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How I'll restore Faith: Republicans need Christ

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

The degree of spiritual pain which many republicans feel because of the clerical abuse scandals and cover-ups is unimaginable.

I'm not a republican and have never been one, but I've just spent a four-year journey through republicanism trying to devise a non-violent, pro-Christian set of beliefs for Irish republicans.

My way forward as an outsider looking in has been published as an e-book on Amazon entitled An Saise Glas (The Green Sash): The Road to National Republicanism."

Its launch coincided with commemorations to mark the Easter Rising, one of the most violent events in 20th century republican history.

Ironically, on the very day of publication, former leading Continuity IRA boss Tommy Crossan was shot dead in Belfast in what is believed to have been a republican feud.

Equally ironic is that what prompted me to write The Green Sash in the first place was the murder of my close chum, Constable Stephen Carroll, by the Continuity IRA in 2009.

The most bitter encounters during my journey of researching and writing was the sheer hatred which some republicans expressed for the Christian faith.

My National Republicanism was about re-introducing the Biblical principles of Jesus Christ back into republicanism.

At times I felt I was bashing my head against a brick wall, such was the animosity towards my agenda.

Many republicans simply could not distinguish between the Christ of the Bible and the Catholic Church's hierarchy and ceremonies.

To them, the Catholic clergy symbolised Christianity in Ireland, and republicans' brick wall to accepting Christ's teachings was that a number of clerics had been convicted of sexual and physical abuse.

At first, I believed republican dislike of my work was simply because I am an unrepentant Unionist and The Green Sash was being dismissed crudely as 'the hun lecturing the croppies'!

But as the months progressed, that disgust at linking Christ and republicanism grew deeper. For many, Christianity and child abuse went hand in hand.

There was also the paranoia at infiltration by the security forces.

Indeed, half way through the project it became abundantly clear that someone was leaking information to the security forces about who I was meeting for interviews and research, especially within the dissident republican community.

Meeting journalistic confidential sources became so difficult that I even considered abandoning the entire project in the summer of 2012.

What was abundantly obvious was that apart from occasional murders and bombings, dissident republicans lacked the support and capacity for a Provo-style long war of terrorism.

Some of the sentiments expressed at Easter Rising commemorations suggested there is an element in republicanism which still adheres to the false concept of armed struggle.

Such republicans need a reality check – violence does not pay any more!

What is clear, too, is that the fictitious scene from the 2006 Hollywood blockbuster, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, of the Catholic priest blessing the IRA men before they went out to attack the Tans is now a modern myth in republicanism.

The real movie representation of how many republicans view the Catholic Church is more accurately seen in Irish screen icon Brendan Gleeson's latest masterpiece, Calvary, about a Catholic priest.

As a Unionist, I still do not see modern republicanism's need to use violence to pursue its agenda, especially bearing in mind the political achievements of the Sinn Féin peace process.

But as a Unionist, I fully appreciate the tremendous hurt which a group of convicted paedophile priests inflicted on the Catholic community.

I know how that pain would cause them to reject the Church, Christ, their faith and turn to the Godless Marxism of modern republicanism.

Hopefully, my Green Sash's brand of republicanism will restore their faith in the Biblical teachings of Christ. If this happens, my journey through republicanism will not have been in vain.

April 29, 2014

This article appeared in the April 28, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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