Anti-communism in twentieth century Ireland

Issue: 
Autumn 2014

In popular perception, anti-communism in Ireland was uniquely relentless and all-pervasive before the liberalisation of social values in the 1960s. In fact the Irish Catholic Church said very little on communism before 1930, but then waged a campaign which made communism a political taboo for the next thirty years. This article asks why the Irish Catholic hierarchy decided to make war on what was a small movement, how it prosecuted the struggle, and what the consequences were for communists when they decided to go underground and accept ‘spirit of illegality’ in the 1940s and 1950s. While Ireland was exceptional in the extreme weakness of its communism, in the overwhelmingly religious basis of its anti-communism, and in the near-totalitarian social power of the Catholic clergy between the 1930s and 1960s, the policy of the Irish hierarchy, and in many respects the communist response, was reflective of international trends. 

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