Mary Kenny The Way We Were: Catholic Ireland Since 1922

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Code 9781782183860

“The most balanced perspective on the Catholic Ireland of the past – up to our own time.” – Charles Lysaght, Author and Historian.

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A social and personal history of Ireland since the foundation of the Irish state in 1922, with a focus on the Catholic identity of Irish culture over the century.

She describes how the Free State of 1922-23 had a secular constitution, and went to some lengths to include Southern Unionists, mostly Protestant gentry, in parliament.

Ireland only became more emphatically a 'Catholic' state in the 1930s, when politicians saw Catholic identity as a popular cause. The newspapers which featured positive stories about priests and nuns sold the most copies - and the politicians took note of the trend.

Formal neutrality during World War II created an atmosphere of insularity. While women in Britain were active in the services and experiencing some personal liberation, life remained traditional in Ireland. Although there was a lively artistic scene in Dublin, and despite censorship, a flowering of writers.

A dynamic generation of entrepreneurs started economic modernisation in the 1950s: these included Ken Whitaker, Michael Killeen, Brendan O’Regan, Jerry Dempsey, and later, Tony Ryan, all educated by Catholic schools. A popular priest, Monsignor Horan, was the driving force behind the construction of Ireland West airport at Knock.

As elsewhere, Ireland began to change after the 1960s, and a gradual process of modernisation and secularisation occurred towards the end of the 20th century. Irishwomen became more pro-active in challenging attitudes towards women and sexuality. Clerical scandals and harsh treatment of unmarried mothers brought a sometimes fiercely critical attitude to the Catholic church, although until the 1990s, the church’s values had been broadly supported by the majority population. By the second decade of the 21st century Ireland was an altered state, and hostility towards Catholic Ireland of the past became a common theme in public discourse.

Mary Kenny interweaves the personal with the political, with biographical portraits of significant Irish personalities whose lives reflect the normality, as well as the flux, of Irish life. This is a rounded social history with a perspective on context and comparative social change elsewhere.

About the Author

Mary Kenny is an Irish journalist, broadcaster and playwright. A founding member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, she was one of the country’s first and foremost feminists and has been described as “the grand dame of Irish journalism”. Kenny has written for numerous broadsheet publications including the Irish Independent, The Times, The Guardian and The Irish Catholic. She has written books on feminism, Catholicism in Ireland and a personal biography of William Joyce.
She has previously published A Day at a Time with Columba Books.

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“The most balanced perspective on the Catholic Ireland of the past – up to our own time.” – Charles Lysaght, Author and Historian.


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