Donegal’s fulfilled Ulster’s reputation for truculence with the only No vote in the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. The 51.9 per cent of No voters is a sign of Ireland’s lingering bi-polar tendencies. Women like my friend, who have lived here all their 90+years, make it easy for me to have compassion and respect for the No Voter. I can afford compassion because of my relief that almost half of our voters in Donegal and almost three-quarters of those in the rest of the Republic of Ireland are part of the “quiet revolution” which is slowly taking us into the 21st century. Yet in Ulster the majority hang on to deeply-held and polarised beliefs. Could more awareness of the “other” help move us towards common ground?
Perhaps in the 21st century we will grow up as a country and explore what religion means to us and what it means to the “other side of the house”. Religion is not only about churches and clergy. There are strands of Catholicism, Presbyterianism and other religions, which stand for resistance and solidarity against the threat of suppression and/or the invasion of the mind, body and spirit.
When do belief systems provide help and comfort to our communities and when they do they fuel out-dated aspirations and fears? Can we dislodge Catholicism’s association with the view of Northern Ireland as “under British occupation” – to quote a group of Donegal politicians in 2016? Debates over Brexit and the border can help us transcend out-dated bitterness and beliefs or lead us to pick over old wounds. It’s our choice.