BY MICHAEL DE LA BEDOYERE
/SAID last week that it seemed to me uncertain whether the Catholicity of Ireland was finding or would find itself fully expressed in the now free Irish State.
I did not mean by this that Ireland should take her politics or culture from Rome. The present Sovereign Pontiff has taught us clearly that Rome has no politics and no desire to preach the culture of Western Europe together with the Gospel. In the concordats of his reign and the social encyclicals he has respected and praised very different political systems. while he has actively encouraged missionaries to leaven with Christianity native cultures.
But the Irish political and administrative system derives not from any Irish genius
secondary legislative powers. Further, it is probably true to say that where a people is Catholic in the full sense of the word any reasonable political system can be made to work in the interests of the person rather than the machine. I mentioned last week the genuine democratic spirit which permeates the country and the Way in which Mr. dc Valera has been enabled to exercise a sort of democratic and benevolent dictatorship infinitely preferable to the class or job rule of the liberal democracies.
I should also mention here the often overlooked fact that Catholic Ireland, having achieved after so bitter, internally as well as externally, a struggle her rightful pre-eminence has yet allowed her Protestant minority every sort of religious, political and economic tolerance. A remarkable contrast with Northern Ireland and a standing refutation of the jibes about Catholic intolerance!
Ultra-Conservatism in Economics It is much more in the financial and economical fields that criticism may be fairly levelled, and it is so levelled in Ireland itself.
Mr. de Valera, I know, has the highest sense of social justice and is determined that there shall be no single person in Ireland who has not the chance of leading a full and decent human life, and the success of his efforts to accomplish this leaves him in no doubt that Communism will never be a serious problem in his country. Others I spoke to pointed out that in Ireland today, outside the city of Dublin, there cannot be said to be any proletariat.
I was not, however, wholly convinced.
As an agricultural country the problem is very different from ours, but in the part of the country where I lived as a boy, the retirement of the old aristocracy did not seem to have diminished greatly the number of farm-labourers nor to have changed their lot. Nor could I help marvelling at the fact that in a part of the country famed for its meat and farm-produce the poor children were far from over-nourished, and this throughout a period when the meat was almost unsaleable through the lack of an economic market in Britain.
Capitalist Tradition Much has been done in the way of rehousing, road-making, the establishment of factories whose sites are carefully controlled, providing work and free meat for the unemployed, afforestation, the encouragement of tillage and small-farming, but one felt that a good deal of this was due to the accident of the economic war with Britain and that even so ultra-caution reigned.
The traveller must realise that there is room for a far greater amount of public works and a far more intensive development of Ireland's resources, both industrial and agricultural, and he feels that it should be possible to increase more rapidly the purchasing power of the Irish worker and his power to become part-owner in. the big industries?
The conservative path which the President certainly treads may in the long run be the sounder one, but one would like to feel that it is not in considerable measure due to the linking up of her currency with the British and the slavish devotion to a financial orthodoxy that is certainly not Christian in origin and certainly has not for its object the redistribution of wealth in accordance with human needs. On the one hand i heard it often mentioned that the Irish have heavy investments abroad and that the clergy arc very very conservative about property; on the other hand there was much talk in advanced circles about the need for monetary and economic reform and the subject of social credit was strangely popular.
Could Ireland learn something, even of Christianity, from the financial and industrial experiments of the leader of the great nation across the ocean which the Irish so greatly admire and for the advance of which Ireland's exiled sons have done so much?
(To be concluded.)