Wednesday, July 07, 2004


From the theoretical to the empirical

The other thing I wanted to get off my chest as regards religion is something I was also going to get following on from my post on the early history of the Irish Labour Movement. Here's a paragraph from F.S.L. Lyons' Ireland Since the Famine relating to the Dublin lockout of 1913 (and if I can be bothered to type it, you can at least be bothered to read it):

"The immediate outcome of these days of crisis was an impressive demonstration of labour solidarity. With the principal Irish leaders arrested (including Connolly), the resistance to the employers was organised by two able trade unionists, P.T. Daly and William O' Brien. They at once dispatched two emissaries to the British Trades Union Congress which responded with massive grants of money and food. Congress alone granted nearly £100,000* of the £150,000 which was subscribed by British sympathisers. But as the tragic dispute, with its attendant miseries of cold, starvation and destitution for thousands of Dublin families dragged on, it became a question how long British unions would be prepared to finance their Irish brethern. Hopes of a settlement faded when the employers rejected the report of a government inquiry in October and tempers began ominously to rise. Special bitterness was caused by the action of the Roman Catholic clergy in preventing the departure to temporary homes in England of children from the tenements, who were starving through no fault of their own. This scheme, entirely benevolent in intention, was opposed on the grounds that the children's faith would be endangered if they were sent out of the country. So emphatic and well-organised was the hostility that the rescue operation had to be abandoned and the children left to wither in the sanctity of their slums."

Obviously the church has done good as well as evil. But still, the cruelty is shocking (as is that of the employers, even for an anti-capitalist such as myslf - capitalism's exploititive nature is supposed to be obscured, mystified. Every now and again it becomes exposed, as in 1913).

In fact it reminds me of a story you may or may not remember from some months ago where the Saudi Arabian religious police reportedly refused to rescue some schoolgirls from a fire in their dormitory on the grounds that would mean seeing them without appropriate attire. The role of the Catholic Church in 1913 wasn't quite so bad, but it wasn't too far off.

*UPDTE: According to one site (I could find it again if you really wanted me to) this is the equivalent of more than £6 million in 2002 figures.

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