EIRE COULD SET EXAMPLE IN
26 Years Reviewed
By the EARL OF WICKLOW
Now that the Dail is passing the repeal of the External Relations Act we enter into a new phase of our national history and at this stage it will be well to take stock of how we have fared during the last quarter of a century.
Being mainly an agrarian country, agriculture is with us a matter of the first importance. The early years of our independence were marked by wholesale transfer of land to peasant proprietors, under the Land Act of 1922.
This was accompanied by a reorganisation of the dairy industries under the aegis of Patrick Hogan, the first Minister for Agriculture, and a man of outstanding ability.
The world financial crisis came at the end of Hogan's career as a Minister, and we have no evidence of the way in which he would have dealt with his department in the light of new and harder conditions.
Mr. de Valera came to power in the new epoch, and our difficulties were increased by the economic war over the land annuities, which he initiated, while at the same time he embarked on a policy of industrial expansion.
Agriculture went through several lean years, but I think it would be fair to say this would have been inevitable, no matter what Government was in office.
The present Government has reverted to the Hogan policy of pasture in preferance to tillage, but once again world conditions are abnormal; schemes are on foot for reclamation of land, analysis of soil, drainage, and similar measures.
Owing to the state of Europe the scales seem at the moment to be weighted in our favour, but one hopes that the final result will be a well-balanced economy.
Industry in Ireland was almost eliminated in the 18th century by the hostile influence of English commercial interests on the Government.
Everyone in Ireland succumbed too easily to the theory that the Irish people were not adapted to industrial life, and this state of affairs continued for more than a century.
If Mr. Cosgrave's Government was perhaps rather conservative in its approach to the state of affairs, Mr. de Valera was certainly wholehearted in his onslaught, and while on balance the country has reason to be grateful for his efforts, there is no doubt that a number of industrialists, sheltering behind protective tariffs, were able tb build up private fortunes at the public expense, for, in all too many cases, the margin of profit seemed to be their guiding principle,
I hope I have never failed to praise the co-operative principle. as exemplified in Fr. Hayes' organisation Muintir na Tire, and I hope that what he has begun in agriculture will also be developed in our industrial life.
We are a Christian community, but I fear we must own 'that our national life is still run more according to the principles of 19th century materialism rather than the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
Thep resent Government has the opportunity of giving to the world the example of a Christian state, and one hopes they will not throw it away.