The Irish Experiment


AS I write, it is now almost exactly five years since that fateful night in December 1921 when the Treaty between England and Ireland was signed in the council chamber at Downing Street and the Irish Free State was born. The signatories on both sides risked much. On the English side political existence, on the Irish side life itself. Within a year the two principal Irish signatories were dead — Arthur Griffith, a spent, worn-out man, dying, broken-hearted, from the strain and anguish of civil war, and Michael Collins falling victim to a rebel bullet in an obscure wayside ambush. The decision they had taken was one involving great faith and courage. Looking back now, we know it was justified, but for long the issue lay in the balance.

The Treaty gave to Ireland the freedom and status of the Dominion of Canada within the British Commonwealth, conceding to the six northern counties of Antrim, Down, Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Armagh, now called Northern Ireland, the right of remaining outside the Free State if they so desired. In effect it conceded everything short of the title ‘Republic’ and an undivided Ireland. The ink of the signatures was hardly dry, and every sensible man in Ireland was still gasping at the magnitude of the victory snatched from the very jaws of defeat, when the Sinn Fein Party was split from head to foot by Mr. de Valera’s repudiation of the Irish plenipotentiaries’ action. This party had always consisted of two parts, a moderate wing and an extreme wing. These were kept together up to July 1921, when the truce with England was declared, by the necessity of presenting a common front to the enemy. But the long-drawn-out negotiations with Mr. Lloyd George which followed, in which Mr. de Valera showed no inclination to come to grips with realities, proved that all was not well behind the scenes. Mr. de Valera himself, who, in spite of his meteoric rise to fame, was in the unhappy position of being a third-class man in a first-class place, was to some extent a bridge between the two factions, but when the terms of the Treaty were finally disclosed he was pulled down on the extreme side of the hedge, with the result that he gave an air of national importance to an irreconcilable and impossible minority which he could neither lead nor control. There followed the wearisome debates on the Treaty in the Dail or Irish House of Representatives, aptly christened ‘the Great Talk,’ the acceptance of the Treaty by a few votes, interminable attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable, and a general election in which the common people of the country, aided by proportional representation, burst the bonds of a dishonest political pact made by the rival factions and declared decisively for the Treaty, whereupon there came the chaos of civil war.

It is difficult for those unacquainted with Irish politics to comprehend the reasons for these strange and tragic happenings. The real truth, always disguised and never honestly admitted, was that the great majority of the Irish people did not particularly want a republic, although they did want freedom. They had seen the constitutional movement sink in the Serbonian bog of the Westminster Parliament. They had watched John Redmond, too great a gentleman and too honest a man to be a match for English politicians, fail before intrigue and treachery. Nothing was left but force. England had always responded to force when words had failed. But one could not morally use force in support of a constitutional demand such as was embodied in the Home Rule Act of 1914. So in 1916, when the Home Rule Act had been suspended and the new movement flared into active rebellion, it was as a republic, demanding and asserting its right to complete independence. How many of its leaders really believed such an aim attainable it is difficult to say. To most of them the word ‘republic’ was synonymous with such complete freedom as is enjoyed by France or the United States of America, rather than with any special form of political government. In so far as their demands were dishonest they ended in political disaster and recrimination. Those of them who were sincere had forgotten, if they ever knew, that England’s objection to an Irish Republic is not to the thing but to the name. The real rulers of England will not suffer such a challenge to their entire social system to exist at their very door.

Mr. H. G. Wells in his latest novel has put the matter in words I cannot better. ‘The King,’ he writes, ‘is necessarily the head and centre of the old army system, of the diplomatic tradition, of hieratic privileges, of a sort of false England that veils the realities of English life. While he remains, the old army system remains, society remains, the militant tradition remains, they are all bound up together inseparably.’ It was against this rock that whatever was real and honest in the Irish Republican movement broke in vain. The attitude of the great majority of the Irish people was one of expectancy and watchfulness. In 1918 they had given a clear electoral mandate against the old Irish Party and in favor of the policy of abstention from the English parliament. ‘The people,’ said Father O’Flanagan, one of the Sinn Fein leaders, in a candid after-victory speech, ‘ have voted Sinn Fein. What we have to do now is to explain to them what Sinn Fein is.’ The victory was indeed one of emotion rather than of conviction. The subsequent election of 1920 was not contested at all, because by that time the gun had taken the place of the ballot box. The people remained quite unconvinced that the policy of proclaiming a phantom republic was a certain panacea for our political ills, but they had perforce to give the experiment its chance. When the Treaty was concluded they soon discovered, however, that a Free State in the hand was worth any number of republics in the bush, and decisively said so. There followed the civil war.

Mr. P. S. O’Hegarty, at one time member of the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and now Secretary of the Free State Post Office, has pointed the moral of that tragic dénouement in his recent remarkable book. ‘I know of no clearer example,’ he writes, ‘of the application of the Moral Law than this tragedy of the Irregular devastation of Ireland. We devised certain “bloody instructions” to use against the British. We adopted political assassination as a principle; we devised the ambush; we encouraged women to forget their sex and play at gunmen; we turned the whole thoughts and passions of a generation upon blood, revenge, and death; we placed gunmen, mostly half educated, and totally inexperienced, as dictators with powers of life and death over large areas. We derided the Moral Law and said there was no law but the law of force. And the Moral Law answered us. Every devilish thing we did against the British went its full circle and smote us tenfold, and the cumulative effect of the whole of it was a general moral weakening and a general degradation, and a general cynicism and disbelief in either virtue or decency, in goodness or uprightness or honesty.’ I need add nothing to this powerful and courageous indictment.


After enormous damage, both moral and material, the civil war ended in unconditional surrender in April 1923. The country began slowly to recover its normal life, and the Government, which had been living in a cage behind armed guards, began to take the air once more. If they and their predecessors, Griffith and Collins, were to a great extent responsible, by their weak parleys with de Valera and the extremists after the Treaty, for much of the disaster which fell upon us, they had the courage to face the consequences of their own actions. That the infant State survived is due to their courage and determination in the face of enormous odds and tremendous difficulties. In the five years which have passed since they took office they have fought a bitter civil war to a successful conclusion, created law and order out of chaos, embarked on farreaching social and economic schemes, balanced the national budget, and initiated the completion of land purchase, that legislative and financial process by which the tenant farmers of Ireland have been enabled with state assistance to acquire the absolute ownership of the land, thus putting an end to the landlord régime. These achievements are all the more remarkable when one remembers that they are the work of young and inexperienced men who started their executive career without a considered policy in front of them or a properly organized party behind them. Much of their work has naturally been improvised and hasty. When they took office the ship of state was sinking. Water-tight bulkheads had to be closed and collision mats swung into position. There was little time to think. But now the ship has been brought safely to port and the work of repair and reconstruction has begun.

The two principal pilots who remained on the bridge and saved the ship are Mr. William Thomas Cosgrave, the President, and Mr. Kevin O’Higgins, the Vice President, of the Executive Council. Mr. Cosgrave, formerly Alderman of the Dublin City Council, in which he courageously fought the forces of graft, sentenced to death for his complicity in the rebellion of 1916, — a sentence commuted to penal servitude for life,—and afterward Minister for Local Government in the Irish Republican Government of 1919-1922, represents in his person the triumph of common sense over highfalutin nonsense. Quiet, affable, and entirely unassuming, but courageous and not always tactful or polite when aroused in political controversy, he has kept a firm grip on the realities of Irish life, and is both a wily politician and an honest man. At a moment when Ireland had suffered enough from hairsplitting geniuses, the Almighty wisely sent her Mr. Cosgrave to redress the balance. Mr. O’Higgins is made of sterner stuff. He is the strong man, almost the Mussolini of the Free State, and as straight as he is strong. A young man, still in the early thirties, the bitter years through which he has passed have left their mark on his face and character. It was he who piloted the new Irish Constitution through the Dail. As Minister for Justice he has had the responsibility for creating a new police force and a new judicial system. It was characteristic of the man that, with the embers of civil war still glowing red throughout the country, he sent out the young Civic Guard without arms to police the countryside, and though at first there were unpleasant incidents, the experiment is now fully justified. A skillful parliamentarian, and a logical, forceful speaker rather than an orator, he has inherited not a little of the acid wit for which his uncle, Mr. Timothy Healy, now first Governor-General of the Irish Free State, is so renowned. Other prominent members of the Ministry are Mr. Ernest Blyth, Minister for Finance, a hard-headed Ulster man, strong enough to keep a tight hand on the national purse strings and wise enough to rely on his permanent officials for advice; Mr. Hogan, Minister for Agriculture, who has already overhauled and regulated our agricultural export trade; and Mr. Desmond Fitzgerald, Minister for External Affairs, a student of French literature, who has recently distinguished himself at Geneva.

Such are the leaders of the Government Party, or Cumann na nGaedheal (pronounced Cuman nang ale, and meaning ‘League of the Gaels’). This party has suffered from the Government’s virtues. The Irish people have painfully discovered that a native government can really govern, that a native tax collector is more intelligent and certainly more merciless than his English predecessor, and that the Civic Guard are more wide-awake than the Royal Irish Constabulary. The price of freedom has to be paid and it is not at first a pleasant operation. Perhaps the Government has made it needlessly unpleasant by its application of what for brevity may be called the ‘A Chara’ policy. Every official letter in the Free State begins with the words ‘A Chara,’ the Irish equivalent for ‘Dear Sir,’ continues in English, and ends with further salutations in the Irish language according to the whim of the Ministry concerned. I do not know of any other Government in the world which indulges in such an absurdity. Trivial as they may seem, these linguistic antics are symptomatic of a deeper malady, an exaggerated national self-consciousness, a desire to outflank and out-Herod the Republicans. This spirit of make-believe is indeed a direct inheritance from the old Republican policy and permeates the whole outlook of the Government, in education, in industrial policy, and in external affairs. Many instances of its application might be given, such as the recent struggle with the medical profession, now happily settled, as to whether the Irish doctors were to retain their present privileged position of partnership under the British Medical Council or abandon it for a lower status, without any gain either professional or national. Similar and far more wide-reaching issues have arisen concerning the compulsory teaching of the Irish language in the primary and secondary schools, which, owing to the fact that virtually the entire adult population of Ireland is Englishspeaking and that few competent Irishspeaking teachers are available, is likely, if persisted in, to produce a generation which will be neither Irishspeaking nor educated. All this proves that the ‘Playboy’ spirit still flourishes in Irish politics and will continue to do so until the people show decisively that they are sick of it. Nevertheless it is more than probable that the present Government will be returned to power at the next election, in a few months’ time, either in a majority or as the controlling force in a more moderate coalition. This is the best thing that could happen, for we want a strong government more than a strong opposition, and the present Government has both strength and experience.

The opposition is at present composed of several small groups, none of which offer very enticing fare to the electors. The Labor Party alone, under the intelligent leadership of Mr. Thomas Johnson, has enunciated a definite policy of a doctrinaire kind which may be summarized in his statements that ‘the general good and national wellbeing should take precedence over property rights’ and that there should be ‘guaranteed work for the willing worker and guaranteed prices for the tillage farmer.’ The Farmers’ Party, on the contrary, has done little to increase its prestige. It has no leader of outstanding ability and no considered policy even in its own domain of agriculture. Its inconsistent demands for economy at all costs and government grants of every conceivable kind have been its only serious contribution to public discussion. The People’s Party, conceived by Professor Magennis, has scarcely survived its birth and will certainly not survive the general election. Its policy is so nondescript that it can be flavored to taste and swallowed by anyone gullible enough to believe in its curative properties. Captain William Redmond, John Redmond’s son, has recently launched a new party called the Irish National League. It is understood that the policy of this organization, which is still somewhat nebulous, will be directed toward securing the unity of Ireland, but its real raison d’être seems to be a desire to put out the Government at all costs. It will no doubt receive considerable support from the friends of the old Irish Party, the town tenants, the liquor trade, and the exsoldiers’ associations, with all of whom Captain Redmond is associated. That these elements are likely to constitute a serious menace to the present Government is doubtful. Ancient loyalties are of little use without a present policy.

All these small parties are alike in having no money and few suitable candidates. The people as a whole are thoroughly sick of politics and not anxious to subscribe funds to make a politicians’ holiday. There remain the Republicans. This party might, if it had not embarked on civil war, be now a formidable opposition. But it lost its last chance when it refrained from entering the Dail in December 1925 in opposition to the Ulster Boundary Agreement. Now, like the autumn leaves upon the trees, sapless, shrunken, and dead, it awaits only the searching wind of a general election to blow it into oblivion. Mr. de Valera, whose cunning is greater than his common sense, seeing that the end is near, has relinquished his title of President of the Irish Republic, which was little more than a joke, and has sought to escape by forming a new party which is willing to enter the Dail if the obnoxious entrance oath is removed, a step the Government is hardly foolish enough to facilitate. Miss Mary McSwiney, the noblest Roman of them all, remains the custodian of the last fragments of extreme Republicanism, and the doings of Lord Oxford’s late Shadow Cabinet are mere child’s play compared to her activities, for this amazing and indefatigable lady has now created a new Shadow President, elected apparently by a Shadow Dail in some very shadowy back parlor. No one even knew an election had taken place until this unfortunate person, one Art O’Connor, was introduced quite casually to a public meeting as President of the Irish Republic, a political entity which now exists only in Miss McSwiney’s fertile brain, and, according to Mr. de Valera, does not function over a square foot of Ireland.

Unfortunately a sense of humor is not a strong point among Irish politicians. Thus it is not surprising to find the Government treating such a party with the contempt it deserves. Quite recently one of the Republican emissaries from America was captured red-handed on landing at Cove with money and dispatches, which incidentally revealed the fact that the Republican movement in America was both bankrupt and disorganized. The judge at the trial fined him heavily and let him out on bail, probably the most striking commentary on the futility of his crime. May I add that the best service Irish Americans can now render this country is to let it alone? In short, Republicanism has for the present ceased to be a serious force. The recent attacks on a few isolated police barracks are really the swan song of the young ‘heroes’ with revolvers who still insist on playing at gunmen and committing murder. Miss McSwiney openly deplores the fact that her organization has sunk to one fifth of its former strength, and she and her friends now detest Mr. de Valera more than the Government. It may be doubted whether both these irreconcilable factions will together return ten candidates to the next Dail. They will certainly do their best to erase each other.


Far other and more normal problems than the dissection of oaths are beginning to trouble the people of the Free State. Foremost among these is the question of Protection, which has brought home to the public, perhaps more than any other factor, the realities and, one may add, the inconveniences of freedom. During the century prior to the Treaty of 1921, Great Britain and Ireland were, of course, one fiscal unit. Since that Treaty, and particularly since the setting up of a separate customs boundary for the Free State in April 1923, the position has been completely altered. On that date the Free State began to enforce against Great Britain the protective tariffs up to then common to both countries. They were few in number. Chief among the articles thus taxed were tobacco and cigarettes, motor cars, musical instruments, clocks, and watches, as well as a wide range of goods of comparatively minor economic importance, mostly chemicals. The effect of this change was soon felt, especially in connection with the manufacture of tobacco, and as a result several factories were established in Dublin by the English tobacco combine. The Government at once appointed a commission of economic experts to advise it on the whole question of tariffs, but, when the commission reported in favor of Free Trade, promptly ignored its recommendations. During the last three years the Government has imposed various fresh tariffs, the principal being on confectionery, soap, boots and shoes, clothing, and furniture. Practically all the industries included in these tariffs were already in existence within the Free State, and there can be no doubt that they have received some stimulus from the protection afforded them, although most of them cannot fully supply the demands of the home market and probably never will.

These new tariffs have created considerable political controversy, being strongly opposed by the farmers, who rightly believe they have everything to lose from a policy which must inevitably increase the cost of living without assisting agriculture, whose natural and only market is Great Britain. They recognize that restricted imports involve restricted exports, and the Free State cannot afford to lose its export trade. Our neighbors are our best customers and their prosperity is a condition of our well-being, as the coal strike has only too painfully reminded us. Even the Government itself is divided on this difficult question and has now sought to escape from the dilemma in which it finds itself by appointing a Tariff Commission, on Canadian lines, of expert civil servants to report on the clamorous demands of the various interests, such as the flour and woolen manufacturers, who are not yet protected. All such demands must receive the imprimatur of this Commission before being considered by the Government. It remains to be seen whether this barrier will save the Government from sliding further down this slippery slope. The Free Trade critics of this policy have not been slow to point out that the world-wide reputation of such firms as Guinness and Jacob has been built up without the assistance of tariff’s, and that these are in effect a protection for inefficiency. But all this controversy is healthy. It shows that we have abandoned the pursuit of shadows and are settling down to the discussion of political and economic realities just like other normal nations.

The more serious problem of the Ulster boundary has been happily solved after many excursions and alarms. The Treaty left this problem undecided, but provided that a Boundary Commission should be set up whose findings should be binding and conclusive. The setting up of this Commission was long delayed by the refusal of the Northern Government to participate. Finally the British Government appointed an Ulster representative and the Commission sat. When their report was practically complete, in November 1925, Mr. John MacNeill, the Free State Representative on the Commission, resigned because of the uproar in the Free State caused by the premature disclosure of the decisions arrived at. A serious crisis at once arose, but after a conference between the British and Free State Governments in London an agreement was arrived at, the most important articles of which provided that the Northern boundary was to remain as it was, and that the Free State was to be released from its obligation to assume liability for a share of the national debt of the United Kingdom at the date of the Treaty on payment of approximately six million pounds in discharge of English liabilities for Irish War Compensation.

This agreement has had important consequences. It has rescued the Free State Government from the results of the latter’s own folly and it has acquitted England of all further obligation to interfere in Irish affairs. It is not likely that North or South will call her in again. The real truth, which both parties to the boundary controversy had refused to recognize, was that the only settlement that could be of value to either was a settlement by mutual consent, and that any other settlement could only inflame the bad feeling already existing and postpone any successful approach to Irish unity for many generations. The Northern boundary is a scar which past conflict has left on the Irish body politic. The sensible policy was to leave it to heal under the influence of time and experience. The Free State Government, on the contrary, desiring to placate its extreme adherents in the North, kept on irritating the wound, which became septic and nearly destroyed it. The London agreement was really due to the fact that the peoples of England, the Free State, and Ulster were tired of quarreling and, after three years of the status quo, had realized that the interests of no one could be advanced by any trivial alteration of the boundary, which was all that could be expected. The respective Governments were wise enough to realize this truth at the eleventh hour. The wisest course now is for both Free State and Northern Ireland to go their own ways, neither courting nor threatening the other, but trusting to natural forces to reunite the country; and this is what is happening. The boundary is beginning to teach both North and South that Ireland cannot afford to be divided. The Free State Government’s attitude toward Northern Ireland is one of passive rather than active friendship. No action of its will render reunion avoidably more difficult, but it will not at the same time alter what it considers the best policy for the Free State in order to please Northern Ireland.


The financial results of the London agreement are of the utmost importance and leave the Free State with a national debt of approximately only twenty-two million pounds. This is less than one year’s tax revenue, and works out at about £6.9.4 per head of population. Few countries are in a better financial position. It may be added that the national loan issued at ninetyfive pounds in 1924 has since gone over par, and that although our taxation, for a variety of unescapable reasons, is much too high, the Government is doing its best to reduce it progressively without departing from the sound principle of making taxation meet recurrent expenditure. Eventually the Free State taxpayer, like his fellows elsewhere, must choose between high taxation and a drastic curtailment of the present standard of national services. One cannot indulge champagne tastes on a beer income, and we must slowly but surely alter the extravagant English methods of administration we have inherited. We are beginning, somewhat painfully, to realize that votes in a free country are translated into action and have to be paid for.

Our relations with England are also improving, although it may take another generation to exorcise completely the anti-English complex from Irish mentality. Mr. O’Higgins has recently laid down the Government’s position in this respect with strength and clearness. He points out that this is no vassal state and that no section of the community desires it to be so, that peace has come between our people and the people of Great Britain, such a peace of mind and heart as has not existed since the conquest. He believes that friendship will follow because there is no desire to subject the interests of this state and its people to any other state or people under the British Commonwealth. The Government, he says, knows the status it has accepted and enshrined in the Constitution. It is no mean status, and the Government is not going to allow it to be demeaned by extremists of any kind. Challenged from the right, challenged from the left, it will keep to the middle of the road. This attitude is best for Ireland and best for England too. The more nearly we approach absolute equality in our relations with England, the less English politicians seek to interfere in our affairs, the greater will become our friendship. Good will between the two countries must grow from our racial ties and economic necessities and not from any artificial political union. The policy of the Free State representatives at the Imperial Conference has been directed to these ends, but in pursuing them they must exercise a wise expediency and regard for the feeling of others. The Free State is anxious to abolish all right of appeal from Dominion courts to the Imperial Privy Council, which is the High Court of Appeal of the British Empire, but it may be doubted if French Canada will agree to such a drastic proposal, as this right of appeal is a real safeguard against any interference by the Dominion Parliament with the rights the Treaty of 1763 guaranteed the French province.

The Free State has also entered the field of international politics, and at the last sitting of the League of Nations Assembly its delegation challenged the Cecil-Fromageot plan by contesting one of the vacancies on the Council of the League. The speech of Mr. Desmond Fitzgerald on this occasion was universally praised, and made it clear that, while the Irish delegation held that all shades of opinion should be represented from time to time on the Council, it denied the right of particular groups to be at any time represented therein in any specified proportion, and denied more emphatically still the right of any group to choose from among its members a state which the Assembly would be under an obligation to elect. If the Free State is to justify its international existence its representatives must be prepared, as in this case, to speak their minds honestly and to act fearlessly, not as satellites in the English political system, nor out of antiEnglish prejudice, but as good Europeans striving for international peace and good will. Our position in the European system, an island beyond an island, coupled with our past political dependency on England, has prevented our people from taking an intelligent interest in foreign politics. The march of events will soon change this condition if our press and politicians take the trouble to educate themselves, and public opinion, as regards foreign affairs.

In the economic field substantial progress has also been made. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture, Mr. Hogan, after a careful study of the problem, has embarked upon, and has almost completed, a systematic overhaul of the agricultural industry. Farreaching schemes for the improvement of the education of the farmer and for the advancement of the science of farming and dairy produce have, within the life of the present Government, passed from the stage of almost agelong discussion into legislative and executive fact. In these reforms the past work of the Irish Department of Agriculture and also of the Irish Agricultural Organization has been a factor of considerable help. Sir Horace Plunkett’s policy of ‘Better farming, better business, better living,’ has been put into practical application. The exports of eggs and creamery products have been completely controlled and licensed, with the result that Irish agricultural produce is now taking first place in the British market. The comparative statistics as to the general trade between the two countries for 1925 show that per person the Free State sold goods valued at £13.14.0 to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This is below the figures for New Zealand and Denmark, but greater than for Australia, Argentina, Canada (its rivals in food supplies), and all other countries. As regards purchases from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, New Zealand came first and the Free State second, buying per person goods valued at £12.14.0; Australia came third, and other countries far behind.

These figures prove clearly that Mr. Hogan is right in thinking that Irish agriculture requires technical rather than political treatment for its improvement, and that the remedy for agricultural depression is not to be found in loans, subsidies, and tariffs, but in improved methods of marketing and production. The Shannon waterpower scheme, which is the Government’s magnum opus, will also help to this end. For this ambitious scheme the advice of the leading hydroelectric engineers in Europe has been obtained and acted on. The first stage, already lar advanced, is estimated to generate 153 million units even in a very dry year, and 288 million units (a unit is equivalent to one kilowatt hour) in an average year. The cost of this stage is estimated at £5,200,000, and the work has been entrusted to the famous German electrical engineering firm, Messrs. Siemens-Schückert. The English power system is built upon a basis of coal, and we have in the past followed suit, although we have practically no suitable coal and have to import what we use. Every other European country has built up its power system on its natural resources. The moral is obvious. Our power basis is all wrong, and the only natural policy is to aim at a power supply from home resources. This policy will both decrease our imports and increase production of essential commodities at home. In addition, by the provision of a liberal supply of cheap power universally available, it will, beyond all doubt, assist in increasing our exports, and reduce our coal imports by a sum of approximately £1,290,000 a year.

The Shannon power project is not only the first big project of our Government, but also an act of national faith in the future of the Free State. This faith is justified. Other important projects are also on foot. At Carlow, a prosperous agricultural centre, M. Lippens, one of the largest sugar manufacturers in Belgium, has financed and built a beet-sugar factory of the most modern type, which is capable of treating fifteen hundred tons of beet a day and which is now about to start operations. This factory is receiving a state subsidy, on a sliding scale, till the year 1936. At Cork Mr. Henry Ford’s motor-car factory has now been in successful operation for nearly ten years and has proved a happy example of industry and courage in the midst of war’s alarms.

In other directions we have also made enormous progress. Law and order have been fully and completely established over the entire country. Roads, railways, hotels, and traveling facilities of all kinds are being constantly improved. The Irish Free State is now as peaceful as any country in Europe and as progressive as most. It is tackling its social problems with courage and intelligence. It is at present engaged in a revision of its liquor laws on the sane principle that it is not the business of the law to make people good but to preserve public order. It is proposed to reduce the present excessive number of public houses or saloons by at least a third. An indication of our attitude toward family life is disclosed by the refusal of the Irish Parliament to give facilities for absolute divorce with right of remarriage. This facility in effect never existed in Ireland, because in the past it could only be obtained by promoting a special bill in the English Parliament, a thing only possible to very wealthy people and seldom availed of. The great majority of the Irish people, both Protestant and Catholic, object to divorce, not only on religious principles, but because they believe it is a social evil, and that it is better that a few people should be unhappy than that the whole domestic life of the nation should be undermined. In this connection it is well to point out that the old dishonest political catch cry, ‘Home Rule means Rome Rule,’ has been conclusively exploded. The Catholic Church has not interfered in the affairs of the Irish Free State, and the Government has, both in its legislation and in its administration, treated Protestants with absolute fairness. A majority of the High Court judges, all appointed by the present Government, are actually of that persuasion. No cleric of any creed sits in either House of Parliament or on any local government council. In no country are the relations between Church and State more rational, correct, and cordial. Neither has infringed upon the proper sphere of the other.

In local government matters reform has also been undertaken, corrupt local bodies dissolved, and the basis of administration altered. It is highly probable that the American city manager and council plan, with suitable modifications, will be adopted for our cities in the near future. The recent census discloses a decline in population for all Ireland of 3.7 per cent. This was not unexpected, and the chief drain is still, unfortunately, emigration to America, whose large Irish population exercises an enormous attractive power. This emigration must be reduced next year, when the quota falls from 28,000 to about 8000. How far it will be deflected into other channels, such as Canada and Australia, remains to be seen.


These are the results of five years of Irish self-government. What of the future? Can we say that the intangible national spirit of Ireland is satisfied and that the Free State is based on stable foundations? This is a question worth answering and difficult to answer. For over three hundred years our history has disclosed a series of almost rhythmic revolutions. We have passed from rebellion to repression, from repression to revival of the national spirit, and so on again through the weary cycle. Have we now reached a condition of stable equilibrium? I believe the answer lies with England. If her statesmen have enough courage and foresight to concede the position of equality which we demand, and virtually enjoy, and which as a mother country of the Celtic British race we can justly claim as of right, then our relations must progress from courtesy to friendship, and the last embers of the old hatred will grow cold and gray. The recent decision of the Imperial Conference that the Dominions are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status and in no way subordinate to one another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, proves that this concession is no longer contested by England.

There is one other element which must not be overlooked. Every patriotic Irishman loves Ireland more than he ever hated England, and because he loves Ireland he wants to see her united as one political unit from sea to sea. This end can never be reached by the Republican road within the lifetime of living man. It may and probably will be reached by a federal process within the British Commonwealth before many years are past. This factor cannot be ignored by any farseeing Irish statesman. It is difficult to see how anything save gratuitous interference or aggression by England is likely to provoke hostilities between the two countries, and I believe no English government of any complexion will take that responsibility. England has wisely written off the Free State in her books as a bad debt and will never again seek to enforce payment. Thus, while it is still true, in the words of Parnell, that ‘no man can set bounds to the march of a nation,’ it is also true that the future of Ireland will develop through an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process.

Mr. Cosgrave accurately described the present relations between Ireland and England when, on receiving the freedom of Manchester in November last, he said: ‘I feel that your people and mine, separated for centuries by a tragic series of events, can now give an example to the world of what may be achieved by free association between free nations. We have the most profound conviction that present relations will ripen into sincere and lasting friendship, and that the people of these two islands, cast by God so close together on the surface of the sea, while differing in racial and national characteristics, will henceforth devote themselves rather to discovering grounds of common endeavor and common achievement than to seeking in the pages of history for memories of bitter things which must be buried forever, and to finding therein that lasting peace and friendship which God has surely destined for us.’

This attitude reveals not only true statesmanship but true Christianity. If these principles are followed on both sides of the Irish Sea the stability of the Free State is assured. But far more, even, than this is involved, because on the good relations existing between Ireland and England depends in great measure the attitude of the greater Irish race beyond the seas. The future of Anglo-American relations, which involve more than any other single international factor the peace of the world, must be vitally influenced by that attitude. Ireland has a great and noble part to play upon that vaster stage. At home we have many advantages. Our external debt is negligible. We have no foreign entanglements. Our chief industry, agriculture, is essentially stable in nature, and our people are among the most conservative in Europe. Our climate is mild and equable. Peace and order reign throughout the land. The German engineers on the Shannon, the Belgian sugar factory at Carlow, and the Ford factory at Cork have shown clearly that our workmen are intelligent and industrious. They have proved, so that he who runs may read, that the destiny of the Free State rests ultimately on the honest work of its individual citizens. Our national motto must be Sursum corda. Freedom has been achieved, but it is the beginning and not the end of our journey.