Vol. 5: O’Halloran, Clare.

Type: Article

O’Halloran, Clare. ‘“‘The Island of Saints and Scholars’: Views of the Early Church and Sectarian Politics in Late-Eighteenth Century Ireland.’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 5 (1990), pp 7-20.

This article analyses the difficulties faced by both Catholic and Protestant historians of Ireland in the late eighteenth century. Only in one area, their respect for St. Patrick, were the two sides at one. On other matters – the nature of the Christianity brought to Ireland by St. Patrick, the extent of early Irish church’s independence from Rome, the precise extent of the papal support for the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland – the two sides differed widely, since each group needed to recount the past in ways which justified its present political position. The article considers the work of Keating, O’Conor, O’Halloran and MacGeoghan on the Catholic side and Ussher, Leland, Warner, Campbell and Ledwich on the Protestant side, but stresses that the interpretations of the one side were often of use to the other. O’Halloran concludes that the principal debates of church history followed clear sectarian lines and had obvious contemporary implications which caused the Irish historians of both sides major difficulties; their accounts “reflect inner tensions and contradictions”.