A to Z of Historical Blunders: Episode 21

​The unsustainability of unaccountability

Welcome to the A to Z of Historical Blunders, the show that reminds us about the dangers of history repeating itself.

For over two hundred years, one pervasive organization in Ireland was never called to account or held to account. Yet, as it amassed more wealth, influence and power, especially from 1795 onwards, it provided the leitmotif of Irish life for both the cowed and bowed, and the smug bourgeoise. It paid to keep everyone in their place. It was imperative to avoid the abomination of the humble inheriting the earth or, those so accurately described by Yeats as fumbling in the greasy till, getting their comeuppance. This organization reached its absolute zenith in 1967 with an army of 25,767 at home and a further 8,202 on postings abroad, outnumbering the combined members of An Garda Síochána and the Irish armed forces by 17 per cent in that year.  Its demise began, slowly enough at first over the next five years, with the introduction of free secondary education, Ireland’s belated enlightenment heralded by joining the European Economic Community, and the removal of its ‘special place’ in society from the Irish constitution. Its demise was accelerated by some darn fine investigative journalism in the 1990s and early noughties. Now it’s just another curious, anachronistic enigma from a bygone age; its epic volte face in Irish life so startling that there now exists a generation of Irish adults whose lives have been untouched by its influences. That institution is the Catholic Church with its special brand of ‘Irish Catholicism’.

The article on which this episode is based can be read here