I AM afraid that answers to Mr. Slater's questions (May 19) about the "official" religion of the IRA and the religious education of its members will contribute little to solving the tragic problem of Northern Ireland. 1 say this as one who has frequently condemned IRA methods in the correspondence columns of Irish newspapers.
Faith and religious education do not work in a vacuum. They are received by the individual very much in accordance with what society has made him to be. The nationalist minority of Northern Ireland — a very large minority — have lived for generations in a society which was unjust and in which authority was used to guarantee that it would remain unjust.
Britain had the ultimate responsibility for that situation and, possibly with the best of intentions, even bolstered it up by subsidising the regime that engineered it. The so-called IRA, as it now is, is simply an example of what an openly unjust society can make out of Catholics. The really remarkable thing is that the bulk of Northern Ireland Catholics have the charity and the courage to be still ready to forgive and forget.
I am quite willing to admit the sincerity of the present British initiative. But f understand, though I condemn the attitude of those few who hold that if things have gone badly for so long the only sane counsel is one of utter intransigence. I understand also, and condemn, their idea that a fair deal is possible only with the total annihilation of the structures of the unjust past.
Quick questions and instant answers will get us nowhere. Those who are trying at long last to be fair will have to prove their fairness. They created a society in which their credibility dwindled Ito vanishing point. cannot say how long or how much it will take to create a different one in which they will be seen to •merit trust. (Fr.) Brian Kelly C.S.Sp Dublin 12 JOHN SLATER asks (May 19) "What is the official religion of the IRA?"
The short answer is: none. Unless of course, one follows a dictionary definition of religion, i.e. "a prevalent system of faith of worship"— in which case the official faith of the IRA is Republicanism, meaning a sovereign 32-county Republic.
More pertinently, however, most members of the IRA received an Irish Catholic education. And Irish Catholicism is manifestly different from Roman Catholicism, being in many aspects a philosophy of tribal identity, harking on the racial recall of previous Protestant dominations in Ireland.
Consequently, much of the education in Catholic-controlled Irish schools emphasises the previous persecutions of the Catholic Irish by the Protestant English and produces the inevitable momentum of hate which finds outlet in regarding all things Irish and Catholic as morally right — and all things English as morally wrong.
Such a philosophy, when mixed with the equally potent brew of Republicanism, produces a type of injured fanaticism which regards the British/ Orange / Protestant presence in Northern Ireland as an intrusion upon Irish sovereignty.
And having in the early years of this century, removed that British imperial presence from three-quarters of Ireland — by the bomb and the bullet — the IRA now feel that "national sovereignty" may be restored to the whole island by the same method. Hence the present brutalities in Northern Ireland.
To chart the role of the Irish Catholic Church in these areas would require more space than allowed. Many Irish clerics condemn the IRA; equally, many defend the morality of the IRA's activities.
Only last month, for instance, a Redemptorist priest based in Liverpool — Fr. Sean McManus — wrote a half-page article in the IRA paper An Poblacht in which he praised the Provisional IRA as "true prophets." The article appeared in the same week that members of the Belfast IRA beat up a 15-year-old girl. Kevin O'Connor London, S.W.9