A wel­come work in the canon

This ex­cel­lent text is a re­minder that we need to be wary of sim­pli­fy­ing church and State Church, State and So­cial Science in Ire­land

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - ARTS & BOOKS - Diar­maid Fer­riter FRANK MacGABHANN CLAIRE LOOBY RUTH McKEE

By Peter Mur­ray and Maria Feeney Manch­ester Univer­sity Press, £75

From the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury the bal­ance of power be­tween the Catholic Church and the Ir­ish State was shift­ing. One book that dealt with this theme was pub­lished in 1971 by the po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist John H Whyte un­der the ti­tle Church & State in Mod­ern Ire­land, 1923-1970.

Whyte had been ap­pointed the first lay lec­turer in pol­i­tics at Univer­sity Col­lege Dublin, in 1961, but was at the mercy of the wrath of the Catholic arch­bishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid when the sub­ject of his re­search be­came known. Whyte had to leave UCD for Queen’s Univer­sity Belfast – in ef­fect a case of con­struc­tive dis­missal.

It was a re­minder of the ex­tent of church con­trol over so­cial-science re­search and teach­ing, a con­trol that had pro­duced an Ir­ish Catholic “in­sti­tu­tion­alised cul­ture of pro­nounced in­tel­lec­tual cau­tion and hi­er­ar­chi­cal con­trol”. In essence, Ir­ish Catholic writ­ers con­structed so­ci­ol­ogy “as the so­cial branch of ethics” and a “sta­ple set of top­ics – mar­riage, fam­ily, church, state, pri­vate prop­erty, re­la­tions be­tween cap­i­tal and labour – was dealt with in terms of very gen­eral prin­ci­ples”. By the fol­low­ing decade, how­ever, a pro­fes­sional, sec­u­lar as­so­ci­a­tion of Ir­ish so­ci­ol­o­gists had been es­tab­lished, sug­gest­ing a new dawn.

Wrestling free from church dom­i­nance is one of the themes of Church, State and So­cial Science in Ire­land: Knowl­edge In­sti­tu­tions and the Re­bal­anc­ing of Power, 1937- 73, by Peter Mur­ray and Maria Feeney, which is a wel­come up­date and ad­di­tion to Whyte’s ground­break­ing study.

It dwells on both the gen­eral ex­pan­sion of ed­u­ca­tion and changes to the fo­cus of so­ci­ol­ogy through a new em­pha­sis on em­pir­i­cal re­search. This saw the emer­gence of re­search in­sti­tutes in­de­pen­dent of the church, such as the Eco­nomic Re­search In­sti­tute – which evolved into the Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search In­sti­tute – in tan­dem with State re­fusal of re­quests from Catholic so­cial move­ments for fund­ing for their own re­search cen­tres.

An­other bat­tle front was adult ed­u­ca­tion in the so­cial sci­ences. McQuaid in all his sple­netic glory is well cap­tured here, a re­minder that he gen­er­ated an ar­chive that keeps on giv­ing when it comes to the re­search of church-State re­la­tions. In 1955 he was able to boast: “I have now, at length, been able to take mea­sures in the univer­sity” – UCD – “to have Catholic phi­los­o­phy per­me­ate all the fac­ul­ties, and I hope that our ed­u­cated lay folk in the near fu­ture will no longer show them­selves to be in­fected by the Protes­tant English lib­er­al­ism that had caused and is still caus­ing so much con­fu­sion in our coun­try.” He hated the idea that “his­tory, com­merce and tech­nol­ogy are striv­ing to over­ride the world”.

This book doc­u­ments the end of the era that pro­duced such epis­co­pal im­pe­ri­ous­ness, along­side the de­cline in the high pro­por­tion of priests within so­ci­ol­ogy. Catholic con­cerns per­sisted that new ap­proaches would pre­vent a “wide for­ma­tion” of stu­dents in ethics and so­ci­ol­ogy, but James Dil­lon, the min­is­ter for agri­cul­ture in 1955, told a US em­bassy of­fi­cial that “vested in­ter­ests will even­tu­ally be beaten down”.

The avail­abil­ity of Amer­i­can fi­nance con­cen­trated many minds in re­la­tion to ap­plied re­search in agri­cul­ture, in­dus­try and eco­nom­ics. By the early 1960s such re­search was a ma­jor ben­e­fi­ciary of Ir­ish en­gage­ment with US gov­ern­ment aid pro­grammes and US pri­vate foun­da­tions such as the Ford Foun­da­tion and the Grant Coun­ter­part Fund.

This book re­veals a mul­ti­tude of ten­sions over con­trol of re­search. When the Catholic Work­ers’ Col­lege pro­posed an in­dus­trial-re­la­tions ad­vi­sory and re­search cen­tre in 1965, the depart­ment of in­dus­try and com­merce was con­cerned that the “close as­so­ci­a­tion of the pro­posed cen­tre with a re­li­gious com­mu­nity might be in­hibit­ing”, and the plan was re­jected.

An­other in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ment was the de­gree to which Ire­land’s so­cial-se­curi- ty pro­vi­sion be­came an ob­ject of both po­lit­i­cal de­bate and so­cial-sci­en­tific anal­y­sis in the early 1960s. In 1964 Charles Mur­ray, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary at the Depart­ment of Fi­nance, sug­gested “it would be well to get some work go­ing now on the forms which im­proved and ex­tended so­cial ser­vices might take”.

The key ques­tion was whether a so­cial-de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme could be de­vised; em­pir­i­cal so­ci­ol­ogy was mov­ing out of the am­bit of Catholic so­cial the­ory into that of the State’s pol­i­cy­mak­ing, but not all gov­ern­ment de­part­ments were sup­port­ive enough – and that, with re­ces­sion, strikes and in­fla­tion, com­pli­cated plan­ning.

Church, State and So­cial Science in Ire­land is a re­minder that we need to be wary of sim­pli­fy­ing ei­ther church or State and their en­gage­ment with so­cial-science re­search and teach­ing. Seán Le­mass, of­ten seen as un­re­cep­tive to ru­ral pri­or­i­ties, sug­gested in 1964 that “we need an in­sti­tute of ru­ral so­ci­ol­ogy”, but he could not gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient sup­port among his min­is­ters.

Jeremiah New­man, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at Maynooth from 1953 and a fu­ture, and very con­ser­va­tive, bishop of Lim­er­ick, is re­vis­ited as an in­no­va­tor, push­ing so­ci­ol­ogy to­wards a more em­pir­i­cal ap­proach in­stead of just “nat­u­ral law think­ing that tended to re­duce the dis­ci­pline to a fairly ster­ile ex­er­cise in eth­i­cal ex­po­si­tion”.

There were many more f raught church-State ex­changes at an ear­lier stage than might be as­sumed. The UCD econ­o­mist Pa­trick Lynch, who chaired a so­cial-re­search com­mit­tee un­der the aus­pices of the David Cooke’s col­lec­tions in­clude A Slow Blues: New and Se­lected Po­ems ( High Win­dows Press ) and re­cently After Hours ( Cul­tured Llama Pub­lish­ing ) In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion in 1959, won­dered if pub­lic af­fairs could be ad­dressed not in re­la­tion to faith and morals but with “tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence, in­tel­li­gence and good sense”.

Fr James Ka­vanagh, first di­rec­tor of Dublin In­sti­tute of Catholic So­ci­ol­ogy, was not im­pressed: “Am I be­ing airy fairy in sug­gest­ing that sem­i­nars on pro­duc­tiv­ity and man­age­ment and trade union­ism should in­clude al­ways a lec­ture on some philo­soph­i­cal as­pect?” Per­haps both had a point, but in the long run, as an­other so­ci­ol­o­gist, Bryan Fan­ning, puts it, “OECD re­ports came to re­place the pa­pal en­cycli­cals”.

This book is dense, learned and oc­ca­sion­ally too crowded and com­pli­cated by gazes back and for­ward mid­chap­ter. It is es­sen­tially a text­book, and a fine one, but is pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive, at £75. It makes ex­cel­lent use of orig­i­nal archival re­search to of­fer new and re­vised per­spec­tives, the essence of good so­cial-science re­search, of which Peter Mur­ray and Maria Feeney, of Maynooth Univer­sity, are ad­mirable and hard­work­ing prac­ti­tion­ers.

Diar­maid Fer­riter is pro­fes­sor of mod­ern Ir­ish his­tory at Univer­sity Col­lege Dublin and an Ir­ish Times colum­nist In the Shangri-La of San Fran­cisco they called it The Sum­mer of Love,

tun­ing in and drop­ping out to a sound­track of spacey gui­tars.

Book­ish, shy, and too young for a droopy mous­tache and side­burns,

I was hot­housed in­stead by Hayes for the maths I was tak­ing early,

but got a hint of some­thing else in Scott McKen­zie’s an­them.

Against her bet­ter judg­ment, my mother al­lowed me to pick a shirt.

– A bright yel­low shocker with a floppy, ex­trav­a­gant col­lar,

it didn’t sur­vive the first les­son be­fore they sent me home

to dream on at the back of the bus of to­p­less Haight-Ash­bury girls,

whose painted bod­ies sway to air­borne waves of mu­sic. By Ali­son MacLeod Blooms­bury, £16.99

Ali­son MacLeod has writ­ten three nov­els, one of which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fic­tion in 2013. The rea­son for point­ing this out is that nov­els and short sto­ries in­volve dif­fer­ent skills. In this col­lec­tion MacLeod demon­strates a tal­ent for and as­sur­ance in the short form that make the sto­ries a joy to read. All the Beloved Ghosts’ open­ing piece, Edited by Chris Agee and Cathal Ó Searcaigh Ir­ish Pages Press, ¤14

In the lat­est edi­tion of I rish Pages t he I rish Times jour­nal­ist Lara Mar­lowe writes about the late Pales­tinian poet Mah­moud Dar­wish, who said that “Is­rael is built not next to Pales­tine, but on top of Pales­tine”. She also writes of the in­tim­i­da­tion she and other jour­nal­ists and politi­cians have been sub­jected to after crit­i­cis­ing Is­rael. There is an es­say of Hu­bert But­ler’s from 1947 about a war- crimes trial. Emma Marx trans­lates her un­cle’s de­scrip­tion of his ex­pe­ri­ences as an in­mate of Ber­gen- Belsen and one other con­cen­tra­tion camp un­der the Nazis. Dervla Mur­phy’s es­say Has­bara in Ac­tion makes sober­ing read­ing – as, in­deed, does the en­tire book. The pho­to­graphic port­fo­lio by Mark Cousins, of the city of Belfast, punc­tu­ates Chris Agee’s per­cep­tive es­say, Trou­bled Belfast. An­other ex­cel­lent edi­tion of this jour­nal. The Thaw, about a tragedy that fol­lows an un­ex­pected awak­en­ing, sets the col­lec­tion’s theme of joy, sor­row and the ab­surd that over­lap in the lives of all the char­ac­ters. The Heart of De­nis Noble finds a heart sur­geon be­ing pro­pelled back 50 years, to his stu­dent days, in the hours be­fore he re­ceives a heart trans­plant. We Are Methodists sees a Gulf War vet­eran turned plumber re­veal to a client the things he can’t even tell his girl­friend. With only one story that strays be­yond the surety of its com­pan­ions, this is an ex­cep­tion­ally ac­com­plished col­lec­tion, well worth dis­cov­er­ing.

Fell

By Jenn Ash­worth Scep­tre, £8.99

An­nette Clif­ford re­turns to her long- aban­doned child­hood home, which is over­shad­owed by t wo deep- rooted sycamores that threaten the build­ing’s foun­da­tions. A sim­i­lar pres­ence are her dead par­ents, Net­tie and Jack, who nar­rate the story, their ten­drils reach­ing from the past to the present. The house is pu­trid with mem­ory, with An­nette’s lone­li­ness as a ne­glected girl grow­ing up along­side Net­tie’s bloom­ing can­cer. Their lodger cures her fa­ther’s sight with a touch of his hands. He traf­fics in hope, and this sus­tains her par­ents through the grim hu­mil­i­a­tions of her mother’s sick­ness, un­til the end. De­spite the ethe­real nar­ra­tors, the book’s tri­umph is in the cor­po­real, the ache of the mun­dane, the beauty of small things. The char­ac­ters have a po­etry of the or­di­nary – a bro­ken­ness rem­i­nis­cent of Alan Ben­nett that makes them flesh and blood.

Ir­ish Pages: Is­rael, Is­lam and the West

All the Beloved Ghosts

From left: arch­bishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, Car­di­nal Fran­cis D’Al­ton, pres­i­dent Sean T O’Kelly, pa­pal nun­cio Dr Al­berto Le­vame, Philom­ena O’Kelly, and taoiseach Ea­mon de Valera, in 1958. PHO­TO­GRAPH: DER­MOT BARRY

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