From The United Irishman, December 1, 1900.
This, the closing year of the century, has witnessed a national revival in Ireland that is really gratifying to everybody with a mind capable of appreciating the development of a genuine Gaelic spirit. Unfortunately, there are many, very many, who have still the vaguest and most irrational conception of what the Celtic spirit is, but those who understand the question in its higher forms are making the power of their opinion felt in Ireland, till their influence is spreading over the land, and the people are beginning to unite in an intellectual bond of sympathy around the only ideals that can ever elevate the nation either materially, mentally, or politically. The growth of the language movement, and the extraordinary increase in the number of those who have taken up its study, are the most powerful and unmistakable signs of the awakening – West-Britons, as a rule, don’t learn Irish. And then, again, there are evidences about that the backbone of the nation is being stiffened in the smatter of showing preference for the products of Irish labour. This is not so clear to everybody as is the interest in the language; but that a beginning has been made cannot be questioned. Time was when men were ashamed to speak their native tongue, and few would have ventured to hope that could, through the efforts of the Gaelic League, have so soon been changed, till it is now a safe prophecy to make that the time is not far away, when men will blush to own they cannot speak it. The language movement has stirred the dormant spirit of the race, and lifted them out of the rut of disorganised and hopeless Parliamentary agitation, whose futility and lack of progress has filled the nation with despair, till our people once again breathe freely with a breath of hope, for they see now that something may be done without the hallmark of Westminster on the programme, and when something may be done, who shall say that more and more may not? Who shall dare to put a limit to the progress of a re-awakened nation in the first realisation of the power that is in it? As the language is being raised so may our industries, and so may every ideal and tradition that we have allowed to vanish from our lives be restored, till we become once more Irish in our aspirations and ambitions, and advance on the broad road which Celtic spirit and self-reliance will open up before us without a single look towards London, and as we would have done had the Saxon influence never been known amongst us. The spirit which is bringing students in their thousands every night to learn Irish is the spirit that can do the rest. It only needs to understand that it can do it. The many years of agitation under Parliamentary leaders, from which Ireland has suffered has succeeded in rooting the idea in the minds of most of the people that their wrongs can only be reformed by Westminster, and under that idea we have religiously declined to make a move to help ourselves, waiting for the something-or-another from across the water, which hasn’t come and won’t. The language movement has emphatically shown that where there is a will there is a way, and though the new organisation which has been started by the Irish Shop Assistants for the advancement of our industries appears to many to have entered on a hopeless campaign, the success of the Gaelic League shall be their encouragement, for the spirit behind it is the spirit that can bring the realisation of their hope to the Shop Assistants’ League as well. It is not too much to hope that even greater progress shall attend the efforts towards industrial revival. It needs no such industrial labour as is necessary for the study of the language, and it is but reasonable to expect, in view of the awakening of the country, that when the knowledge of the work undertaken by the Shop Assistants is spread amongst the people they will secure, almost from the first, the sympathy and co-operation of the public as a whole.
The people want to think out matters for themselves, and to shake off the lazy attitude of mind which, for so many years, has left them a prey to every ambitious political adventurer who chose to take the trouble of making a public speech, and they are beginning to realise the want at last. The signs of the times are favourable, and when the organisation of the best spirit and most thoughtful intellects in Ireland is completely under the auspices of the Cumann na nGaedheal, a powerful combination will exist whose influence on the thoughts and ideals of our people will fit them still more to second the work of the language and industrial movements. This tendency towards the revival of the real national ideal is encouraging to contemplate, and holds out some hope to those who have striven to bring it about, that though we have sunk, we have not gone beyond redemption.