Is Ireland Losing Its Soul?


Sir, - After reading the brilliant interview with John B. Keane in your Weekend supplement of July 21st, I thought we might be treated to a series of such pieces. Instead we had an article last Saturday by an American called Thomas Moore. Your introduction describes him as a psychotherapist, giving him a scientific respectability, but his views are clearly those of a New Age guru.

Moore's article is full of nonsense like: "The Irish are among the few remaining on the earth in whom an alternative, soul-filled approach to ordinary living is still alive." He looks back on an Ireland that was full of "depression, loneliness, alcoholism...But these shadow qualities are only raw material for more soul." He goes on to lament that "sexual containment is giving way to sexual exuberance and excess".

John B. Keane chronicled the Kerry whose passing Moore regrets. Keane's world included those whose lives were destroyed by alcohol and the "sexual containment" that Moore glorifies. It also included Cricklewood and suchlike places, where Kerry's dispossessed lived out their lives. Anyone who wants a real psychoanalytic understanding of that Kerry (instead of the cod psychotherapy of Moore's ramblings), should look to Nancy Scheper-Hughes's Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics, a book which I suspect was greatly influenced by Keane's work.

Keane's vision of north Kerry in the mid-20th century is a vision of Heaven and Hell. John B. is the whiskey priest of the Celtic Twilight. The difference between the interview with him and Moore's article is the difference between true understanding and sentimentality. Could we have a second interview with John B. before we have another piece by the likes of Moore, who would surely be happier writing for Ireland on Sunday? - Yours, etc.,

Tim O'Halloran, Ferndale Road, Finglas, Dublin 11.