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Father Mathew and Ireland's 19th Century Temperance Movement

The caricature of the Irish involves a lot of alcohol and drunkenness. It often comes as a surprise when people discover just how widespread and culturally ingrained temperance and teetotalism is in the country.

Father Theobald Mathew's temperance crusade was the single most extraordinary social movement in pre-famine Ireland, enlisting millions of Irish men and women to give up drink for life.

During an extraordinary 5 year period over half the population took the pledge to give up alcohol for life. As part of this complete social change pubs were changed to reading rooms and Temperance bands exploded in popularity.

This coincided with, and arguably enabled, a national identity which coincided with Daniel O'Connell, and enabled the mass-meetings he organised.

Professor Paul Townend of University of North Carolina, Wilmington wrote the book "Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity" and is an expert on Father Mathew and the temperance movement.

He joined me for a fascinating chat.