Awarded a papal medal!

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2014), Volume 22

In attempting to depoliticise the division, Nugent discouraged sectarianism and blatant displays of party political affection. In fact, one instruction earned him a papal medal, much to his amusement. He wrote to his wife, Catherine:

‘What do you think I got today? My head RC chaplain is a Jesuit Father and lives in Rome though he is English . . . He had an audience with the Pope and showed him an order I published about treating RC Churches out here with the same respect as a Protestant Church at home, a matter some of the Ulstermen were bad about. The Pope seems to be very much touched and sent me a silver medal and his blessing. Very nice of him.’

This only intensified unionist suspicions regarding his religious persuasion. This prompted a further letter home:

‘I have not the least doubt there will be plenty of people in the north of Ireland who will quote the Pope’s medal as proof that I am a traitor and RC. I don’t mind. I have no sympathy with the narrow-minded outlook of the extremists up in the north, any more than I have with the Sinn Féiners.’

Several days later another letter declared:

‘I daresay I am still suspect as to my politics. Damn their politics. I always feel . . . with this division that they would really rather have someone else. I know they are always writing home about everything I do or say and can’t stand anything but praise. They had too much butter given them while at home.’

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