Anti-Catholic laws have got to go Letters

Posted By: March 29, 2013

By Fr. Sean McManus, President of the Irish National Caucus

Irish News. Thursday, October 13, 2005

I APPRECIATE the letter of M O’B, Belfast 9 (October 11) which stated “I can assure Father Sean McManus the only date loyalists care about or know is 1690. They have never heard of any law or act passed in 1701”. But I am not ‘assured’ as the facts prove otherwise. The anti-Catholic section of the Act of Settlement 1701 – which mandates that only Protestant heirs can succeed to the British throne – has always been of deep importance to the Protestants/unionists/Orangemen of Northern Ireland. Dr Paisley, for instance, is on record as stressing that his allegiance is not just to the British monarch but also to “Protestant succession to the British throne”.
Furthermore, in 1980 – before Prince Charles married Princess Diana – there was speculation that he might marry a Catholic. An Orange delegation from Northern Ireland went to London to protest: “The row broke out over the week-end when militant Protestants demanded that Prince Charles be barred from succeeding Queen Elizabeth as sovereign if he marries a Roman Catholic. The Protestants said they had raised the matter with the government and insisted that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher promised them that Charles will have to renounce his right to the throne if he marries Marie-Astrid or any other Catholic.
We pointed out that we were most anxious that only a Protestant would succeed and Mr Atkins (then secretary of state for Northern Ireland) gave us a guarantee that the present government would never revoke the Act of Settlement – which would mean a constitutional change in parliament to allow a Catholic to become either Queen or King” (‘Protestants object to Charles ruling with Catholic wife’. Washington Star. Monday July 7 1980).
I should also point out to M O’B that it is a mistake to make such a false distinction between ‘1690 and 1701’. The Act of Settlement was passed following the revolution of 1688 which unseated Britain’s last Catholic monarch, James II – thereby giving ‘constitutional’, sectarian and anti-Catholic shape to the ‘Glorious Revolution’. Back in 1980, the Irish National Caucus launched a campaign to expose the intrinsically sectarian and discriminatory nature of the Act of Settlement.
Our point was that – while it may not mean much to the average English person – it meant a lot to the Orangemen as it provided the ideological and ‘constitutional’ underpinnings of their anti-Catholic bigotry. Since that time we are glad to see that there has been a huge rise in consciousness on this matter.
Now repealing the anti-Catholic section of the act is supported by the Guardian newspaper, 72 MPs and 35 peers, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of England and Cardinal O’Brien of Scotland.
Cicero once said: “Fundamentum iustitiae est fides” (the foundation of justice is good faith). I call on Protestants/unionists/Orangemen to show their good faith and join the Irish National Caucus in calling for the abolition of the anti-Catholic section of the Act of Settlement.