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Church of Ireland Notes from ‘The Irish Times’

Northern Ireland foundation remembered

The creation of Northern Ireland is the subject of  the RCB Library’s current on–line exhibition in which Brian Walker, Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast, analyses the lead–up to and foundation of Northern Ireland in June 1921.

Drawing on the Church of Ireland Gazette, he comments on the paper’s importance as a source for understanding historical events in Ireland, as the Gazette gave both southern and northern perspectives of how the political division of Ireland had an impact on the Church of Ireland, then as now an all–island institution.

While based in Dublin, the paper always covered the affairs of the Church of Ireland countrywide, which, Professor Walker observes, tended to reflect a southern unionist perspective in its editorials. However, at the same time, every week, extensive ‘Notes from Belfast’ reported on northern matters. During 1920, editorials, ‘in common with all southern unionists’, had declared strong opposition to the idea of Partition as proposed in the new legislation for two parliaments in Ireland. By early 1921, however, after the Government of Ireland Act received royal assent, the paper declared that Partition was now a fact which had to be accepted, with the editorial published in the 14 January 1921 edition expressing the hope that there would be ‘ultimate unity through the Council of Ireland’.

On 10 June, there was a description of the first sitting of the Northern Ireland Parliament. The Gazette also reported a special Sunday intercessory service in St Anne’s cathedral in Belfast for the new Parliament and Government.  Among those present were Sir James Craig, the prospective Prime Minister, and the four Church of Ireland bishops whose dioceses were in the new state, as well as leading Methodist and Presbyterian clergy. The preacher was Archbishop Charles D’Arcy, Archbishop of Armagh, who urged that regard be given ‘to the welfare of all the people of this province, of every creed and class, of the minority as well as of the majority’.

The official opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament by King George V on 22 June was recorded in the Gazette. The large, enthusiastic crowds in attendance and the ‘solemn pageantry’ of the opening moments of the Parliament in the City Hall were described. The paper noted especially the King’s speech in which his appeal for peace gave new hope for the future.  In its report on  1 July 1921, the Gazette observed that the King’s speech had proved to be the signal for a series of important steps towards negotiations between Sinn Féin and the British Government. This led to the 11 July Truce which, the Gazette, on 15 July, declared, ‘every loyal Irishmen received with the deepest joy’.

A novel way in which the centenary of Northern Ireland has been marked has been by the commissioning of a new hymn by St Mark’s parish, Dundela, in East Belfast. The hymn. The Lion in our Hearts, by Belfast musician Darren Day, reflects the parish’s association with C. S. Lewis. This is one of the many topical stories in the current issue of the Church of Ireland Gazette, edited by Dubliner Emma Blain, which is published monthly both in hard copy and as an e–paper. Subscription details may be had at www.gazette.ireland.anglican.org

And finally, in the forthcoming issue of the Church of Ireland journal, Search,  there will be a review of the new book by Belfast–born historian Dr Alan Parkinson, A Difficult Birth. The Early Years of Northern Ireland. 1920–25, which has been published in Dublin by Eastwood Books.

Tomorrow (Sunday) at 11.10am on RTE 1 TV and at 11am on RTE Radio 1 Extra there will be a service organised jointly by the Church of Ireland Council for Mission and the Association of Missionary Societies on the theme of a ‘Church Without Walls’. The service will be led by Revd Adam Pullen and the preacher will be Revd Karen Salmon.

Church of Ireland Notes

Published in the Saturday edition of The Irish Times

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