Owen Dudley Edwards
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Irish Catholic culture in the nineteenth century
A study in perjury
in Irish Catholic identities
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The Irish Catholic nineteenth century might seem comfortably to begin on traditional target with the Act of Union of 1800. De Tocqueville's Irish experience threw a different light on perjury. The French Catholic aristocrat and fellow traveller with de Tocqueville, Gustave de Beaumont took the interesting view that the penal code itself was a form of perjury in its vagaries of practice. Perjury by its nature rejects honesty, whatever its motives, and we can only deduce motivation and rationalisation in most cases. The perjury which sealed Nicholas Sheehy's fate invited obvious Catholic replication. The witnesses against Nicholas Sheehy seem to have included two if not four converts to Protestantism, as well as two female prostitutes. The penal code in Ireland, whatever its leniency in operation or lacunae in legislation, invited perjury for moral reasons, arising out of the perjurer's religious fidelity.

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