October 26th, 1934

Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 01:00

This editorial wondered why the Irish were better administrators abroad than at home.

SOME POLITICIAN once made the remark that if Ireland should choose to break the imperial bond, and should demand and receive all parts of the British Commonwealth which have been won and held by Irishmen, she would take half the Empire with her. Like most exaggerations, this picture has more than a germ of truth in it. Even if one omits the millions of people of Irish blood who have become citizens of those other lands, it remains a fact than an altogether disproportionate share of the British Empire to-day is occupied and administered either by citizens of Saorstát Éireann or by British citizens who were born in Northern Ireland and still regard the six counties as their home. It is among these “exiles,” and not in this small island, that the real strength of our nation lies. Scattered over the six continents and the seven seas, they are the true propagandists of the true Irish nationalism. No foreigner is sufficiently misguided to call them Englishmen; for their patriotism, if quiet, is too manifest to permit such a mistake. There are hundreds of thousands of people in English-speaking lands to-day who are unacquainted with the name of the Governor-General of the Free State; but that there is a country called Ireland, that it has traditions of its own and a pride of its own, all people are aware; and their knowledge is due to these exiles of ours, and to none other.

Many students of history have asked why Irishmen are able to make such a success of life outside their own country, while they make such a mess of it at home. Again, there is some truth in the charge, and various explanations have been given, of which the most flattering is that we are intolerant of one another’s rule. However it must be explained, that fact is as unfortunate for Ireland as it is lucky for the rest of the world. In other countries the Irishman demonstrates himself a ruler, if not of genius, at any rate of unusual ability, while the experiences of recent years are beginning to suggest that he has little, if any, capacity for government at home. Ten years ago there were abundant signs that Ireland could produce statesmen to serve her own purposes, but the hope, we fear, has been disappointed. A single Irishman can keep order within an area of hundreds of square miles in Africa; the whole prestige of a sovereign Government seems unable to maintain the rule of law in Ireland. The Irishman who attains to a seat in the Cabinet of another country is swift to prove himself a sound, and often a brilliant, leader; here in Ireland it is, apparently, impossible to turn out a statesman who will both command the confidence of his people and steer them upon a straight course. Perhaps a day will come when the paradox will be righted, and our leaders at home will reveal something of the same fine quality that has made Irishmen respected and obeyed elsewhere throughout the world for three hundred years. That day cannot come too soon.


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