THE ideals which are the inspiration of the advancing Irish-Ireland movement, are summed up in the Gaelic League’s watchword: Náisiún saor Gaedhealach a dhéanamh d’Eirinn: to make a Free Gaelic Nation of Ireland. The object of this book is to trace the meaning of the large aim in some degree of detail. What do Freedom and Gaelicism mean in “real politics”?
For completeness of argument, it has been needful to touch on some obvious first principles. No Irishman has doubts as to the justice of the people’s cause and methods in the Land War, but it has been necessary to set forth the people’s position in such cases in order to exhibit the validity of Irish-Ireland’s whole claims. Gaels will have patience with these apologetic touches, remembering that what is axiomatic truth to Ireland is “extremism” to the stranger, and blasphemy to the Briton.
Many opinions advanced in these pages will be condemned as “Extremist,” and extreme they are as contrasted with the utterances of your Redmonds and Dillons, who have been at pains to reconcile Irish Nationality and English Imperialism, or to mix oil and water. For almost a century, through the baleful influence of O’Connell, those who claimed to speak with the voice of Ireland (all save Parnell) have glossed over the real meaning of Ireland’s case, and have pleaded for “amelioration,” or other benefits such as an English shire might seek. Now that Ireland has rejected the Anglicisation, Materialistic Liberalism and Benthamism that O’Connell substituted for Nationality; now that a Nation’s Rights are claimed, the most elementary of those Rights appears “extreme” as compared with the trivial benefits hitherto begged for.
It thus happens that to assert that the Irish language must become the medium of business, culture and social life in Ireland, and that the English tongue must only be taught to such as have leisure or need for a second language and then only as an alternative to French, German or Spanish (the commercial tongue of the future) is to startle the Anglicised Irishman and exasperate our English friends. Yet, if Ireland is a Nation, and that assumption has been nominally adhered to even by the Dillons of a degenerate generation, it is the most elementary axiom that her National tongue should be supreme within her borders, and other tongues studied merely on their merits.
So, too, with the issues of Self-Determination, Republicanism, and Separation from the English Empire. If Ireland is a Nation, she has as much right to freedom of choice in these matters as any of the submerged Nations of the Central Empires, and there is nothing “extreme” in her claims. To describe Young Ireland’s aims as “extreme” is to call Nationality “extreme,” and, indeed, that is the real claim of English parties, whether Tory or Liberal.
Mr. Dillon may ask for anything short of elementary National Rights, and may play at “Ireland a Nation” so long as Nationality goes no further than shamrocks and coarse English songs about Tipperary; but let him talk of the application of President Wilson’s principles to Ireland, and the Chief Secretary will say: “I cannot believe that the hon. member is speaking seriously.” Such a proposal as Tories and Liberals and all the great bourgeois conspiracy unanimously agree is extremism, revolutionary intransigency, madness, pro-Germanism. “Ireland a Nation” may be played at, but if ever efforts be made to take it seriously, England bids her worldwide chorus of subsidised organs shout it down with one tremendous roar of pained indignation or ridicule.
It is claimed, then, that there is nothing “extreme” in this book, unless the claim of Nationality be extreme. Some opinions expressed have, indeed, taken on a stronger colour than one would have given them a year or two years ago. He whose opinions have not strengthened and clarified since 1916 may be, indeed, one of those rare and far-seeing folk who were right in advance, one of those uncompromising heroes who shaped the course of history. But if he be not one of that choice band, he must be either dishonest or impenetrably dull. Average men, who groped with varying success in the darkness of the days before the war, now see their path with clearness in the light of the new world. Many of us whose instincts are conservative, and who would by nature shrink from the great adventurous cast with which so much was won, find now that all old prejudices and hesitancies must be put aside.
Thus, to many, the Workers’ Republic seemed a vague and even perilous ambition until most recent days. But now, in the new conditions, its feasibility and its inevitableness to Gaelic evolution are as clear to the common man as formerly to the seers. The opinions set down in the following pages are not drawn from official utterances of Sinn Fein and Labour representatives. They are quite personal, and are offered as an attempt to describe the view reached by an average, commonplace individual in the pilgrimage of the Nation through these latter years. It is the first dim view of the Promised Land, whose fair and long-sought lineaments now charm our eager eyes.
Cuirim mo shaothar fá choimirce naomh na n-Gaedheal agus toirbheirim mo leabhar do lucht-oibre na h-Eireann í g-cuimhne Sheumais Uí Chonghaile.
A. De. B