists who fight every movement towards modernity, clinging tenaciously to what has been handed on in beliefs and observance. The issue of inviting divorced and remarried church members to participate in the eucharist provides a good example of what we are dealing with here. Church law – Canon 915 to be precise - states clearly that a person who is living in serious sin should not receive communion. A cohabiting couple where one has been divorced indicates that, according to church…

Policing in Ireland During the War of Independence

Policing in Ireland During the War of Independence     Gerry OShea Policing Ireland was a complex and challenging project during the War of Independence which lasted from January 1919 until July 1921 when a truce was declared between the leaders of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British Government. While the British Army had a garrison of around 5o,ooo men in Ireland, prime minister David Lloyd-George stipulated that he wouldn’t dignify the IRA insurgency as a war and so he determined that dealing with it required strong police action, supported but not led by the military. The police force was re-organized in 1836 with a clear command structure extending from county leadership to the top man headquartered in Dublin. This Irish blueprint for policing was used later across the British Empire. Every constable was trained to use a variety of arms. They had a membership of around 9,500 and lost 300 of their number to IRA bombs and bullets during the thirty-one months of the conflict…

Homosexuality and the Catholic church

Homosexuality and the Catholic ChurchGerry OShea The sea change that has happened in attitudes to homosexuality during the last half-century marks this era as a time of massive cultural movement. Fifty years ago people often denigrated men and women who were gay; in fact, for most people talking about same-sex attraction elicited incomprehension and, too often, condemnation. Today the gay lifestyle has been accepted as an added welcome dimension of Western culture. Same-sex marriage is part of life now, best explicated in this country by a mayor of a small town, Pete Buttigieg, who introduced his husband at many of his rallies and who made a positive impact on the Democratic race for the party’s presidential nomination. While polls showed some resistance to the mayor because of his sexual orientation, most Democrats claimed that his marriage arrangement did not influence their voting preference. As late as the 1960’s and into the 70’s, the scientific community, led by psychiatrists in th…

Confederate Monuments

Confederate Monuments Gerry OShea
Deirdre Clarke, a young Irish-American teacher with roots in Rockland County, posted a statement on Facebook recently dismissing the opinions of some of her friends in the Irish community who were arguing that statues of confederate leaders should not be removed because they are part of our history. Deirdre responded that based on that logic they would have no problem with an Oliver Cromwell Memorial in Dublin or a similar statue in Cork recalling the antics of the Black and Tans.

John Mitchel, a leader of the revolutionary Young Irelanders in the 1848 rebellion, presents an interesting case in this debate, especially from an Irish nationalist perspective. He fought for the principles of equality and fair play for all Irish people, irrespective of religious affiliation. Coming from a Presbyterian background, he decried the demeaning anti-Catholic tirades by English Establishment leaders and their supporters. Mitchel saw clearly that subjugation of Catho…

Reflections on Ireland in the 19th Century

Reflections on Ireland in 19th Century Gerry OShea
Many historians believe that the century beginning in 1800, just after the American and French revolutions, inaugurated the era of modern history worldwide, and it certainly ushered in a momentous epoch in Ireland. It started with the British government closing down Grattan’s parliament(1782-1800) in Dublin and taking full control in Westminster of all legislation for the country.

Daniel O’Connell dominated Irish politics like a colossus for the first half of the century. His signature achievement, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, which allowed Catholics to serve in parliament, can be seen as the final nail in the penal laws which kept the Irish in thrall for the previous hundred years. Only substantial landowners could vote in Westminster elections but the powerful and exuberant O’Connell was elected to parliament, and he became one of the dominant figures in London politics, highlighting not only the grievances of the Irish peasantry bu…