Cultureshock! Ireland by Patricia Levy

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By Patricia Levy

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Beside it will often be a small shrine with an electric light in the form of a cross. This is kept on all day. In older homes, the shrine will be an oil lamp. Fresh flowers are put beside the shrine every few days. Even the most secular offices will have religious statues or other paraphernalia around, hospital rooms have crosses up on the walls above the beds and schools have any number of reminders of religion. Whole shops are dedicated to the sale of religious artefacts and books. In the country, the outskirts of villages often have a small grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary which is carefully tended with a small garden and offerings around the statue.

Values & Religion A recent survey (May 2005) looked at the attitudes of Irish people to some current issues such as religion. It provides quite startling attitudes among Irish people compared to those that most people held a decade or so ago. ß While only 3 per cent of the population is not Catholic, only 40 per cent attend church once a week, while 21 per cent only attend on special occasions. ß 75 per cent of Irish people believe that the church should allow women priests. ß 87 per cent believe the church should relax its stance prohibiting the use of condoms in Africa as an AIDS prevention measure.

While the Famine was a natural disaster like an earthquake or tidal wave, it is glaringly obvious that the disaster was made worse by English policy in Ireland. Population had been increasing during the 18th and 19th centuries as the peasant farmers turned more and more to growing wheat as a cash crop to pay the rent and depending almost wholly for food on the potato, a vegetable which will not store well. England had maintained trade barriers preventing the Irish economy developing and forcing the increasing population to depend on farming for an income.

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