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Thinking of Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day

The serpents once again need vanquishing and the dragons need to be slain.

The ruins of Bective Abby, a Cistercian abbey on the River Boyne in Bective, County Meath, Ireland. (Jonathan Bowers |

When I think of my mother’s death … worn out with persecution, poverty, and, largely consequent, disease, in the effort to hand on to us small boys the Faith … I find it very hard and bitter, when my children stray away.

As I ponder the state of contemporary Ireland, these words of J. R. R. Tolkien come to mind. Tolkien’s mother suffered greatly because of her conversion to the Catholic Faith, being disowned and disinherited by her family. Having already lost her husband, and struggling to raise her two young sons, she was plunged from poverty into penury as a consequence of her adherence to the Faith. It seems to me, as I recall these lines, that they serve as a metaphor for Ireland.

Ireland, the Motherland, has suffered persecution, poverty, and, largely consequent, disease (the potato famine), in the struggle to hand on the Faith to her sons. She has stood firm for centuries, refusing to relinquish the Faith in spite of all the tyrannical efforts by foreign powers to force her to conform to foreign faiths and philosophies. She was, as a famous rebel song proclaimed, the “most distressful country” but also one of the most heroic. It is, therefore, very hard and bitter when her children stray away.

And there’s no doubt that her children have strayed.

After fighting for centuries to gain her national sovereignty, finally succeeding after decades of violent struggle culminating in a brutal civil war, her sons have given it away all too cheaply, surrendering sovereignty to the European Union, an imperial power which is as at least as hostile to the Faith as was the British Empire; and all for thirty pieces of euro-silver. In this sense, the sons have not merely strayed away from their Mother but have betrayed her with a Judas-kiss.

What was the point of the Motherland’s fighting for independence from London when her children have sold it off so cheaply to Brussels?

After the Motherland had resisted the plague of infanticide which had swept across the world, declaring abortion to be an abomination and therefore illegal, her sons have now decided that the killing of children is a constitutional right for all the Mother’s wayward and wanton daughters.

After the Motherland had fought to preserve Irish identity and the Irish way of life, including efforts to restore the ancient Gaelic tongue, the European Union’s insistence on open borders has led to levels of immigration which is making Ireland less recognizably Irish with every year that passes.

As for the six counties in the north of Ireland which are still part of the United Kingdom, we can say that the so-called “Catholics” of Northern Ireland have strayed further from the Motherland than those in the South. Sinn Fein, better known to those of my generation as “the political wing of the IRA”, is an avowedly Marxist and secular fundamentalist organization, which hates everything about the Catholic Church and which supports the killing of babies in the womb as it had once excused the killing of children by the bombs its members planted. It is the Protestant Unionist party in the north, which is avowedly and courageously pro-life, that deserves the support and the votes of bona fide Catholics. And yet most tribal “Catholics” in the north are still voting for Sinn Fein, in spite of, or dare we say because of, its anti-Catholic positions on abortion and other issues. The sad and shameful reality is that the “Catholic” tribe in the north of Ireland seem to prefer the anti-Catholic sons of terrorists to those who teach and preach the Catholic Faith in its fullness and truth. Well might Mother Ireland find it very hard and bitter when her children stray away.

And what of Saint Patrick? What would Ireland’s patron saint make of all this? The snakes that he had purged from Erin’s shores have returned. The serpents once again need vanquishing and the dragons need to be slain. Perhaps we should pray that Saint Patrick might get together with Saint George, the patron saint of England. Perhaps we should pray that these heavenly warriors might help the true sons of Erin and Albion defeat the serpents who rule their most distressful countries with forked tongues and deadly venom.

Saint Patrick and Saint George, pray for us!

(Editor’s note: This essay was posted originally on March 16, 2020.)

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About Joseph Pearce 31 Articles
Joseph Pearce is the author of Faith of Our Fathers: A History of 'True' England (Ignatius Press, 2022), as well as of numerous literary works including Literary Converts, The Quest for Shakespeare and Shakespeare on Love,Poems Every Catholic Should Know (TAN Books) and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press), and the editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions series. His other books include literary biographies of Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A native of England, he is Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Visit his website at


  1. ” It is the Protestant Unionist party in the north, which is avowedly and courageously pro-life, that deserves the support and the votes of bona fide Catholics”


    Yup. The strange times we live in.
    St. Patrick, pray for us & for Ireland.

  2. Contrary to Mr Pearce, none of the Protestant political parties in Northern Ireland is “avowedly and courageously” pro life. The largest of these is the Democratic Unionist Party, which governs with Sinn Fein. No doubt many of its members and representatives are genuinely pro life but there is nothing in their party manifesto (apart from two very short sentences) demonstrating a political commitment on the issue. The Ulster Unionist Party, which previously ruled Northern Ireland since 1920, says and delivers nothing on pro life. The only pro life unionist party is the TUP but it is very small.

    On the non unionist side, it is true that Sinn Fein is pro abortion. And the SDLP,(John Hume’s party and largely but never exclusively catholic) allows individuals a free conscience on pro life questions. This means it has no pro life policy.
    In fact, the only institution in Northern Ireland which is avowedly and courageously pro life is the Catholic Church, together with several pro life groups. A look at the “Both Lives Matter” web page gives a good summary of all the political parties of Northern Ireland on this issue.

    While I lament with Mr Pearce the successes of the pro abortion lobby in Ireland in recent times, his references to “so called” Catholics and to the catholic “tribe” are unfortunate and his suggestion that “bona fide” Catholics (bona fide – the ones who have not sinned?) should vote for “the Protestant party” (I assume he means the DUP)merely demonstrates political naivete.

  3. My Grandmother and grandfather came from Ireland at the turn of the century. GF Hugh was a guard for Queen Victoria. Gma Mary held down the fort at home in County Down. They struggled to put food on the table because they had 15 children, one died.

    Some of Ireland’S theocratic domination of the population was apparent.

    In Ireland the church had significant influence on public opinion. Under the existing system, the Roman Catholic Church controlled 90 percent of Ireland’s public elementary schools, owning the property and appointing school boards and principals, even though the government payed all the bills.Jun 1, 2018

    During the 1800 and 1900 the Irish church had introduced the Magdalene Laundries. They were run by Nuns. The workers made up was mostly of poor women who strayed.One poor soul had a child having been raped out of wedlock. When the Nuns discovered this they put the child up for adoption and “urged” the woman to seek refuge in the laundry. Refuge was not how women were treated. Years passed and the adopted girl followed her mother’s path and was placed in the laundry. One day they worked in a line next to each other and did not know each other. The laundries were closed on Oct 25, 1996.

    Today some US Catholic dioceses are declaring bankruptcy. It is legal with conditions. I ask how can any religious organization who pay no taxes, can declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization from the taxpayers? Even more unimaginable the bankruptcy was caused by church hierarchy by the covering up for the priest predators. They were complicit. How was Ireland going to right the ship to allow a broader and more inclusive society? Then, along came Mary…

    In 1990 Mary Robinson A distinguished constitutional lawyer, and a renowned supporter of human rights with a plethora of Irish and world accomplishments, became Ireland’s first woman president. She was born and raised in the Catholic Church in 1944. Her thrust and goal was to advocate for international human rights. It was her tenacity for birth control when she observed unfettered population growth that she challenged the Catholic Church for its’ restriction of birth control..

  4. I’m afraid that we, Americans, as the Irish Catholics, both North and South,have become immersed in secular politics when we should be tending to the Kingdom of God. We must remember that we are ” in the world, not of the world”. True victory is not won by stuffing the ballot box, but rather by storming the heavens with prayer and humble service to God. We must beware becoming unequally yoked with secular political parties who may share some common core convictions, but have a different modus operandi. Moral compromise is never an option. Much better to loose an election than our souls. Many of our Irish brethren on both sides of the political divide are in danger of loosing their souls through secular politics.

5 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Thinking of Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day - Catholic Daily
  2. Thinking of Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day - Catholic Mass Search
  3. Thinking of Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day – Joseph Pearce
  4. «De nuevo hay que vencer a las serpientes y matar a los dragones» | Moral y Luces
  5. Ireland: A Most Distressful Country - Joseph Pearce

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