From Sinn Féin, April 26, 1913.

Leinster increased in population in the last decade—all the other provinces decreased—Connacht heaviest of all. While Connacht, be it marked, is the smallest of our provinces in area, Munster, not Ulster, is the biggest. But Ulster is the greatest in population although not in prosperity—that distinction belongs to Leinster, whose inhabitants, taken all-in-all, are about 20 per cent richer. Over a million people were born in Ireland in the decade, and more than three-quarters of a million died. The reason why we are not a quarter of the million to the good is—Emigration. Men and women dwell in equal numbers in Leinster, but in Munster and Connacht there are more men than women, and in Ulster more women than men. The fighting population of Ireland, taking youths and men between 20 and 55 and excluding Suffragettes, is a million—of these a third belong to Ulster, and two-fifths of that third are Home Rulers of some type. So where the 250,000 Unionist fighting men of Ulster are at present concealed the Census Commissioners have failed to discover. There are a million and a half people who are or have been married and a million and three-quarters who are too young to be married, leaving a million who ought to be married and who are not. There are less paupers, less sick people, and less emigration-mad people than there used to be, but alas! there are also less Irish-speaking people. There are also less Catholics and less Protestants, less actual workers and more administrators. The numbers of lunatics and idiots increases proportionately. In 1851 we had one-third the officialdom we now support in Ireland, and just one-third the raving maniacs and gibbering idiots.

Kerry suffers most from emigration, Dublin least. The worst county in Connacht from the emigration point of view is Mayo, the worst in Ulster is Cavan, the worst in Leinster is Carlow. The best counties, in the same case, are Antrim in Ulster, Limerick in Munster, and Roscommon in Connacht.

There are well over half-a-million agricultural holdings in Ireland, and two-and-a-half million people dwell on them. Thus the bulk of Ireland is not only decisively agricultural, but directly dependent on agriculture—a factor which must shape the future of all Irish policy—presuming Ireland is permitted to have a hand in shaping it. Leinster is the only province where the direct agricultural population is not in a majority. In Ulster the agriculturalists have a majority of 76,000, in Munster they have a majority of 243,000, in Connacht their majority is 430,000. Of course, the actual number of people directly employed in agriculture does not fully represent the agricultural interest—we may add another million of dependents to the 2 ½ millions of direct agriculturists and take the balance of less than a million as representing the population independent of the agricultural interest—if it can be said any part of our population is independent of that great interest.

What is the deduction—that in a self-governing Ireland the Conservative theory of politics would vastly predominate. And is Conservatism in itself bad? By no means. It is a wise and noble political theory intelligently understood. Unintelligently regarded the theory drifts into Toryism and perishes in reaction. A statesman moulds forces—will Ireland find statesmen who will mould the festina lente of any free Ireland along the broad line of Conservatism or politicians who will force it into Toryism? Mere Blunderers who, by confounding Conservatism with stagnation and reaction will prepare the ground for the Get-wings-quick humbuggery.

Enough. Two-and-a-half per cent of our population is of foreign birth—mostly English—too great a percentage for a country like ours. But if literacy were equal to intelligence we might rejoice—for there are less illiterates in Ireland now than ever. But literacy and intelligence do not always go together. Time was when the self-sufficient nineteenth century discovered that the way to make all men happy, and reasonable, and virtuous—such was the apostolic succession—was to teach them to read. But to teach a man to read is not to teach him to be reasonable or virtuous or intelligent. Sometimes it has the contrary effect. Looking back at that blatant egotistical country’s work—looking at how it insisted on teaching without insisting on educating—how it confounded the two things—one has a picture of a sentimental semi-imbecile leading a little child into a workshop of whirling wheels and edged tools, naming them for the child as Father Noah named his fellow voyagers, and leaving the poor infant there with the smug conviction that it will use them after their wont. What right has a man or a body of men or a State to take a child, to teach him how to read, and to throw him on the world with that knowledge without educating him how to use the knowledge? So, we take little account of literacy. When the people of this country had less knowledge of the art of reading they had more knowledge of the nature of thought. The Irish-speaking people fifty years ago were mostly illiterate, but they were wholly intelligent. The nineteenth century did for them in its Progress.

Indeed if teaching were educating we ought to be the wisest and most efficient people on earth, for save in the multitude of charities, the multitude of schools of one kind or another which dot this favoured land exceeds that of any country of like population or area on the habitable globe. We have more teaching and less education than any country in Europe of our own stature except perhaps Portugal. We have more charities than any of our neighbours, and the amount of money spent on them in administration and soforth would astonish any simple person who, from the prevalence of beggars in our streets, would conclude to the contrary. In every department of the public life of Ireland there is waste—in no department of social life is there, we assert, more woeful waste than in that which labels itself Charity and keeps up so many unnecessary offices and unnecessary staffs to minister to its gracious benevolence.

How miserable is the plight of a country where people are taught that doles and grants are not only to be accepted, but are in themselves acceptable! But what have moral reflections in common with a British Government Blue Book. Let us get back to our Irish-speaking population. There is one county in Ireland in which the Irish speakers are still in the majority—Galway. There are seven others in which the Irish speakers range from a fifth to nearly half of the total population, and there are 166,775 boys and girls learning Irish in the various schools of all kinds in this country—at least there were on the 13th of May, 1911. Of these, 165,086 are Catholics, 749 are Episcopalians, 167 are Presbyterians, 29 are Methodists, and 24 are of other faiths. There are some curious things here. First of all, there are considerably more than double the number of young Irish Episcopalians learning Irish whom there are learning Greek, and the same proportion is true of the Presbyterians, but amongst the Methodists Greek is very slightly in the ascendant over Irish.

If we take it another way, we find that in the Protestant schools of Ireland amongst students engaged in language study about 9 per cent study Irish in the Episcopalian schools, about 4 ½ per cent study Irish in the Presbyterian schools, and less then 3 per cent in the Methodist schools. From which it is to be inferred that the Church of Ireland school is considerably more National in its tone than the schools of the Dissident churches.

More Irish is taught in the Episcopalian schools of Munster than in the similar schools in any other of the provinces, and the least Irish taught in the Episcopalian schools is taught in Leinster. In the case of the Presbyterian schools, Ulster teaches most Irish. Similarly, the Methodist schools. But taking the schools all-in-all, most Irish is being taught in Munster and least in Ulster. There is more detailed information to be found in the Census—some of it valuable and some of it useless. It is valuable, for instance, to know that the majority of the people who understand Irish in Ireland are over 40 years of age. It is useless to give us ten pages of religious statistics which are, half of them, mere variations. But as censuses have been returned in Ireland, this Census is an improvement in minor respects. Figures are wearisome to most men or we should extract many sermons from this Census. There is an eloquence in many of these tables of statistics to one who gazes out across a land blessed by nature and cursed by art which those who prepared them never guessed.