marxism-digest V1 #3177

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Mon Feb 5 18:57:56 MST 2001

R.K. Mickey writes:

>It is sadly true that after this generation (born in
>the 1860s) Protestant representation in the republican
>or nationalist movements in Ireland became very small
>indeed.  But it is worth noting that of those named by
>Philip, at least three  became Catholics:  Maud Gonne
>in about 1903, and Constance Markievicz and Roger
>Casement while in prison after the Easter Rising of
>1916 - in Casement's case while awaiting execution.
>That three such committed Irish revolutionaries felt
>strongly enough not just to reject their Protestant
>upbringing but to actually become Catholics is quite
>All the best,
>R K Mickey

I didn't mention this in my post, because my point was that there was a
significant layer of Prods who were still becoming republicans in the late
1800s/early 1900s.

But also, the conversions by Gonne, Markievicz and Casement to catholicism
had little to do with religion.  They all did it to identify with the
oppressed masses.  Casement was hanged a few days or weeks later.

Gonne and Markievicz were never much interested in Catholicism as far as
practice went, and spent the rest of their lives in conflict with the
Church anyway.

I can't recall the exact circumstances of Gonne's conversion, but
Markievicz converted while in jail after the Easter Rising.  (She was
originally sentenced by a court martial to be executed but the British,
being gallant gentlemen, commuted it to penal servitude for life on account
of her gender.  The fact she was a countess, and the daughter of an upper
class Prod family probably helped as well.)  Anyway, she decided in jail to
convert to make complete her identity with the Irish masses.  When the
priest came to give her instructions in the faith, she was quite
disinterested and waived this aside and said, well, whatever, she'd go
along with it all, and then got to the serious stuff, asking how the 'boys'
were - ie the male prisoners.  She was much more interested in political
info than the palaver of Catholic mumbo-jumbo.  Markievicz, another of my
big-time heros, was also quite a theatrical woman, so Catholicism may have
appealed to that side of her as well.

Thankfully, subsequent Protestant republicans - people like Ivor Bell (who
was chief of staff of the IRA for a while in the 70s), and the string of
Protestant republicans in the leadership of the IRSP in the 70s and 80s,
never felt the need to exchange Protestantism for Catholicism.  Nor did
many other earlier Protestant republicans.  Given that republicanism spent
such a long time in a life and death struggle with the Church, I never saw
the sense in Gonne, Markievicz etc's conversion, although I could
understand their motives.

Philip Ferguson

"Don't Dream It - Extreme It" (Lana Coc Kroft)

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