"We are alienating the splendid Irish race": British Catholic Response to the Irish conscription controversy of 1918

Journal article


Taouk, Youssef. (2006) "We are alienating the splendid Irish race": British Catholic Response to the Irish conscription controversy of 1918. Journal of Church and State. 48(3), pp. 601 - 622. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcs/48.3.601
AuthorsTaouk, Youssef
Abstract

[Extract] Ireland was something of a paradox during the First World War. She was the “one bright spot,” from the British point of view, at the time of the July-August crisis in August 1914, because the threat of civil war in Ireland was greatly diminished when the Great War commenced. Furthermore, just when Britain accepted the inevitability of, and offered to grant her, Home Rule at the height of the conscription controversy in 1918, the Irish rejected the offer. Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, which accepted conscription as a necessity in January 1916, Ireland refused to have conscription imposed on her, even in 1918, when Britain faced its greatest peril. Led by their Catholic bishops, the Irish defied the British government and won. Their stance placed them at odds with leading British Catholics who, like other Britons at this time, were divided in their opinion over the Irish Question. However, unlike other Britons, they shared the same faith with the majority of Irish and this added a difficulty that other Britons did not experience. This article will outline the deep divisions caused among British Catholics by Irish Catholic “recalcitrance” during the Irish conscription controversy of 1918. The controversy threatened to destroy its image as a highly “patriotic” body that the British Catholics carefully cultivated. It created division between those Catholics in Britain who considered the Irish hierarchy as troublesome rebels who interfered in politics too often and who muddied the British Catholics’ reputation, and those who saw the Irish as an oppressed race who deserved British Catholic sympathy. The significance of the Irish Question to Catholics in Britain was that they could not escape public controversies arising from the common faith with their Irish co-religionists. In certain instances, such as the 1918 conscription controversy, this caused bitter division and discord among British Catholics as well as between Catholics and the rest of British society. It therefore deserves analysis in detail.

Year2006
JournalJournal of Church and State
Journal citation48 (3), pp. 601 - 622
PublisherOxford University Press
ISSN0021-969X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1093/jcs/48.3.601
Scopus EID2-s2.0-43249179863
Page range601 - 622
Research GroupInstitute for Advancing Community Engagement
Place of publicationUnited States of Australia
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