From An Claidheamh Soluis, August 4, 1900.
‘Whatever the net result of a different course of history might have been the Celtic temperament must bow to accomplished facts. English influence has prevailed in Ireland, and will in all probability prevail in the future. A country incomparably richer and more populous, which lies between Ireland and the Continent, which has command of the seas, and is the sole external market for Irish agricultural produce must continue to wield a supreme influence over Irish society. Obviously it is the interest of the Irish people to cordially embrace English civilisation, while retaining a healthy Irish spirit, and softening with the light Celtic touch the harsher outlines of English life. And if the English type of society be not the most attractive, it is surely in some respects the soundest. It is, moreover, peculiarly fitted to curb the natural extravagance of the Celtic character, and subject it to a salutary discipline. Its calmness serves to check Irish impulsiveness, and its seriousness to restrain the Irish love of enjoyment.’
The writer of the foregoing words is, we take it, of Irish origin—his name is John Patrick Gannon. This is what English education has brought us to—to despair of our country. Irish schools and colleges, this is your work. Fathers and mothers of Irish boys and girls, this is the teaching you acquiesce in. ‘Must bow’—‘cordially embrace.’ Is this the truth or is it an infernal lie? We doubt not that the author of the book in which it has just appeared believes it true. He does not say that an Act of Parliament will set it all right.
Let us ask ourselves a few questions. Can we ‘cordially embrace’ English civilisation and yet ‘retain a healthy Irish spirit’? Will English civilisation lead us into the path of perfection? If so, how is it that English civilisation is unable to ‘check the extravagance’ of the stolid English character, to subject it to discipline, to check its impulses and restrain its love of enjoyment? What is the meaning of the new English slang word ‘mafficking’? As English civilisation has been gradually tightening its cordial embrace around us—an embrace so cordial and hearty that it pinions our arms and squeezes the last copper out of our pockets—have we all the time been growing more serious and more disciplined? Can English civilisation show us higher types to follow than Colum Cille, Geoffrey Keating, Oliver Plunket, Brian—who was a good king even in the eyes of the Vikings—Aodh O’Neill, Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill, Patrick Sarsfield? Are not this bow, this cordial embrace, but synonyms for surrender. Our fathers held English civilisation at a spear’s length when it was fresh, young, heart-whole and healthy. Shall we embrace it now when it is wrinkled, with painted face, false teeth, false hair, heart-rotten, diseased, a slave to gain and to coarse enjoyment, with no better claim on our embrace than that it is full of wealth and grandeur, and the power that wealth can buy, like an ancient hag at the gaming tables of Monte Carlo? Is this our ‘obvious interest’? A saner note is struck by D. P. Moran in the New Ireland Review for August, where he contends that any such bowing or embracing can bring nothing but evil to Ireland as a nation—intellectual evil, social evil, and economical evil. He shows that during the past century, while we have been kissing and cursing the dear lady, not by turns but all at once, what should have been our ‘obvious interests,’ and with them our very being as a nation, have been threatened with ever more imminent destruction.