“We have come to the holiest place in Ireland; holier to us even than the place where Patrick sleeps in Down. Patrick brought us life, but this man died for us.”

Those words were spoken at the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown Churchyard in 1913. The speaker was Patrick Pearse. To my mind, they represent one of the great and abiding dangers of Irish nationalism, of all nationalism: its tendency to become an idol, a replacement for God.

I don’t intend to disparage Patrick Pearse in this article. Indeed, I am a huge admirer of Patrick Pearse. We know he was a devout man, an observant Catholic. We know that he received the last rites before his execution. Perhaps the words quoted above were simply a moment of hyperbole, a rhetorical flourish.

But think about them. If taken seriously, they are absurd. To Christian believers, St. Patrick brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to our island, the means of our salvation and the knowledge of God’s will. How could any political achievement, any political ambition, be comparable to this, let alone more important?

In this article, I’m going to be addressing a particular segment of the Burkean readership: those who, like me, are both Irish nationalists and believing Catholics. And I’m going to presume that they are serious on both counts.

Let me begin by way of a little autobiography.

I grew up in a very republican family (and extended family, and community). Irish nationalism was very much in the air. I’ve heard stories of the 1916 Rising all my life. Although I’ve sometimes reacted against the nationalism of my upbringing (for instance, in my socialist early twenties when I considered it a distraction from bread and butter issues), for most of my life I’ve been an Irish nationalist. I still consider myself an Irish nationalist– a romantic nationalist, a cultural nationalist, an admirer of the Gaelic League and Gaelic Revival, of Pearse and De Valera and all that visionary company.

Nationalism– a proportionate and reasonable nationalism– is, aside from other things, a protection of the whole world’s cultural heritage. When it comes to resistance of the identikit consumer culture which is steamrolling the developed world, the motto “think globally, act locally” is surely the right approach. And “locally” here means “nationally.”

Internationalism is about as exciting as asexuality. It seems exciting to so many of our contemporaries because it’s relatively new. There’s still a novelty to the fact that we can send a message across the globe in a moment, or fly to another continent in a matter of hours.

A minority– including many young people on the right– are waking up to the fact that this excitement is a transitory phase, that internationalism and cosmopolitanism do not open up new vistas of diversity, but on the contrary erode the very diversity that they seem to promise. Globalization creates sameness, not plurality.

Having realized this there is a great danger of overreacting, of flying to the opposite extreme– of making an idol out of the nation.

A nation is part of the created order. It comes into existence, changes, and will eventually pass out of existence. It can’t take the weight of the human heart’s deepest yearnings, which include the yearning to give oneself utterly, to embrace a cause more important than life itself.

I think C.S. Lewis put it best when we said: “Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

When I write something like this, I’m scared of winning the approval of internationalists and cosmopolitans. I don’t want their approval. It would shame me. I think such people are lacking a healthy human instinct, even if (like every human instinct) it runs the danger of perversion. I especially don’t want the approval of internationalists and cosmopolitans in this era of globalization. That would not only shame me, but mortify me in the worst way. I don’t want to side with the powerful, the fashionable, the faction with the upper hand.

But there’s more. Irish nationalism stirred my nascent imagination in a way that is irrevocable. But now I see many of the emotions it stirred as being more applicable to Faith than nationalism.

For instance, I’ve always been tremendously moved by the words (possibly apocryphal) of Thomas MacDonagh at his court martial: “This rising did not result from accidental circumstances. It came in due recurrent reasons as the necessary outcome of forces that are ever at work.” It’s the words “forces that are ever at work” that thrilled me. But if those words are applicable to Irish nationalism, they are much more applicable to the Catholic faith, with its unbroken tradition of centuries, and its worldwide reach.

Or there are these words from The Countess Cathleen by Yeats, a play I’ve never read: “It is a hard service they have that help me. Many that are red-cheeked now will be pale-cheeked; many that have been free to walk the hills and the bogs and the rushes will be sent to walk hard streets in far countries; many a good plan will be broken; many that have gathered money will not stay to spend it; many a child will be born and there will be no father at its christening to give it a name. They that have red cheeks will have pale cheeks for my sake, and for all that they will think they are well paid.” Very stirring, but really just an echo of Christ’s parable of the pearl of great price, or this memorable line from the Book of Acts: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

We should, perhaps, learn from the fate of Catholicism in mainstream Irish republicanism over the last few decades.

From 1916 until the outbreak of the Troubles– and even beyond– it would be fair to say that many or most Irish republicans were sincere Catholics, often devout Catholics. They may have struggled to reconcile their politics with their religion, but it was an honest effort.

Today, however, we see that Irish republicanism has utterly renounced its Catholic heritage. Who can forget the photograph of Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill grinning wolfishly at the prospect of abortion being introduced to the North of Ireland?

It didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow process. It began with a selective interpretation of Catholicism, setting this liberation theologian or that firebrand priest against the teaching of the Pope and bishops.

Sadly, we can see the same thing happening on the Irish populist right today. Young Irish nationalists are becoming besotted with a brand of ethnonationalism, even racialism, which has no basis at all in Catholicism or in Christianity. Instead of liberation theologians and dissident priests, they have their favourite “based” YouTube theologians, and they are as likely as an eighties liberal Catholic to dismiss the “institutional Church”. The outcome will be the same.

And so I ask all my fellow Irish nationalists who are also Irish Catholics: which do you revere more? The grave in Bodenstown, or the grave in Downpatrick?

For my part, there can only be one answer. Yes, Wolfe Tone died for us. But St. Patrick gave us life.

Posted by An Cruinneog Sneachta


  1. >Young Irish nationalists are becoming besotted with a brand of ethnonationalism, even racialism, which has no basis at all in Catholicism or in Christianity.

    Are you trying to say racialism or ethnonationalism is incompatible with Christianity?


    1. He isn’t ‘trying’ to say anything. That’s what he said. Explicitly. There isn’t a single Catholic theologian of authority who condones ethnonationalism or racialism.


      1. This is a blog that loves censorship. 10/05/2023 at 3:19 pm

        There is no such thing as ethnic nationalism combined with christianity. The author was correct, the two can not co-exist as one, this is what vatican-fans like Ciaran Brennan here on TheBurkean still have failed to understand. This would be the same type of ignoramus that complains about asylum seekers when his own catholic church does the bulk of mass-immigration in Ireland through their NGO’s, our old Ciaran the censorship artist and his LOW I.Q fails to understand that catholicism is universalist and globalist in nature, half the world is catholic, it is not a unique identity, fellas like Ciaran associate irish identity with catholicism, they are sharing that identity with the wider catholic world, nigerians for example lol.

        Fellas like Ciaran pretend there was no ethnicities and culture there before christianity became forced on people, he rejects the past and thinks the world started with christianity. There are no words for such a level of stupidity.

        Countries like Poland and Hungary are more ethnic nationalist not because they are catholic nations, IT IS BECAUSE THEY STILL HAVE THEIR LANGUAGE, unlike Ciarans catholic globalist ireland that speaks the same language as Nigeria (Lingua Fraca English) and has the same religon where the irish missionaries told them to come over to Ciarans church for tea and scones lol.

        The l;ikes of Ciaran promotes on his twitter that gemma is a conspiratard and the tantrum he threw over Tommy Robinson was pathetic. Gemma has not a clue what she is talking about half of the time, but at least she is not so stupid to NEVER realise that powerful entities conspire to create trouble for others in this world, hence why people are called conspiracy theorists for even bringing up such topics, Ciaran lives in the naivete of cloud cuckoo land and chooses to censor when someone points out that the vatican is knee deep in globalism, this is likely the main mod of theburkean lol.


        1. Well said. Gemma is well intentioned at the least, and is a very honest girl.


      2. That’s completely incorrect. The idea that a nation has a racial element to it is ubiquitous in Catholic political philosophy. Far from “not a single one”, the most reputable Catholic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas in his commentary on Aristotle’s Politics says an ethnic state is *desirable*. Even 20th century manualists such as McHugh and Callan say that love of the race (in this sense is meant ethnicity) is a necessary component of a Christian obligation of patriotism to your country. This is even reaffirmed in Mit Brennander Sorge in which Pope Pius XI emphasises that no one would prevent and object to the Germans establishing a “Volksgemeinschaft” in which Christianity was given an appropriate position in (contra Hitler trying to establish secular education and attempting to interfere in Church affairs).

        These are merely a few examples but should suffice to prove your position utterly absurd.


        1. This blog does not like free speech. 10/05/2023 at 8:43 pm


          “The idea that a nation has a racial element to it is ubiquitous in Catholic political philosophy.”

          You are full of absolute bullshit, you are trying to ascribe exclusive ethnicity to a religon that encompasses all ethnicities, you absolute tool lol.

          Catholicism is a religon of half the world. Thomas Aquinas was known as Doctor Universalis btw lol.

          The church today is made up of people of every race and culture, and part of its mission is to help forge bonds of communion between races.” – Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger.

          “We must overcome all forms of racism, of intolerance and of the instrumentalization of the human person.” – Francis Bergoglio.

          The time has come to put an end to age-old prejudices, preconceptions and mutual mistrust that are often at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia. – Francis Bergoglio

          All these popes (your LEADERS) would disagree with you buddy, they are the highest moral authority in your church.

          You are so wrong that there are no words to describe your ignorance.

          Catholicism is a belief of half the world. It is a globalist religon, it goes way beyond ethnicity and race.

          Thomas Aquino was known as “Doctor Universalis” and he never mentioned “race” in his writings ever, the word “race” only became an invention in the last couple of hundred years, way after his time. What he meant by ethnicity as being desirable was catholic ethnicity.

          Definition of ethnicity : of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background.

          Aquino was referring to the religious part of the word ethnicity that he found desirable as in promoting catholicism not to one particular RACE but to all RACES, you uneducated moron. Catholicism is a religon of half the world, shared by every race under the sun.


          ignorant gorly words

          “Pope Pius XI emphasises that no one would prevent and object to the Germans establishing a “Volksgemeinschaft” ”

          Pius XI concluded a record number of concordats, including the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany he later condemned those concordats in the encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge”

          You have no idea what you are talking about much like theburkean here most of the time. lol.

          Uneducated and dumb.


          1. Literally nothing you said refutes what I presented. Catholicism being universal does not at all undermine the particularity of the lived experience.

            St. Augustine has already elaborated on this many centuries before you:

            “The difference based on nationality, social status or sex, has already been eliminated from the unity founded on faith, but still it remains in mortal existence. ****Moreover, its ordering must be maintained in the course of this life.**** The apostles send it, who give extremely healthy norms about how they should coexist, according to their different race, Jews and Greeks; according to their different social status, masters and slaves, and according to their different sex, husbands and wives, or according to any other differentiated situation that may occur.” St. Augustine, Commentary of Galatians

            What you said about St. Thomas is totally wrong, he absolutely used it in an ethnic context.

            Here is what he said, translation my own: “The state ought to consist of one race only, for a single race is united in custom which make fraternity among between the citizens by reason of their ****LIKENESS TO ONE ANOTHER****. Hence states which were made of many races have been ****destroyed**** on account of dissensions they had with one another.”


            “Therefore we ought to love more specially those who are united to us by ties of blood.” (II-II:26:8)

            “For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations, as the Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 1). The reason for this was that if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people. Hence it was that the Law prescribed in respect of certain nations that had close relations with the Jews (viz., the Egyptians among whom they were born and educated, and the Idumeans, the children of Esau, Jacob’s brother), ****that they should be admitted to the fellowship of the people after the third generation; whereas others (with whom their relations had been hostile, such as the Ammonites and Moabites) were never to be admitted to citizenship****; while the Amalekites, who were yet more hostile to them, and had no fellowship of kindred with them, were to be held as foes in perpetuity.” – (I-II:105:3)

            I could go into more quotes and commentaries about this issue but I would say this suffices for now.

            As for your attempt at citing Mit Brennander Sorge against me, I simply have to say that I am myself quoting Mit Brennander Sorge:

            “No one would think to deprive young Germans from establishing an *ethnical* community [Volksgemeinschaft].” Notice how the official English translation of this is framed in ethnic terms.

            What a ridiculous post full of misunderstanding of Catholicism.

          2. This blog is anti free speech echo chamber. 13/05/2023 at 3:13 am

            Stop censoring debates. I posted two replies to gory, but you censored it, very disrespectful trying to control a narrative by shutting down debates, this proves me right that your blog is not for free speech but only the framing of certain narratives that align with your own. I would not even have to post a comment like this if you just stopped censoring.

            You are absolutely no different to those bringing in anti free speech laws you snowflakes, allowing certain comments and censoring others even though they just have a different opinion to you.

            Typical irish mentality and exactly why your nation is so weak, a bunch of sensitive snowflakes. This is real feedback, you are engaging in heavy censorship just like your elected officials, a real weakness in the irish psyche, can not handle any criticism.

          3. This blog is an anti free speech echo chamber. 13/05/2023 at 4:13 am


            you can count yourself lucky that the mods at theburkean are heavily into censorship, because i have made you look like a total clown.

            You also can not translate so stop the lying? you absolute uneducated clown.

            Thomas Aquinas has never mentioned “RACE” once in his writings as the word race is a modern term that was first used as a word way after thomas aquinas time in literary works. augustine the berber also never once used the word race, that is an english word that did not exist in their languages, race is a modern word.

            gorys FAKE TRANSLATION that he made up himself. – translation gory: “The state ought to consist of one race only, for a single race is united in custom which make fraternity among between the citizens

            Also “state” in that time meant the wider rulership and authority of the catholic church and the vassals they appointed.

            This translation of yours is completely erroneous and i find it hilarious you cling to thomas aquinas as some sort of god in a foolish attempt to back up your own ignorance with making up your own translations to suit your own narrative, he never mentioned “race” because that word/term did not exist in his time as it does today, the terms they used represented something else entirely and is not what you think it means you clown lol.

            None of the popes would agree with you, as see the quotes i posted from them above, you are an idiot, you also have clearly not read the encyclical from pope pius xi, and his condemnation of ethnic nationalism when he was refferring to the nazis of 1930’s, 40’s germany metaphorically.

  2. Dr. Joe Sheehan / Chicago 08/05/2023 at 11:23 pm

    Very correct and very real. Poor Wolfe Tone, like so many Christians and Catholic Churchmen that call themselves Progressives are brainwashed by Masonic false liberalism. The twin interdependence of Faith and Logic become separated. The true devotion to the Triune God is manifested by our love and devotion to our families and in an extended way to our fellow countrymen. As St Thomas Aquinas explains there is a duty of priority. God first then your spouse then your immediate family etc in rightful order. When we wander from the simplicity of our Faith we enter a world of chaos.
    The ancient Celts from Queen Scotia ( buried outside Tralee) 1500 BC and augmented by Jeremiah the prophet ( buried in Meath) 500 BC set the stage 1000 years later for St Patrick to remind us of the 10 Commandments. We poor Celts need a wake-up call back to basics.
    Thanks for your article .


  3. Gerard Brady 08/05/2023 at 11:24 pm

    Love of land is perfectly good but the nationalism advocated by the purveyors of armed rebellion left a legacy of death and destruction that echo down to the present day. All of the Catholics who became members of the IRB will have known that belonging to a secret society was forbidden. Indeed the reason that the O Rahilly was late to the start of the insurrection was his refusal to become a member. The Home Rule Ireland Act had been passed by Parliament and was on the statute book and had been delayed by the outbreak of war. Whether partition would have happened anyway (after Ulster unionist sacrifice on the Somme) is open to debate. It would certainly seem to me that nothing much was gained by the insurrection in 1916 and the bloody years that followed, where Home Rule would have become reality at the end of the war as a matter of course.


  4. Maria Mhic Mheanmain 09/05/2023 at 7:35 am

    This is excellent


  5. Ivaus@thetricolour 23/05/2023 at 5:22 pm

    Your either ethnic Irish or not, Yes or No, not a racists homophobic transformed,binary, climate fanatic, or illiterate… too dumb to answer.


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