IRELAND: The nineteenth century was
proving to be another age of poverty, oppression and starvation for the
mostly Catholic tenant farmers. They were still at the mercy of the
landlords who charged increasingly exorbitant rents and would not
hesitate to evict any family who could not pay. Keeping his tenancy was a
matter of life or death to the farmer and his family.
William of Orange allied himself to
two popes: Pope Innocent XI (1676/89) and Pope Alexander VIII (1689/91).
These two Popes were more than happy to support William III in his
fight against the Catholic James II, and he was equally happy to support
them in their war against France’s Louis XIV.
When the Irish Catholic priest Fr. Hugh O’Donnell decided it was time to
build a Catholic church in Belfast he had a problem: it costs a lot of
money to build a church. The Catholic population of Belfast was too
small and too poor to provide enough money, so if he had to rely on the
Catholics alone it would take forever. He had to seek help elsewhere. So
he asked the Protestants of Belfast to help him out. As you do.
There are many ways to judge the health of a society. The speculators
in the European Bond Markets judge the health of nations by the state
of their public finances; socialists and trade unionists point to the
way that old people and children are treated and especially the position
of women in society. Economists look at the volume of imports and
exports and at the rate of economic growth. One measure looks at the
scale of inequality within society.
While between 2 and 3 million struck in Britain, in the North of Ireland about
200,000 people took part in the Public Sector strike action on 30th
November. Schools and civil service offices were shut, as were job
centres and council services. Rail and bus services were non-existent.
Union members held marches, pickets, and rallies throughout the country
over the issue of pensions. The main rally took place in Belfast city
centre, where around 15,000 gathered and several thousands spread
over Craigavon, Omagh, Armagh, Ballymena, Derry and other towns.