Catholicising Fascism, Fascistising Catholicism? The Blueshirts and the Jesuits in 1930s Ireland Mike Cronin
The Irish revolution of 1916-22, and the Civil War of 1922-23, brought into being an independent nation, the Irish Free State, that was potentially highly unstable. That the first government of the state, the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, was able to construct a functioning democracy and peacefully pass office to its opponents after an election defeat in 1932, is testament to their organisational skills and political beliefs. One important factor in the creation of stability during the 1920s was the influence of the Catholic Church.1 The church had supported moves toward Irish independence since the late nineteenth century, and threw its full weight behind the independent state that was created by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. Ireland was a Catholic country, with over 90% of the population declaring themselves to be practising Catholics. The church was a potent social and political force and while Cumann na nGaedheal, as well as their opponents Fianna Fáil, may have disagreed on many issues, both were careful to work closely with, and embrace the power of, Catholicism. Such respect for the power of the church in the arena of state-building and politics was reflected in a concomitant wariness of Irish politicians. They often shied away from policies that would alienate the hierarchy, and the primacy of the church was acknowledged in the state constitutions of 1922 and 1937, and was publicly lauded during the mass spectacle of the 1932 Dublin Eucharistic Congress, attended by one million Irish people.