From The United Irishman, June 10, 1899.
I have read within the past week two articles which concern Irish Nationalists – one in the pages of the New Ireland Review and the other in the columns of the Daily Express. A writer in the review argues that Ireland is nothing if not Gaelic, and has been nothing since her political life ceased to be Gaelic two hundred years since, and can be nothing until it becomes Gaelic again. Grattan and 1782 placed the Pale at the head of Ireland, asserts our philosopher, and since then we have lost our character and gone to the dogs. All our demigods of two centuries he strikes and gibes at – our agitators were mere Englishmen and our rebels one and all West Britons. Tone, Grattan, Flood, and Emmet had no conception of an Irish Nation; Mitchel and Smith O’Brien were simpletons; ’98, ’48, ’67, and Parnellism were English movements in their essence and the Gaelic movement of today is the only National movement we have had since Gaelic Ireland fell at Aughrim.
There is nothing startingly new in Mr. Moran’s views. He has pilfered his ideas from W. A. O’Conor, and gives them to us touched up and tinted, as his own. But, unlike his master, he lacks caution and particularises too much. When Mr. Moran attempts to leave his guide he always gets lost. His article is founded on the fallacy that English oppression was racial instead of political and economic. A little thought would have convinced Mr. Moran that race-hatred has nothing to do with the retention of the English grip on Ireland and never had. Mr. Moran makes an even greater blunder when he places the Pale at the head of Ireland, “for the first time,” in 1782. The Pale had been at the head of Ireland for 140 years previously, since the morning when its marchmen met the Gaels on Knocklofty and Rory O’More swore on behalf of old Ireland to fight for the King of England; it was the Pale that led Ireland at the Boyne, at Aughrim, and at Limerick, and it was the eminent Palesman Sarsfield whom Gaelic Ireland worshipped and the men of the Pale, the Prendergasts, Dillons, and Lacys, who led Gaelic Ireland to victory on the Continental battlefields. The Gael voluntarily accepted the Palesman as his countryman 250 years ago, and the Pale has led him, not always wisely, but always consistently, since against the Power which cares no rap about whether an Irishman be of the Pale or of the Gael so long as he be robbable. Mr. Moran blunders again when he asserts that Grattan, Flood, Tone, and Emmet had no conception of an Irish Nation. The acceptance of the Catholic by three of them was acceptance of the Gael and Flood’s appeal to his country’s ancient glory and native language proves him to have been no kicking colonist. Our revolutionists, for whom our teacher has little but contempt, were absolutely right in their position. They did not hold that the cutting of the connection meant all we mean when we speak of Ireland a Nation; but they held as men of common sense that the rebuilding of the nation must be preceded by its political emancipation. They did not seek to minimise the force of the Gaelic tradition; the Gael, Daniel O’Connell, sought to destroy it. Mr. Moran, like the group with whom he appears to be connected, seemingly desires a Gaelic-speaking Ireland, plus the British connection.
Since Mr. Moran has been posing for some time past as the inspired teacher of his ignorant countrymen, I may point out that he is evidently unacquainted with Irish history. At the period of the Jacobite war, when the Gael and the early and late Norman Irish were practically undistinguishable, he tells us “the line of demarcation was hardly blurred,” Grattan and his followers, we learn, had a hatred of other people’s religion, Swift regarded Irishmen with contempt (what a vile, sly old lie this is!), Flood, we read, left his fortune for the study of Irish, Tone, we are told was not an Irishman, was not more extreme than Frederick Hervey, the English Bishop of Derry, was, in fact, a Frenchman born in Ireland of English parents. Surely no man who had even cursorily studied Tone could write such nonsense. Mr. Moran’s knowledge of Irish history and Irish leaders is equalled by the accuracy of many of his statements – “Literature in the English language is English literature,” “Not one in a thousand Irishmen believes in his heart that we were anything but savages before the Norman appearance,” and so forth. Mr. Moran denies he wishes to rake up racial prejudices, and concludes his article by telling us that “the Queen’s Irish were never so numerous as they are today and to add to their effectiveness they dress themselves in green.” Thus our philosopher strives to rouse the suspicions and antipathy of the Irishman of fifty generations against the Irishman of five.
I turn from the truculent Gael to the gentle “John Eglinton,” who descants in the Express on regenerate and unregenerate patriotism; methinks it should have been degenerate patriotism. Patriotism, to “John Eglinton,” appears no very great thing; the Individual gives to it more than it can repay. One smiles to read our clever essayist’s assertion that the Celt is dead just as one has finished reading the whooping champion of his existence. Ireland of today, according to our thinker, is the eldest child of John Bull, fruit of his rough amour with the Celt, and whilst the parent survives “can hardly look for political greatness and independence, and it would seem to be her part to become a nation in mind and spirit and to allow unregenerate patriotism to give place in her bosom to regenerate.” “John Eglinton” is no true genealogist; and if the child cannot breathe and live in peace whilst the old man lives, does it not seem to be her part to knock the old man on the head?