Page 11, 5th February 1937

5th February 1937
Page 11
Page 11, 5th February 1937 — MR. BELTON (I.C.F. President) AND THE IRISH GOVERNMENT
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MR. BELTON (I.C.F. President) AND THE IRISH GOVERNMENT

De Valera Decides to Ignore Communists

From Our Dublin Correspondent All interest is centred now on the Irish Christian Front, which will be set on a constitutional base this week by a national convention.

Lord ffrcnch has proposed that Mr. Patrick Belton, T.D., be elected President of the organisation: and this almost certainly will be carried.

Mr. Belton is a very well-to-do business

man, farmer and builder. Without his generous financial aid the organisation could not have been floated, and the work done to bring help to Spain could not be accomplished. He gave time and immense energy to propaganda. His election therefore has been earned a priori.

Trouble Over Spain

On the other hand, Mr. Belton happens to be one of the most combative of politicians, and his fighting spirit has brought him into a number of conflicts even as

chairman of the I.C.F. Of these, I reported the last a week ago, when Mr. Belton fell foul of a Minister of State, whom he sought to get to stop a ship of Irish cattle from proceeding to Spain.

There has been a sequel. The Minister pointed out that he had no power to stop ships and that this cargo, anyway, was for the British Navy. Mr. Belton then wrote to the Press pointing out that the Government newspaper had published the report that the ship was destined for Valencia, and naming Mr. Ambrose Martin—a shipper who is known to be opposed to General Franco —as the agent.

Then Mr. Martin wrote to the papers objecting to Mr. Belton's use of his name and asking why food should not be sent to hungry Spaniards. He denied Mr. Belton's allegation that Red gold from Valencia was reaching Ireland.

The whole incident is complicated and without point; for (i) it is no part of our duty to refuse food to anybody who needs it; food is not arms; and (ii) nobody has power to interfere with trade in food.

A more serious matter of dispute is likely

to arise soon. The 1.C.F. proposes to demand that the Government should put a ban on Communist propaganda: that is. should forbid pro-Soviet meetings and lectures, and the sale or circulation of Communistic literature.

The Government already has refused to take this course, and certainly will not consent now.

President de Valera is convinced that to penalise the Communists. a body of negligible size at present, would be to give them a fictitious importance, and actually provide them with propaganda that they cannot arrive at of themselves. He holds that light and fresh air will kill the Communist germ more effectively than any Nazi-like repression.

Irish Psychologist

He knows Ireland both as an Irishman and as an Irish ruler, and his decision will not be changed at the behest of those who do not share the experience or the responsibility of government. It might be added that persecution of a few silly speakers at street-corners, besides giving them notoriety, would divert attention from the real danger spots.

If there Is Red sympathy in Ireland in any dangerous quarter, it is in the literary circles and universities where laws against tub-thumpers would have no effect.

Attack on Mr. Belton

The Irish Press, the Government Party's organ, strongly attacks the election of Mr. Belton, declaring that he never can divide himself into Mr. Belton, anti-Government politician, and Mr. Belton, Catholic Actionist. His election makes the I.C.F. inevitably political.

This view, right or wrong, will be shared by almost all Government supporters, so that the principal party will be aloof from

the I.C.F. from the start. There is one way out of this regrettable dilemma—that Mr. Belton should resign from politics and devote himself exclusively to Catholic Action, thus silencing his critics.




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