Back To The Aspirins
ON Fishguard station early the other morning a reader who came and introduced herself to me told me how she was just returning from a visit to her old home in Cork. It was her first in 40 years, and she was wondering why she had waited so long. "They have got everything that we have lost," was her comment. I agreed. That was why I had been to Ireland, too.
Everyone in Ireland—and every friend of Ireland — knows that, inevitably, there is room for improvement there. But the significant thing is that the Irish nation is still clinging tenaciously to the things that really matter whilst most of the rest of the world is busy losing them.
Back in the rush and din of Fleet Street on Monday I opened the drawer of a new desk I had taken over. It was empty except for a bottle of aspirins and a book of petty cash vouchers. Not altogether inappropriate, I felt, Muintir MI Tire ONE of my most stimulating experiences during my stay in Ireland came when 1 visited the annual congress of Muintir na Tire, the rural life movement started in 1937 by Fr. Hayes. of Bansha, Co. Tipperary. Today there are some 200 of Muintir na Tire's parish guilds working to bring new life to rural areas. The member who told me that "there should be 2,000, not 200," was not grousing—he was recognising what a vast potential for good resides in the movement.
The best of the guilds have done wonders, working for better material conditions whilst keeping the spiritual end always clearly in sight. To multiply their number by 10 would be to transform the conditions under which large numbers of Ireland's rural workers live. increase the amount of food produced for a hungry world—and still concede nothing to modern materialism.
I had been invited to give a "fireside chat." The "fireside," it transpired. was a large hall at University College, Cork, and the "chat" was a lecture to the several hundred people who filled it. But it kept its "family fireside" character in the sense that 1 was encouraged as an outsider to give my frank views and criticisms of the "family."
A point which was immediately taken up and endorsed, not least by Fr. Hayes himself. was that one of Muintir na Tire's biggest needs today is to develop more local leaders and to work towards each member thinking in terms of leadership.
Given this, Muintir na Tire may well play a big part in assisting Ireland to demonstrate to the world how the people themselves can solve their own problems through a combination of self-help and Christian co-operation.
ILimerick 1 had the great good 'fortune to spend half a day with Mgr, Thomas Quinlan. the hero of the North Korean "death march.' Despite that appalling experience, his three years as a captive of the Communists, his earlier imprisonment under the Japanese and half a lifetime of hard work in the Orient, Mgr. Quinlan is eagerly looking forward to going back to his prefecture in Korea early in the New Year.
One could wish that the area of the 38th Parallel, which his prefecture actually crosses, was now an absolutely safe and untroubled spot. But present uncertainties do not weaken Mgr. Quinlan. who still shows signs of the enormous physical and nervous strain under which he so recently lived, in his determination to go back to his people.
IIreland, too. I met Archbishop 'Porter, home from Accra and at present recovering from an operation.
1 asked him about his relations with Kwami Nkrumah, the Gold Coast Premier, who, after being Catholic-educated, associated with the Communists during his student years in London.
Archbishop Porter confirmed reports that Nkrumah appears to have abandoned his Marxism completely. He has, he said, become far more moderate and responsible. shows no signs of Communism, has been genuinely co-operative. and reveals his understanding of the Church's position in his relations with the Catholic authorities and community.
I am glad to put this on record again, for his past reputation of sympathy for Moscow tends to linger on.
THERE must surely be some consternation in East European emigre circles in Britain at the news, reported in last week's Press, that Soviet Embassy employees will in future he officially permitted to wander farther afield in this country, and this week's reports that a similar concession has been made to Hungarian diplomatists in London.
It is true that a similar concession has been made to British diplomatists in Russia and Hungary. but I doubt whether it is worth much to them. What we do know is that refugees from Communist rule who have found asylum here have for many months been reporting visits from employees of the embassies of Iron Curtain countries who have tried to coerce and blackmail them into returning to the countries of their origin. Some already live in terror of such callers. This latest news will bring no comfort to them.