‘Pro Publico Bono’



Without getting into personal views on ANY side of the upcoming parliamentary debate in the Republic of Ireland, I think we can all agree on one thing; freedom of religious belief and expression should not interfere with the governance of a democratic nation. On reading the national newspapers at the weekend, I was struck with a sense of déjà vu. Where had I seen threats of religious excommunication being made against elected representatives of the people, against those fighting to extend the freedoms we take for granted today in our daily lives? On the 12th of December 1920, the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Most Rev. Daniel Cohalan, came out in condemnation of the murder and mayhem visited on Ireland and the City and County of Cork in particular.

The Bishop called on those ‘…who shall, within the Diocese of Cork, organise or take part in an ambush or in kidnapping or otherwise, shall be guilty of murder or attempted murder and shall incur by the very fact the censure of excommunication.’[1] At the time many interpreted his words as meaning that the Bishop had sided against the Irish Volunteers, who at that time were engaged in a ferocious struggle with the British security forces, which regularly had deadly consequences. Those same forces were regularly committing atrocities in the city and to whom censure by a Catholic Bishop would mean little. Further salt was rubbed in the wound when Cohalan mentioned by name Tomás MacCurtain and Terence McSwiney in the same speech, seemingly reinforcing his anti-Republican bias and incensing even moderate Nationalists.[2]

This entry and comment by the Bishop did not have the calming effects sought. It did little to hamper the cycles of atrocity and reprisal being played out by the belligerents in the City and County under his pastoral care. About all it really accomplished was to embitter Catholic Volunteers against the Catholic Church, to harden their resolve and spur them on towards the eventual Truce.[3] In a contemporary context of lobbying, it was ill-advised and an unmitigated failure on the part of the Bishop. Perhaps the appointed Church hierarchy should take stock and reflect on their currently approach to excommunication of democratically elected officials for having to make impossible choices pro bono public

[2] Bishop’s Drastic Action, Irish Independent, 13/12/1920.


About eamonntgardiner

I am a PhD Student at the National University of Ireland, Galway. I am conducting research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst British First World War veterans serving as Auxiliary Policemen in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. I have previously conducted research into local Irish Volunteer/Old IRA units in Munster as well as British responses to popular insurgencies in areas they administered. I have previously published a book on the British Counterinsurgency responses to the IV/IRA conflict in Ireland, 1919-1921, entitled 'Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War: Counter Insurgency and Conflict.' I have also published papers on various aspects of that war and also on other insurgencies. I write a regular blog on those and other related matters, which can be read at https://eamonntgardiner.wordpress.com/ My research interests include Feminism and De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism, Insurgency, Police and Military Histories, Institutional Histories. Subaltern Studies, International History of the 20th Century, Modern Irish History, Historiography, History of Conflict, Peace Keeping/Enforcement/Protectorates, Spheres of Influence, Hegemonic Theories, Old and New Terrorism.
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