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The collapse of Catholic Ireland

Shortly before Christmas, The Economist, the world’s leading news magazine, published an article titled ‘The liberalisation of Ireland,’ with the subheading ‘How Ireland stopped being one of the most devout, socially conservative places in Europe.’

This has been a familiar discussion both at home and abroad, particularly after the landslide vote to legalise abortion in 2018.

The Economist’s piece provides a brief overview of recent social milestones, followed by a description of physical and sexual abuse by clergy or within church-run institutions.

Although some conservative voices are quoted, the article presents a narrative which is endemic in modern Ireland: the theocracy of yesteryear has been destroyed, and Ireland has been born anew.

“In an angrier world Ireland has a lot to teach people,” one of the leading activists is quoted as saying. At a time when growing nationalism and populism is threatening the worldview of cosmopolitan Economist readers, Ireland has suddenly developed into a poster child for liberal values. The country’s politicians are very eager to assert this newfound identity at home and on the international stage.

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