From Sinn Féin, 4th October, 1913.

It is the privilege of Dublin to be provided with two Universities maintaining three Professorships of Political Economy. It is the misfortune of Dublin to be at present engaged in an industrial civil war, in which all the principles of political economy are being pummelled out of recognition. We thought it a manifest public duty on the part of our economic instructors to have offered a distracted public mind some guidance from their stores of garnered wisdoms, but the Political Economy Professorial body did not think so. Two of them have not been heard from by the public since the present row began. Previous to that, Women’s Suffrage and other current questions could move them to deliver their unimportant views in the public Press or from the public forum. When last seen by the public eye, one was straddling the political fence and the other chipping out verse with an axe.

Professor Kettle has expressed himself in four articles on the situation in Dublin. They do credit to his heart and his pursuit of the epigram, but we cannot find a presentation of the case from the point of view of National Economics. An economic curiosity occurred to Dublin last week when it beheld a ship carrying a cargo of food into a country where there is food, in abundance, but a shortage of money to buy it. We reverently waited for Professor Bastable and Professor Oldham’s observations on this freak of economics, but up to date they have apparently not heard the news. Professor Kettle has not remarked it as extraordinary. So, our instructors vouchsafing us no instruction, we must think it out for ourselves.

It has been recently discovered that the Irish workingman is not an Irish workingman at all. He is a unit of humanity, a human label of internationalism, a Brother of the men over the water who rule his country. There is nothing to divide him from them except a drop of water. Race, tradition, nationality, are non-entities, and history and its formative influences on character and outlook a figment. He is exalted from the meaningless title of Irishman to the noble one of Brother. His Brothers were formerly called Englishmen, and under that title were improperly regarded by him as his enemies. As Brothers it is obvious they are his friends. They have counselled him to no longer darken his mind by repeating the reactionary and unenlightened shibboleth, ‘Ireland for the Irish.’ ‘You do not,’ they say reprovingly, ‘hear us crying, ‘England for the English,’ which is quite true, as they have got it already and will hold on to it like leeches until the boot of the Kaiser is strong enough to dispossess them.

The Function of an Irish Brother – if we may use the antique adjective – is to Fight. The Function of the English Brother is to ‘stand behind him.’ In the recent Boer War the English Brother discharged this function with such ability that he only got hit once in twenty times to the Irishman. When the Irish Brother Goes Out, the English Brother Stays In to attest the ‘solidarity of Labour,’ and give him a helping hand. But he is mindful of the claims upon him. He subscribes one-third of a penny to feed his Irish Brother.

The £5,000 for which our English brethren pledged their credit represents the magnificent subscription of less than a halfpenny per head from the ‘British workingmen’ – and, proportionately is equal to a subscription of about £800 from the whole working-class population of Ireland.

The Irish are not an economic-minded people. If they raised £800 to assist foreigners they would send the foreigners the hard cash, and it would not occur to them to invite the World, with his camera to snapshot the operation. The English are an economic-minded people. The money they raised to aid the Irishmen would have represented an economic loss to England at large if it were sent in cash to Ireland. To reduce that loss, they sent in kind. There was some protest, but as one English Brother said, ‘We can do what we like with our own money.’ This is a right unquestionable. The Brotherhood of Man, the Solidarity of Labour, the Identity of the Interests of the Proletariat, Fraternity and Equality notwithstanding, the hard fact that the English Brother’s money is his own to do with as he likes, and that he will take jolly good care he does as he likes with it, is the soundest of economic sense, whatever the Irish Brother may think about it.

The Englishmen, therefore, had a perfect right to send, not the money, but money’s worth; if they so pleased. But let Irishmen understand the meaning of the transaction. Certain Englishmen subscribed £5,000 for the Irishmen who Went Out while they Stayed In. But if they had sent that £5,000 here in cash; England would have been the poorer by the industry which £5,000 could stimulate. Therefore the English kept the cash, and with it stimulated English industry to the extent of £5,000, the product of which they gave to Ireland. Thus the actual cash has been kept in England and still remains in England circulating and stimulating English trade.

This is sound economics, and perfectly legitimate. No sensible man would dream of doing other than applauding the English for the good business sense they have shown. Not a sovereign of the £5,000 has been lost to England, and England at the same time has gained an enormous advertisement for her benevolence to the poor Irish, and has impressed the minds of hundreds of simple Irish labourers with the belief that she has made a very great sacrifice in their behalf.

The food was bought from a great English Co-operative Society, whose directors and shareholders include prominent English Labour Leaders and many of the men who subscribed the £5,000. This large purchase will naturally enhance their dividends or the value of their property. That is also perfectly legitimate. This particular English Co-operative Society has some footing at present in Ireland, and had a stronger footing some time ago. It aimed at securing the Irish rural districts, but after a period the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society drove it out. It has now secured without paying a cent for it, a popular advertisement in a large section of urban Ireland, and we shall not be surprised to see it making an effort soon to establish itself firmly in Dublin on the strength of that advertisement.

What, then, would follow? This society procures and manufactures all its supplies outside Ireland. If it established itself here, and secured a large share of popular support, it would do so at the expense of existing Irish industries. If we buy its matches, soap, candles, cocoa, boots, clothing, and so forth, we do so at the expense and to the loss of Irishmen employed in producing these articles in Ireland. The ultimate result of the establishment of co-operative stores, supplied and directed from England, is obvious and inevitable, if they received any large measure of Irish support – scores of minor industries in urban Ireland would be killed and thousands of workmen in them would lose their employment for ever.

Co-operation ought to come – in connection with trade unionism in Ireland. But if it be not Irish co-operation it is death to a percentage of Irish industries and disemployment for a large number of Irish workingmen. It is, of ought to be patent to every Irishman that whatever disputes may occur between the Irish manufacturer and the Irish workman, the substitution of the Irish manufacturer by the English manufacturer is cutting off one’s head to stop a toothache. We have no blame for Englishmen attending sharply to their own economic interests. We admire their economic sense. We wish Irishmen had only half as much, and if the teaching of political economy in this country is not directed to that end, it can never be a service to the nation.