‘Prods and masons’

When I arrived in Australia 70 years ago, I was surprised by the sectarian war within Christianity. In British Malaya, the diverse ethno-religious communities lived in mutual tolerance and harmony. We did not transfer any antipathies which may have existed in the various tribal territories ‘back home ‘. Within my Jaffna-Tamil community, mostly Hindu, were 3 Christian sects; we were all close friends.

I soon discovered that the discrimination (not just prejudice) claimed by self-defined Irish Catholics was clearly 2-way! Because I am a Hindu, many of my colleagues in a Catholic-dominated federal public service (during late 1950 to late 1980s) spoke openly (albeit casually) and disparagingly about the ‘prods and masons.’ My ‘beering’ mates in that period included 2 Kennedys and 3 O’Briens.

On a few occasions, I challenged complaining Catholic friends as follows: Swear to me on your Good Book or with hand-on-heart that no male member of your extended family had seduced a Protestant girl and, when she became pregnant, married her (after her conversion to Catholicism); and she had then (presumably) produced the requisite number of Irish Roman Catholics sought by her priest.

Was it not strange that none of those I challenged was willing to so swear? But we remained friends. Did any of them wonder if they, or a near-ancestor, had been produced by an ex-‘prod’.

At a fairly recent party, when a fellow-retiree talked about Irish Catholics having faced discrimination by the prods, I asked him for details of the discrimination actually experienced by his paternal grandfather, father and himself – all 3 having been profession men. Being an honest man, he admitted that none of them had been disadvantaged in their respective careers by being Catholic.

However, he did say (in another context) that, because of his second marriage, he experienced discrimination in church by his priest!

Advertisements