From Nationality, 19 June, 1915.
Whether Ireland, being thrice as large as Belgium, is a small nationality—whether the essence of nationality be smallness—whether nationality ceases to be a virtue on or about the 53rd degree of North Latitude—these and other profound speculations which employ the philosophers of the Press, the Party and the Police in Ireland—are matters of no consequence in the world.
Ireland cannot shift her frontiers. The Almighty traced them beyond the cunning of man to modify. Those who doubt the wisdom of Providence may hold the Almighty guilty of grievous error in not tacking Ireland geographically to Britain. They may seek to remedy this error by tacking Ireland politically to Britain. They may declare and expound by Act of Parliament, essay, and sermon that they are engaged in God’s work altering God’s plan—they may punish by law those who contend that the Almighty is infallible; but they cannot roll back the ocean encompassing this island, setting its people apart from other peoples, and impelling them to follow their own law of being. They can take a native of this island and teach him to be ashamed of it, teach him to believe in the mistakes of Providence, teach him to bear testimony to his own inferiority and the superiority of all aliens, but they cannot make him other than a native of the island—no more than they can make a greyhound into a hog by teaching him hoggish tricks. They can make him a bad greyhound.
Hence it follows that the natives of this island, whether they like it or not, are merely Irish, and that they can be on this earth never aught but good Irish, indifferent Irish or bad Irish. When a Healy in the ‘Irish Times’ strives to pass himself off as a foreigner by referring to the people of the South and West as ‘natives,’ implying that a native of Ireland is an inferior to a Healy, a Healy does not thereby make himself an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Frenchman, a Turk or a Russian. He makes himself to the eye of reason like one of the performing dogs dressed up to represent another animal—a broken-spirited dog but a dog all the same.
Therefore, since the Almighty forbade us for all time to merge our frontiers and invested us with a nationality that we cannot escape, it is of no earthly consequence whether we are a small nationality or whether in the opinion of other countries it is an indecent thing for nationality to flourish in our latitude and longitude. It is of no earthly consequence, because we have got to accept it.
These considerations are for the Irish who deplore the fact.
As for ourselves, we have no grievance against the Almighty in making us Irish rather than English. We believe Ireland to be one of the finest countries in the world—we believe the Irish, who have survived 700 years of Atrocities that are not fiction and kept their ideals through it all, to be in essence one of the greatest people who have appeared on the earth. We believe such a people restored to political and national liberty must become torches and exemplars of humankind. We believe, in short, that Ireland will be again one of these days what it was in a former day—the Light of the World, and that the chief business of every Irishman is to hasten the Day.
That Ireland has produced and does produce cowards, traitors and seoiníní—and never a larger crop of weeds than to-day—is highly natural and not to be wondered at. The thing to be wondered at is that after 700 years of sowing tares, Ireland produces abundance of corn. In the bonds of the Babylonish Woman she has lost her innocence but she has preserved her virtue.
When an Irish Government rules in Ireland, when an Irish Flag waves among the flags of the nations, when the Irish language is again the language of our people, when they pay no tribute to external power but hold their land by the virtue of their souls and bodies, when the poorhouse and the pauper are memories of an evil time before Freedom returned to this land, Nationality will be vigorous and triumphant but not more a living entity than it is to-day.
In that day, perhaps the present Champions of Small Nationalities will hail the return of Ireland to her own with applause, but if they do not, then Ireland and the Irish will not be a feather the worse.