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Michael J.F. McCarthy, Five Years in Ireland 1895-1900, 1901

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First published in London & Dublin in 1901 and republished here in fully-searchable format is Michael J. F. McCarthy's Five Years in Ireland. Containing over 600 printed pages the original publication contains many illustrations by some of the best-known photographers in Ireland at the time, notably Lawrence and Lafayette, which include numerous portraits as well as landscapes. Michael John Fitzgerald McCarthy was born in Midleton, Co. Cork, the son of Denis McCarthy and Catherine McCarthy. Educated initially at the Vincentian Seminary and Midleton College, McCarthy gained his BA from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1885 and was called to the Irish bar in 1889. Until the publication of Five Years in Ireland few would have heard of McCarthy and little attention has been paid to his numerous publications for the past century. However, at the time of the publication of Five Years in Ireland and subsequent works, McCarthy was one of the most controversial best-sellers in Ireland, greatly influencing contemporaries such as James Joyce. Michael McCarthy is noted, almost uniquely for his time, as an anti-clerical Irish nationalist and despite or perhaps because of his upbringing and early education he was gravely concerned about the role and influence of the Roman Catholic Church in all aspects of Irish life and how these influences had a detrimental effect on the progress of the Irish nation, especially at the point of Ireland's imminent independence. McCarthy questioned the church's wealth and role and so trenchant was his anti-Catholicism that despite being regarded as an Irish nationalist he opposed Home Rule and independence and his anti-Catholic views were much-lauded by Ulster Unionists. McCarthy's best-known anti-clerical publication, Priests and People in Ireland was published immediately after Five Years in Ireland in 1902, which criticised the church's spending, running of schools and lack of oversight by the Government in exercising any control over the church in Ireland. Needless to say, the Catholic Church did not remain silent over McCarthy's attack on it and issued many refutations, notably by Fr. Michael O'Riordan is his Catholicity and Progress published in 1905. In his introductory remarks 'why the author wrote this book', McCarthy states that his work progresses the reader would become aware of 'the evidences of the power assumed by the priests in Ireland' and 'was it right for the present generation of priests, to further increase the calls and claims of clericalism on the Catholic population?' McCarthy suggest not. To this end Five Years in Ireland producing many of the evidences that in McCarthy's opinion that had been the result of undue clerical influence in Irish society, some of which are a little peculiar, but nonetheless of great interest. These include the infamous last witch case in Ireland and the murder of Bridget Cleary by her husband and a number of associates due to Cleary's belief that his wife was a witch. The cause of the murder and the subsequent sentence of manslaughter were both the result of the influence, in McCarthy's opinion, of the influence of the Church. Other evidences offered by the author include evictions, the shadowing of politics by the growth of ecclesiasticism and much more besides. The original publication is fully-indexed and illustrated and provides one of the few historical critiques of the role of the Church in Ireland written by a man who was the product of a Catholic middle class family who had been trained in a seminary and published prior to Irish independence. 

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