Photo above – Dr Raymond Refaussé, who chaired the lecture, speaker Professor Mary Daly and Canon Roy Byrne, chair of the diocesan Disestablishment 150 committee.
Dublin and Glendalough’s commemorations to mark the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland got under way on Friday (January 10) with the first in a series of lunchtime lectures.
A capacity audience filled Christ Church Cathedral’s Music Room for a fascinating lecture from Prof Mary E Daly, former professor of Modern Irish History at UCD and former president of the Royal Irish Academy. Prof Daly presented the political environment in which Disestablishment took place.
In her lecture, Prof Daly shone a light on the divisive politics of the 1860s, nationally, internationally. She said that the lines between religion and politics became blurred and explained that religion was the major badge of identity.
The status of the Church of Ireland as the established church was enshrined in the 8th article of the Act of Union, she said and noted that it could be said that a campaign for disestablishment challenged an article of the Act of Union. While Disestablishment had been raised before, the Irish Population Census of 1861 gave it a new edge – returns showed that 693,000 of the population of just under 5.8 million were Church of Ireland.
Established churches were common in Europe and reflected the religion of the monarch rather than the people. The Irish campaign would have had little success if it had not been for the support in Britain, she said. Gladstone chose disestablishment of the Church of Ireland as a means of uniting the divided Liberal party which she stated was opportune for British domestic politics and Gladstone claimed it offered a key to solving the Irish question.
Prof Daly spoke about how the property of the Church of Ireland was dealt with during Disestablishment with glebe houses and glebe land remaining in the hands of the Church while it was divested of its lands with about 70% of tenant farmers buying their farms under a government funded scheme. This provided a template for Irish land reform.
“While Disestablishment can be represented as the first breach of the Act of Union, it would be difficult to argue that it weakened the Union – on the contrary. We might suggest that Disestablishment meant that the Church of Ireland secured Home Rule – the capacity to determine its own affairs and govern itself – free of Westminster, and of Lambeth. The new structures that were put in place – the Representative Church Body and the Synod gave power to parsons and laity in addition to the Irish bishops. It became an Irish Church. Disestablishment, plus land reform, facilitated the emergence of a common Protestant/Unionist identity – that included both the Church of Ireland and nonconformists and this gave greater strength to Protestant voices in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century,” Prof Daly said.
The lecture was part of the series entitled ‘Perspectives on 150 Years of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland’. The series continues each Friday in January starting at 1.10pm and admission is free. This coming Friday (January 17) the speaker will be Prof Alan Ford, professor emeritus at the University of Nottingham, who will provide a historical perspective. Dr Colin Barr, senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen will provide the Roman Catholic perspective on Friday January 24. The series will conclude with the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, giving the perspective from the Church of Ireland on January 31.
Disestablishment 150 events in Dublin and Glendalough
Friday February 7: Culture Night 2020 – Free Information Morning for Parishes
Christ Church Cathedral Music Room, 11am to 1pm
On Culture Night 2020 it is envisaged that every Church of Ireland church in Dublin & Glendalough will be open to the public to mark the 150th anniversary of Disestablishment. To facilitate this, the Disestablishment 150 committee has organised an open information morning. A member of clergy and two representatives of each parish of the dioceses will be invited to attend the information morning and report back to their select vestries. They will be provided with a wide range of resources. More details and registration information are available here.
January 11 to April 3: Disestablishment Exhibition Christ Church Cathedral
The exhibition features numerous items which help to tell of the journey of the Church of Ireland towards and following Disestablishment. Among the unusual artifacts on show is the table on which Gladstone drafted the Disestablishment legislation which was presented to the Archbishop of Dublin by Lady Ardilaun in 1916. There is also a scroll from the bishop, clergy and laity of the Diocese of Norwich expressing their sympathy and regret at the passing of the Irish Church Act in 1869.
April 26: Dublin & Glendalough Diocesan Disestablishment Service, Christ Church Cathedral