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Caleb Foundation is on a mission

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Has the staunchly anti-Catholicism Caleb Foundation overtaken the Orange Order as the most influential pressure group within Unionism?

Maybe evangelicals within Irish Catholicism should also form a New Inquisition to pull political strings within the Stoops and Shinners.

For many years until the clerical abuse allegations scandals erupted, the Irish Bishops was the most powerful political lobby in Ireland.

Its mirror images were the Loyal Orders, especially the Orange, within the aristocratically dominated Unionist Party.

But so much has changed since 2000 in terms of religious groups' grip on Northern politics. Big Paisley has retired and his Free Presbyterians are no longer viewed as the DUP at prayer.

Hollywood blockbuster The Da Vinci Code has turned the Catholic holy order Opus Dei into a joke. One of the falls outs from the clerical abuse revelations is that the Jesuits, as a holy order, have suffered as Catholics turn their backs on the Church.

But one group of Protestant fundamentalists has grown in power – Caleb, named after the Biblical Old Testament Israelite spy.

Caleb was widely viewed as being the driving force behind forcing the National Trust to include Creation – the view that God created the world – as part of the historic Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre.

My journalistic colleague Liam Clarke, whom I worked with in the 1980s, has already unmasked Caleb's influence among evangelical Unionist Christians at Stormont.

But Caleb's foundations present a completely different agenda when I investigated the organisation during its formative months in 1998 – the same year of the Good Friday Agreement.

That year, I was in the final weeks of a four-year book project entitled The Orange Card investigating the links between the Order and loyalist groups.

For a few years prior, hardline, anti-Catholic fundamentalists mainly from the Free Church would hold pickets outside meetings of the Evangelical Prayer Breakfast movement because of the presence of UUP Orangemen and Catholic priests.

Top Caleb sources – including the then Independent Orange Order Grand Master George Dawson – chatted to me indepth for the book.

Caleb was to be initially a new umbrella group to pull together fundamentalist opposition to the Breakfast movement.

But I noted the number of senior Independents in Caleb ranks, including David McConaghie, Mervyn Storey and Dawson.

A mole inside Caleb also told me that while there would be a Council of Reference representing a number of the small Protestant sects, there was an inner circle of Independent Orangemen running Caleb.

My conclusion in 1998 – Caleb was nothing more than a recruiting front for the Independents; to move the Independents into mainstream Unionism.

Dawson found out; made a call to my then publisher The Ulster Society, and within 24 hours, The Orange Card was dead in the water.

A fortnight later, Dawson was named as Caleb's founding chairman. He later became a DUP MLA, but died of cancer in 2007.

Caleb now claims a support base of 200,000 evangelicals – enough to get an MEP, a couple of MPs and a significant clique of MLAs elected.

Politically, Caleb has the potential to be even more influential than the once powerful Vanguard movement in Unionism.

Devout Catholics should respond to Caleb by launching a New Inquisition movement to boost the evangelical Catholic faith within nationalism. Who said religion in politics was dead?

Date, 2012

This article appeared in the Date, 2012 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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