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151 Con­ clu­ sion On 31 Jan­ u­ ary 1866 ­ Thomas MacK­ night ar­ rived in Ire­ land at King­ stown, now Dun Lao­ ghaire. Hav­ ing made his name in Lon­ don as a jour­ nal­ ist and po­ lit­ i­ cal ­ writer, he was in Ire­ land to be­ come the new ed­ i­ tor of ­ Belfast’s North­ ern Whig. The next day, 1 Feb­ ru­ ary, he made his way to West­ land Row to take the train to Bel­ fast, and he rem­ i­ nisced about the jour­ ney ­ thirty years later.1 An En­ glish lib­ eral who was both an ad­ mirer and a biog­ ra­ pher of Ed­ mund Burke, MacK­ night was—at least at this junc­ ture—sym­ pa­ thetic to Irish Cath­ o­ lics and­ deeply hos­ tile to Irish “To­ ry­ ism” and “Orange­ ism,” view­ ing the Prot­ es­ tants of Ul­ ster as lit­ tle more than an “En­ glish gar­ ri­ son” and op­ pos­ ing both the “Prot­ es­ tant as­ cen­ dancy” of the ­ Church of Ire­ land and the “ter­ ri­ to­ rial as­ cen­ dancy” of the Irish land ­ system.2 He was in­ tent, as he pre­ pared to take up his new po­ si­ tion, on pro­ mot­ ing what he de­ scribed as “lib­ eral re­ form” in Ire­ land. It was per­ haps­ ironic, then, that on his jour­ ney to Bel­ fast MacK­ night ­ should meet with a rep­ re­ sen­ ta­ tive of many of the ­ things he pro­ fessed to op­ pose. As the train ­ stopped­ briefly at Por­ ta­ down in ­ County Ar­ magh, a “tall and sol­ emn cler­ gy­ man” en­ gaged him in con­ ver­ sa­ tion: “Ah! . . . there was bad work here. Have you ever read ­ Foxe’s Book of Mar­ tyrs?”­ Foxe’s great work had under­ gone an en­ thu­ sias­ tic (if con­ ten­ tious) re­ vi­ val among En­ glish ev­ an­ gel­ i­ cals in the Vic­ to­ rian era.3 But MacK­ night was un­ af­ fected; he re­ plied that he had not read it, to which his new com­ pan­ ion ex­ claimed, “Every Prot­ es­ tant ought to read it.” “How do you know that I am a Prot­ es­ tant?” said MacK­ night. “I did not say you were,” re­ plied the cler­ gy­ man laugh­ ing, “all I said was that every Prot­ es­ tant ought to read ­ Foxe’s Book of Mar­ tyrs.” Pre­ sum­ ably for a man of ­ MacKnight’s prin­ ci­ ples, this ex­ hor­ ta­ tion to read the great mar­ ty­ rol­ ogy was in­ con­ gru­ ous. “Per­ haps I may not agree with you,” 152 Conclusion he re­ plied. “It may be as well not to keep alive mem­ o­ ries of evil deeds when they fos­ ter re­ li­ gious an­ i­ mos­ ities.” The un­ named cler­ gy­ man de­ duced that MacK­ night was a lib­ eral and re­ vealed in turn that he was both a con­ ser­ va­ tive and an Orange­ man. “You are a gen­ tle­ man of ­ strong con­ vic­ tions,” said MacK­ night. “Very: we have ­ strong con­ vic­ tions in the north of Ire­ land.” Si­ lence de­ scended on the jour­ ney. But some min­ utes later, the cler­ gy­ man­ struck up the con­ ver­ sa­ tion once again and began to dis­ cuss the “ed­ u­ ca­ tion con­ tro­ versy”—the issue of re­ li­ gious in­ struc­ tion in the Irish Na­ tional ­ School­ system. In­ deed, this was es­ sen­ tially the rea­ son for the ­ clergyman’s jour­ ney, as he was en route to ad­ dress a meet­ ing on this very sub­ ject in ­ Belfast’s Vic­ toria Hall. He op­ posed any re­ stric­ tions on re­ li­ gious in­ struc­ tion, being of the view that the Na­ tional ­ Schools were god­ less in the first place, but he was par­ tic­ u­ larly con­ cerned that be­ hind the ed­ u­ ca­ tional re­ forms being con­ sid­ ered by the in­ cum­ bent Lib­ eral govern­ ment lay the hand of the Cath­ o­ lic ­ church. It was at this point that the train jour­ ney pro­ vided the cler­ gy­ man with a more ex­ plicit re­ min­ der of why Ca­ thol­ i­ cism ­ should...


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