AN INDUSTRY IN EVERY
IN November 1933 a group of men, collected to
gether by Fr. John Hayes, met at Mt. St. Joseph Guesthouse at Roscrea Abbey, Ireland, for a week-end of discussion on rural problems. It was there that they got the idea of MUINTIR na TIRE, Ireland's Rural Life movement.
It was born when the first guild was founded in Tipperary town four years later. When Fr. Hayes went, Mumfir na na Tire went also and as he moved up and down the country, preaching and pleading, the movement began to spread so that when he died, it had over 400 guilds scattered all over the country.
Next week (August 10-17) it celebrates its coming of age and for this dawn of young manhood it returns to the scene of its conception, Mount St. Joseph College and Abbey. Four Rural Week-ends and three Rural Weeks will then be the Roscrea record, a record far beyond that of any other institution which has been connected with the movement.
One out of every three parishes in Ireland now has a guild (450 in all) and each guild will send at least two delegates to attend during the week.
There are no party-politics in MuirUir na Tire and among the more noted visitors during the week will be the Taoiseach, Mr. Eamonn de Valera and the opposition leader. Mr. John A. Costello: and other groups interested in local problems, groups such as Marra no Feirme and the I.C.A. will also send their representatives. What is Muintir na Tire doing ? and What does Muintir na Tire plan to do ?
Most ambitious project was the jam-factory started by Fr. Hayes immediately after the war and situated in his own parish of Bansha in South Tipperary. The capital outlay of 113,000 was a lot for a small village but the government grant was generous and business-men were helpful. It absorbed all the local employment available for some years, but of late the jams have lost favour and the factory only functions in spasms.
The glove-factory in Tipperary town under the care of Davy Dwyer was a happier venture and now offers work to numbers varying between 50 and 80. Young lads are qualified as cutters and girls as machinists; the quality is good and the demand lively. An offshoot of it (named "Glenara") was begun in Ransha village with Jim O'Connor as proprietor, Larry Quinn as cutter; there are three qualified machinists and two apprentices.
Fr. Hayes was responsible also for the lino-factory in Tipperary town where the raw material receives its final processing. All these ventures were sponsoredbut not owned by Muintir no Tire: in other words the agitating. organising and collecting were done by the movement and then the business was handed over to a responsible group.
• His aim was a small industry in every town in Ireland. an industry which would absorb the local surplus of labour and thus cure unemployment, emigration and rural decay.
The core of the movement is the parish guild and the activities of any guild depend on the ability of the members and the needs of the locals. Every year a few new parish halls adorn the countryside and these are real parish centres where cards, plays, lectures, and ohats provide amusement and instruction.
When a river needs draining, or a road is delapidated, or a widow is left penniless, a general meeting of all the parish is summoned to see what can he done. Members are then appointed to interview the County Council or a government department or to collect funds.
Everything depends on the local spirit of co-operation and enterprise. Thus Longford guild saw an opening for Christmas cards and put thousands of them on the market last year and sales were prompt and complete. The Glen of Aherlow guild looks after its own souvenirs and arranges for visitors to stay in the houses of the Glen people.
The annual agricultural show is a feature of many guilds and the more noted are Thurles, Tipperary, Bansha and Roscrea. Other guilds run gymkhanas, athletic sports, dances, concerts, and question times-it all depends on the local interest.
In 1933 Ireland was still bitter over the Civil War of 11 years before and political feuds were accepted as natural. No one thought of rural organising until the late Canon Hayes began to plan something which would bring all classes and creeds together as a corporate unit.
He succeeded; and history may yet label that as his momentum acre perennius his unity of Fianna Fail, Fine Gad and Labour, of Catholic, Protestant and Jew into a parish council which worked without reward for the good of its fellow parishioners. Not but he favoured improvements in agriculture, rural electrification, drainage etc., but the ideals for him always transcended the facts and he looked to a Christian Ireland which would be a model of tolerance, industry and patriotism (not nationalism). Thus during his last years he thought a lot in terms of education and today adult education is the major aim of the movement. Courses covering one week are arranged to cater for about 10 neighbouring guilds and two lectures followed by discussions are held nightly. The more common topics are, the papal encyclicals, land-reclamation, local history, procedure at meetings, taxation; Communism and balance of payments. The lectures are normally given by experts in the fields in question.