Sunday, April 11, 2021

Interview with Ciarán Ó Coigligh

Today, I'm going to do something rather different; an interview (via email) with Dr Ciarán Ó Coigligh, someone whose life's work and convictions makes him highly suitable to feature on this blog.

Ciarán is a published poet and novelist, and a retired academic with NUI Galway, UCD, and St. Patrick's Drumcondra DCU. He taught Irish language and literature at all these institutions. Just this year he gained a Master of Philosophy in theology.

Ciarán is exceptional in at least two regards; first, he was an outspoken Catholic conservative in the ultra-liberal world of academe; secondly, he is a Catholic, Irish-speaking member of the Democratic Unionist Party, a party which has historically represented the Protestant, Unionist population in Northern Ireland, and which was founded by Dr Ian Paisley.

I first became aware of Ciarán when I was recovering from surgery and I read a book he co-edited, An Fhealsúnacht agus an tSíceolaíocht (Philosophy and Psychology). It was so interesting it distracted me from my pain and discomfort. It's only one of many books he has authored and edited; I've just done a search in my own library's catalogue and his name returns twenty-seven different volumes!

I've had the pleasure of meeting Ciarán once, all-too-briefly, when we attended Mass and had lunch together in UCD, back in 2016. But I've often interacted with him on social media, where we have discovered many, many areas of agreement and mutual sympathy. I was delighted and privileged when he agreed to this interview. Here it is!

Q: You've had a very interesting journey politically in that you are now a supporter of the Democratic Unionist Party, who would have been seen as a Protestant or even anti-Catholic party in the past. However, many observant Catholics in the North now vote for them, since they have a much better stance on the life issues and on religious freedom than the nationalist parties. I would vote for them myself if I lived in the North. You say you come from a republican background, do you now consider yourself a Unionist or is your support for them based purely on those social issues?

The fact that I was the only 'outspokenly Catholic conservative pro-life' academic in Saint Patrick's College / Dublin City University, tells you all you need to know about the success of internal subversion, in what was formerly a Catholic college, and is now no longer in existence, having been incorporated into DCU as a secular institute of education. The transformation of Saint Patrick's, Mater Dei, and Church of Ireland College of Education into a secular institute (subsequently joined by All Hallows College) by recently retired Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Anglican Archbishop Michael Jackson constitutes in my opinion the most shocking assault on Christianity on the Island of Ireland since the closing of the monasteries.

Yes, I have a substantial list of publications, including books, peer-reviewed articles, articles in more popular publications, and in recent years, publication on social media. I have for decades been invited to comment on matters of controversy from a conservative perspective on TG4, Raidió na Gaeltachta, and Gaelic-medium programmes on RTÉ, Not long after I publicly acknowledged my membership of the Democratic Unionist Party, and challenged Sinn Féin IRA on a number of matters such invitations ceased. Fachtna Ó Drisceoil [a broadcaster on Radio Na Gaeltachta, Irish language radio] who has de-platformed me told me once that I was a very controversial figure and that many people refused to engage with me on air. I responded that this told him more about them than it did about me. Ó Drisceoil wanted the DUP to nominate me as their spokesman on Gaelic matters. The Party does not operate in that way. I have been de-platformed. I have always been happy to collaborate with others in the field of Gaelic scholarship and have always been happy to speak to local, national or international audiences whenever invited.

I was for many years a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. Ger Casey, Joe O Carroll, and Fr Brendan Purcell were members, as was the late Justice Rory O Hanlon. The Irish branch folded a good many years ago. Some pro-life academics in NUI were members of Opus Dei, but did not enter the public arena to any great extent.

I always liked Mrs Margaret Thatcher. I found her physically and intellectually attractive and an unapologetic defender of British values. I also admired Revd Dr Ian Paisley for his steadfastness in promoting and defending that in which he believed in terms of religion and politics. The Hunger Strikes of 1981 delayed my transition from radical republicanism to radical Christian conservatism by many years. Yes, I am now an Irish Unionist. I feel no allegiance whatsoever to the depraved Republic of Ireland. I would prefer to have a British passport. At least the people of Britain had same-sex 'marriage' and murder through abortion forced on them by the political elite. They did not vote for these barbarities as did the electorate of the Republic of Ireland.

I first contacted Jim Wells MLA DUP when he was forced to resign as Minister for Health because of a vicious lying attack on him by a woman involved in a homo-sexual relationship. She was subsequently found guilty by a court of lying in what she had claimed about Jim. I subsequently offered to canvass for Jim, in a Stormont election, during the course of which, I encouraged him to canvass a militantly Republican housing estate in Analong, South Down, disparagingly known as 'the Congo'. This is now the stuff of folklore amongst the DUP membership and I claim responsibility for his 3% increase in electoral support! The DUP has a commitment to the poor.

I believe the depraved Republic of Ireland would be better off in the Commonwealth, which is a vibrant growing economy rather than in the EU, which has shrunk hugely since Irish accession back in 1973. Re-joining the United Kingdom would be my preferred option.

Q. My own grandfather and father were strongly rooted in the Irish republican tradition, as were my extended family going back several generations, and I feel a certain sense of guilt as I grow more and more alienated from it. It seems to me that the secularism and extreme liberalism we see in Sinn Féin and indeed in Irish society is based in Irish republicanism, especially the legacy of the United Irishmen and their embrace of the ideals of the French Revolution. Do you feel any similar sense of guilt or disconnection from your background?

A. No, I feel no sense of guilt at my now complete alienation from militant republicanism, but I do regret that it took me so long to express my alienation publicly. Over twenty years ago, I was invited to deliver the oration at the funeral of my uncle who was, until his death, a local IRA leader and Sinn Féin representative in several local and national elections. I have a copy of my address somewhere which I shall be happy to share, whenever I find it. During the course of my address, I sang his deserved praises as a local community activist. However, I prefaced those remarks by referring to the fact that 'even those of us who do not share his political views' can appreciate the good he did. My very deliberate use of the words 'of us' was my first ever public distancing of myself from militant republicanism and it was a milestone in my personal journey.

Q: You are an Irish language speaker and you have had many books of poetry and prose published in that language. What do you think the future holds for the Irish language? Both the hopes for its revival as a language of daily life, and the frequent announcement of its imminent death, seem to have been proven wrong again and again. Its survival, as a second language at least, seems assured, but it's extremely unusual to hear anyone speak Irish on a bus or a street (in Dublin, at least) and that seems unlikely to change. Or am I wrong? Do you consider yourself a revivalist? Do you think efforts to revive the language, by government and others, have helped or hindered it?

A: Irish Gaelic is the language of our home. My wife Máirín and I reared our children as speakers of the language. Now adults, they continue to speak it to us and to each other but do not have any circle of friends with whom they speak it. I think the future of the language is bleak. God willing, I may be proven wrong. My wish is that Gaelic be spoken widely throughout the island of Ireland. I have just finished writing a bilingual course entitled Learn Gaelic/ Foghlaim Gaeilge, which I claim will bring an individual with no knowledge of the language to an advanced ability to understand, speak, read, and write it. I wrote the course in Connacht Gaelic and English, and currently I am overseeing its translation into Munster and Ulster Gaelic. So yes, I am a revivalist. 

I see great merit in people (of all nationalities) acquiring facility in Gaelic. Efforts by governments and other agencies have been partially successful on occasion and wholly unsuccessful on other occasions. The great flaw was over-, indeed sole reliance on public schooling and a failure to maintain and increase the Gaelic-speaking population. Gaelic speakers need to marry each other and raise large families and ensure that their offspring marry Gaelic speakers. We have singularly failed in regard to the latter. We are perpetually inventing the wheel. Grotesquely, the Gaeltacht is contracepting and aborting itself out of existence as is the rest of the depraved state. There are thousands of Gaelic-speaking couples in Ireland and even more in the US and GB who have not given their children the gift of the language.

Q: Irish language speakers in Ireland, at least those who are vocal in the media and on social media, seem disproportionately progressive and left-wing, even given the dominance of the liberal left in Ireland. Why do you think this is? It is more apparent than real?

A. Gaelic speakers who are vocal in the mainstream media and on social media have idolised the language. They are functional atheists and promote Gaelic as a replacement for the Christian faith which they have rejected, by and large. More generally, Gaelic speakers, like speakers of any other language, like to be liked, to follow fashion, not to be excluded or marginalised. Therefore, they parrot the latest fetishes of the culture and confuse imitation, translation in this case, with originality of thought.

Q: You are a published and prolific poet. Which poets do you like to read? Do you write poetry at the prompting of inspiration or is it more deliberate? Do you revise much?

A. I have published twelve volumes of my own poetry, with two more to be published in 2021, God willing, 
one of which is a bilingual requiem for the 339 members of the Orange Order
murdered in the Republican Terror.. I read nothing of contemporary writing in Gaelic. There is no one writing from a Christian perspective apart from myself. At almost sixty-nine, I am too old to waste time reading anti-Christian diatribes. I read the Bible daily, I am working again on my knowledge of Old English in the hope of publishing something on its Christian poetry; and on my Latin in order to write something on Patrick, the apostle of Ireland. I revise a lot. Most of the poetry I now write is to celebrate significant milestones in the lives of others: birth, baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage, and death.

Q: Do you get much response from readers of your poetry? It seems to me that it's very hard to get an audience for poetry these days.

A. No. I get very little response. Some of my published volumes have never been reviewed to my knowledge. I feel I am an embarrassment to many, a thorn in the side of others, and maybe a prick in the conscience of a few.

Q: In twenty-first century Ireland, religious faith is often seen as requiring defence or explanation. Do people challenge your religious beliefs and, if so, how do you answer them?

A. My children challenge my faith continuously. I respond by quoting what Jesus said and what the Old and New Testament, the word of God, tells us about the life of faith. My associates in the DUP are, without exception, people of profound faith, who encourage and embolden me in the public expression of my faith.

Q: You were very bravely outspoken as a practicing Catholic in academe. What advice would you give Christians and conservatives working in heavily liberalised professions, like academic life?

A: Raynod Topley, the Head of the Department of Religious Studies, in Saint Patrick's College, a great Christian and a close friend, who has gone to God, once, after a bruising encounter in the University, said to me that I would plough a lonely furrow. You, Maolsheachlann, will do the same. It is the daily burden you pick up in following Christ. You are being watched all the time by those who love you and wish you well and by those who strenuously disagree with your theology and philosophy. However, the good news is that you are forever influencing them all. What you do, what you do not do, how you carry yourself in company and when alone-- all these things influence others in ways you will never know. For example, you came to my attention by virtue of your promotion of the work of G. K. Chesterton.

Stand your ground. Do not allow yourself to be cowed or ignored. If your beliefs are being belittled defend them in a courteous manner and pray for those who treat you unfairly. Many people actually share your political and religious views but few are brave enough to raise their voices in a public forum. You are an encouragement to them. Try to see the image of Christ in all and acknowledge the least good that anyone in your circle does.

Q; Is there any issue you've changed your mind on in the last five years?

A: In the last five years I have come to understand that truth and holiness reside in many Christian denominations. However, this has caused me to reconsider my commitment of long-standing to ecumenical and infer-faith dialogue. I am no longer happy with ecumenical services where fundamental differences of theology and politics are ignored and where blandness is the order of the day. I now believe that I may have a vocation, if that is not too vaunted an expression, to work with Evangelical Christians who challenge me on Purgatory, Mariolatry, the (extra) Sacraments, the Mass, Papal Infallibility, and a number of other aspects of Roman Catholic belief and practice.

I have been greatly disillusioned by the efforts to normalise homosexual relationships and 'families' in the preparations and discussions prior to the Conference on the Family held in Rome some years ago. I was even more disillusioned by the silence of the official Catholic Church here in Ireland on the referendums on redefining marriage and repealing the 8th Amendment and disgusted that the Catholic hierarchy stated that it would not oppose the removal of reference to blasphemy from the Constitution. The invitation to James Martin SJ to address the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018 was a body blow as was the invitation to homo-sexual activists to bring the Offerings to the Altar at the Papal Mass and the inclusion of entertainers who have supported those obnoxious referendums. These matters caused me to curtail my involvement in parochial affairs to a minimum. I maintain that minimum involvement in deference to Fr Martin the parish coordinator who is a very holy man and a great theologian. The latest scandal is that the Vatican and the Irish hierarchy encouraged people to avail of vaccines which derive from the stem lines of infants murdered by abortion. They should have called on Catholic scientists worldwide, including those working in the Vatican laboratory, and others of good will to produce ethically derived vaccines.

When I share fellowship in a Roman Catholic Church I am acutely aware that some present have voted for abominations. When I share fellowship in a Free Presbyterian Church I am certain that those present share my view on the culture of life and indeed it will often be the case that the presiding minister will preach courageously and at length on the topic. I am anxious to accentuate all that is Christian and biblical and to relegate to a secondary position all that is uniquely institutional or denominational in terms of belief and practice so help me God.

Christ is my rock and guide.

Many thanks, again, to Ciarán for these fascinating and honest answers. Christ be our guide, indeed!


  1. Strong words.
    We do see a similarly in other places, where Australian Catholics have felt that they had to abandon their traditional support for Labor, serious American Catholics even more so with the Democrats. I'm not sure all is ever lost though; I've heard positive things about one current state leader of the Australian Labor Party (currently in opposition in his state)- having said that,one of his female party members has just been charged with trying to blackmail him...all uphill.

    1. I'm glad to hear there are some serious Catholics in the Australian Labour party. The Irish Labour Party was once known as the political wing of the St. Vincent de Paul. Hard to believe now. I don't think any social democrat party will have room for observant Catholics much longer.

  2. Often finding "fellowship" better through books or webfora than in real encounters next door makes the present state of Catholicism feel rather unsalted. Glad to find expressions of directness right here as a healthdose.

    1. Indeed! I imagine this is particularly challenging in Sweden!

    2. Few and far between, perhaps also more used to social engineering compared to other more recent victims of the Liberal Left Flying Circus. Devil-induced Nausea 2.0 can be healed by inventing new drugs though, so all is ok we say!

    3. Apart from satiric gloom I'd just add, after reading also the post above on Nostalgia this night, the way of being aware of living in a small nation can make one feel a bit hopeful despite all. Even when that nation is become a globalist-run meltpot some sense in keeping alive a will for distinctiveness remain worthwile. Larger nations may have their similar patterns of "tribal" togetherness, even those with much more than single ethical history, yet still (above the nationalism) the nearest family would always by nature be closer than more distant or newer relatives in one's heart imagery. However much we enjoy some foreign foods, some movie from abroad, or a country love song,there is no place like home in the final more solid considerations. Nostalgic memories are unique, important, inspirations, better value than anything modernist. Least imaginatively and morally, they help to keep off depressions too. National fates and nations themselves comes and goes like we learn in the Holy Scripture.

    4. I completely agree with all that!