A Visit to Ireland tr HE journalist is so used to participat
ing and laying down the law on second-hand knowledge that when he gets a chance of seeing things for himself he is apt to become tiresomely long-winded. A week's visit abroad is a common enough experience for the reader : it is only too rare in the life of the working journalist who provides the reading-matter. Still, on the other hand, the journalist ought to have an eye for things and he has the chance of seeing the right people. In a week he can see and hear ten times as much' as the casual tourist. If, therefore, I pontificate a great deal about Ireland, which I have just been visiting, 1 hope I shall not be accused of the American-tourist mentality.
The American Tourist
You remember the story of the American who returned to his own country after a visit to Italy. " And I recall seeing a nice little town with a great big church in the North somewhere. What was it? Yes, it started with F." After running through the gazeteer it transpired that the town in question was Florence! In fairness I ought to add that the modern American tourist is very discerning,
I don't know whether the casual tourist in Ireland would get the opportunity of speaking to the heads of the Church and State—but it would not surprise me if he did. Certainly, to judge by what I saw, it would be lack of time and not any feeling of superiority which would prevent the highest in Ireland from receiving the lowliest of Ireland's visitors. Never have I seen less " side," less snobbery, than in Ireland. There was none of that insufferable English habit of keeping the inferior visitor waiting while you grandly finish writing your letter and then turn condescendingly to the patient sitting in the corner of the room.
was invited to lunch with the Cardinal in his palace at Armagh, though he certainly had never heard of me before. No one could have been a more charming nor a more simple host from the moment when he practically opened his own front door to me until the time, two or three hours later, when he reluctantly let me go, gently waving his red biretta as the car drove off. Meanwhile, he had personally taken me round his own cathedral. He must have done his work on that occasion well into the night.
I cannot say how busy the Cardinal was, but I know how busy the President was, engaged as he is upon the new Constitution. Yet he saw me, and we talked for nearly half-an-hour. It was a great experience, and l have no patience with those who are not thrilled at meeting worldfigures. I promised faithfully not to report what he was saying, for he insisted that he was seeing me as a visitor to Ireland, not a press-man. A pity from the point of view of journalism, but just another instance of hospitality. As a journalist I might have been able to give him some tiny amount of help in diminishing misunderstandings between English and Irish; as a visitor I was just a waste of his time.
I think I shall not betray any confidence when I say that he struck me in his manner and his talk as an idealist without illusions. A very strong thing to be.
The visitor is bound to be struck by the lack of great religious buildings in Ireland. In the case of Catholic churches, history gives the reason why. But, even so, the old cathedral of Armagh (now the Protestant one) is an unimpressive sight, and there seem to be few ruins of really great architecture. 1 was therefore, all the more impressed by the new cathedral of Mullingar, which, in its plain but impressive style, seems to symbolise the new Ireland. Practically every part of it is home-produced and it was built in record time. I saw another interesting church near Armagh, built in a kind of Celtic-Byzantine style. My guide was much impressed, but I thought its oriental-like tower took some getting used to. At least it was not imitative, and Ireland today is clearly a country with a mind of its own.