I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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From On High

Jamie Blake Knox
Throughout much of the nineteenth century, some leading historians who were also members of the Church of Ireland engaged in a complex intellectual and cultural enterprise. At its heart was a fundamental contradiction, somewhat similar to that experienced by other minority groups in other societies. On the one hand, they wished to establish that their church was an authentically indigenous institution rather than an alien import. On the other they sought to stress the distinct and separate identity of the Irish Anglican church. In nineteenth century Ireland, Anglican identity was not confined to questions of religious doctrine; it also involved political and ethnic allegiance. In the South of Ireland, where Protestants were often in a small minority, there was a certain impulse to become more fully assimilated within the larger Catholic population. But there was also a contrary impulse to maintain what were considered to be essential differences. These conflicting needs were given a further complexity by the distribution of Church of Ireland members across the island. The highest concentration of Irish Anglicans could be found in the North, where, in some counties, Protestants formed a majority of the population. The Anglican church in Ulster had also been profoundly influenced by a larger reformed denomination: the Presbyterian church in Ireland. This influence may have tended to make Northern Anglicans more overt in their opposition to the tenets, and, to an extent, to the popular culture of the Roman Catholic church. Put simply, Ulster’s Anglicans did not share all of the priorities ‑ or fears – of their Southern brethren. This background meant that the hierarchy of the Church of Ireland had to strike a delicate balance if it was to represent the views and attitudes of the Irish church as a whole. There were several key sets of relationships that had to be considered. One involved the interaction of the Church of Ireland with the largest Christian denomination on the island, the Roman Catholic church. Another critical question was how the Irish Anglican church should relate to other reformed denominations ‑ in particular the Irish Presbyterian church. Finally, there was the question of how members of the Irish Anglican hierarchy should deal with any regional or doctrinal differences within their own communion, such as the division between its high and low church factions. This background may explain, in turn, why the choice of author for the first comprehensive history of…



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