War of Independence Centenary Series: The Church and Northern Ireland in the War

We are combining two major topics in this month's talk - the role of the Church in the War of Independence and how the war played out in Northern Ireland. These topics are somewhat related, as the conflict in northeast Ulster had a sectarian aspect. While the Catholic minority there mostly backed Irish independence, the Protestant majority were mostly unionist/loyalist. A Special Constabulary was formed, made up mostly of Protestants, and loyalist paramilitaries were active. They attacked Catholics in reprisal for IRA actions, and in Belfast a sectarian conflict raged in which almost 500 were killed, most of them Catholics. Belfast had famous pogroms in July 1920 and the IRA there was one of the most organized in the country.

The role of religion was complicated in the war, as several priests acted as chaplains to various IRA and Sinn Fein leaders, especially Terence MacSwiney. Templemore was also the site of strange apparitions and alleged miracles during 1920 which resulted in a short-term truce between the IRA and Crown forces.

This is the sixth lecture in our War of Independence Centenary Series with Executive Director Dr. Elizabeth Stack.