I raised this question before, and again today on another thread (and already received a hostile reply for raising it), but I think it is worthy of a thread discussion. There is, obviously, a process of de-Catholicization going on in Irish public life (actually a process of de-Christianization generally). This, in large part, has been the fault of the failings of institutional Christianity itself in recent decades - the cover-ups adnd abuses of the far too much power and influence acquired by the Catholic Church in Irish life since the mid-19th Century (Maynooth Catholicism) were always going to eventually lead to a deserved kicking and a reaction against that abuse.
But now, having recognized that very valid point about the self-inflicted nature of much of this process, I ask a question that might arouse hostility from a number of posters (particularly given that I am both English-born and a Catholic).
Now that the Christian heritage that has been intrinsically intertwined with Irish history and culture for over one and a half thousand years, from the monasticism of the 5th century and the 'island of saints and scholars' through to the penal laws and beyond, is being jettisoned, what precisely distinguishes Irish culture from English provincial culture? I can think of maybe the GAA, and the small remaining pockets where the Irish language is regularly spoken, but then what?
The older Irish people I knew grewing up in England, my own grandarents' generation too, they all seemed like a different species to the young-to-middle-aged people I encountered in my time living in Ireland. The older people were an identifiably different people to the host community I grew up among in England. But I look at Irish culture now and wonder what precisely distinguishes Irish people now, particularly after the process of de-Christianization, secularisation, and the advance of consumerist materialism. The old (particularly rural) decent Irish I knew as a young kid were a breed of people unlike any I knew anywhere else. Those people are dying out now. What is replacing them is not, to me, the same.
What precisely distinguishes the culture of Ireland from that of the Geordies or Scousers? Is the last vestige of significant and identifiable difference between being a different culture and little more than a pale imitation of a provincial British culture now being thrown out? You might think that an excellent thing, and that's fine. But, I ask, what makes Irish culture different now?