THE TRUE DIFFICULTY IN IRELAND.
CANON DENNEHY'S letter to the Freeman's Journal, republished by the Times on Tuesday, throws a more vivid light on the true difficulty of the policy of justice in Ireland, than all the Irish Correspondents during the last year have succeeded in conveying. If any one will read what took place in the Church of Kanturk, when Canon Dennehy was doing all in his power to vindicate the principles of com- mon honesty and of obedience to the law so long as the law i3 consistent with the divine law, he will begin to see how enormous are the difficulties of getting the Irish to under- stand that any Irish policy, however just, is adopted by the British Government because it is just, and that any Government, however anxious to show its hearty sympathy with Ireland, is not making a mere pretence and hypocrisy of that sympathy, for sinister purposes of its own. We do not mean, of course, that this applies equally to all parts of Ireland. Kanturk is in Cork county, and we have little doubt that in Cork and Kerry there is at present a deeper kind of " invincible ignorance " as to any goodness or sympathy in the political disposition of the British Govern- ment than in any other part of Ireland. Only in Ulster is there a glimmering of dawn on this head, as the Tyrone and Londonderry elections sufficiently show. But in the south at least, probably in three-fourths of Ireland, the ignorance as to the existence of any honest sympathy with Ireland in the British Parliament and Government is for the present really invincible, is rooted in prejudice and illusion so complete, that not a guess at the truth reaches the mass of the population there. Take this case of Kanturk, where, as we have said, there is a priest not wrapped in this invincible ignorance him- self, but struggling painfully to do his duty to his people and his Church. He addresses his people one Sunday on the wrong- ness of introducing a children's Land League into the parish of Kanturk. And Canon Dennehy tells us why he objected to this,—not simply on the general ground that the principles of the Land League are dishonest, but because he knew that the children who were to be taught the principles of the Land League were to begin their learning by lessons in the following delightfully Christian and Catholic alphabet :— " A is the army that covers the gronnd,
B is the buckshot we're getting all round, C is the crowbar of cruellest fame, D is our Devitt, a right glorious name ; E is the English, who've robbed us of bread, F is the famine they've left us instead; G is for Gladstone, whose life is a lie; H is the harvest we'll hold, or we'll die I is the Inspector, who when drunk is bold, J is the jarvey, who'll not drive him for gold ; K is Kilmainham, where our true men abide ; L is the Land League, our hope and our pride ; M is the magistrate, who makes black of white ; N is no rent, which will make our wrongs right; O is Old Ireland, that yet shall be freed ; P is the peelers, who've sold her for greed ; Q is the Queen, whose use is not known; R is the rifles, who keep up her Throne ; 8 is the sheriff, with woe iu his train ; T is the toil that others may gain; U is the Union, that works bitter harm ; ✓ is the villain that grabs up a farm ; W is the warrant, for death or for chains; X is the Express, all lies and no brains ; Y is Young Ireland,' spreading the light; Z is the zeal that will win the great fight."
Canon Dennehy does not tell us whether he read this doggrel in his church, but he does intimate that he illustrated from it his objection to the training of infants in such un-Christian and un-Cathqlic sentiments and ,principles. Well, what was the result That from thirty to forty of his parishioners left the church in wrath at his protest against such principles as these. Does not that show how childish is our expectation- that a beginning of justice to Ireland,—however striking, it may seem to English eyes,—can in any way solve the problem of the moment 3 The hate of the Irish for the Union *tit England is, in the greater part of Ireland rooted deep in popu- lar prejudices so fierce and so fed upon illusions, that it will take a generation or two at least of patient, unflinching, un- resting sympathy and justice, to dissipate it. Just look at the things the Irish not merely believe, but eagerly cling to :-
" E is the English, who've robbed ns of bread; F is the famine, they've left us instead; G is for Gladstone, whose life is a lie ;
H is the harvest we'll hold or we'll die."
Whatever the English may have done incidentally through their ignorance of Ireland, assuredly no country ever gave more lavishly of its own bread in the time of Ireland's famine, than England did. We have heard Mr. Gladstone's life called a lie by violent Conservatives who were so enraged by his com- manding influence over the mind of England, that they had no other way of expressing their passion than to accuse him of falsehood. But no English Conservative of the smallest can- dour doubts that Mr. Gladstone's nature is one of exceptional honesty and straightforwardness, and the Irish belief in his falsehood is assuredly not of Conservative origin ; it is of the same origin as the illusion that England deliberately desires to see Ireland suffering from famine, and robs her of bread. The truth clearly is that the genius of Ireland, imaginative and exceptionally patriotic, accepts illusions as truth with the most singular ease and even eagerness, when they are illusions conceived in the spirit of Irish traditions. It is. obvious from this alphabet, and the passion with which the parishioners left the church when they heard it attacked, that multitudes of the Irish,—and, as we believe, mostly those who are not personally concerned in the withholding of rent, and who would not directly gain by it,—have persuaded themselves that the No-rent agitation is a matter of mere patriotism and politics, altogether unconnected with common morality; that they have persuaded themselves that in this way, and no other, the English may be best ejected from Ireland ; and that it be- comes the patriot to die rather than not "hold the harvest," even though he had contracted solemnly to give part of the harvest to the man who let him the land. The agitators have got into the heads of the Irishmen that the land belongs in justice to the tillers of it, till the people at large never give a thought to the capital expended in buying it. Mr. Davitt, who, observe, and not Mr. Parnell, is the real hero of this alphabet, has succeeded in identifying the patriotism of the Irish with the cry for the soil, till they really are unable to see the dishonesty involved. So deep is the illusion, that a patriotic priest who tries to lay bare the dishonesty is not now even listened to. With such a state of feeling as this pre- valent in Ireland, can we reasonably expect to get into smooth water by the performance of one great act of justice ?
In a very powerful speech of Mr. Rathbone's, the Member for Carnarvonshire, to his constituents, yesterday week, at Llandudno, there is a passage bearing on this subject which Liberals will do well to ponder :—" I think the diffi- culties of governing Ireland are enormously increased by the forgetfulness of our speakers, writers, and, above all, our artists, of what is due from England in dealing with a nation under its rule whose inhabitants are peculiarly sensitive to sympathy or contempt. I was speaking the other day, in the lobby of the House of Commons, to an Irishman of great ability, a Conservative Member of the House of Lords, and I ventured to express an opinion, which may appear sanguine, that, even yet, if we would govern Ireland, for only a few years, with- three things—justice, firmness, and sympathy—she might be made the most easily-governed part of her Majesty's dominions. His reply, coming from such a quarter, was striking. ' No,' he said, you can govern Ireland by three things, but Ric y must be sympathy, justice, and firmness. You must put sym- pathy first,' and the Tory Peer was right. You may throw to Ireland a subsidy, as the Tories do, or you may pass just mea- sures, as the Liberals do ; bat as long as Irishmen see them- selves caricatured as pigs being driven or educated by Mr. Gladstone in the guise of a policeman or a showman, or as snakes or toads being expelled by Sir William Harcourt or Mr. Forster in the shape of a modern St. Patrick, or as dog-faced apes and ugly ill-conditioned dwarfs being collared and cut down by Mr. Gladstone again in the form of Britannia ; and when they see Englishmen exulting, instead of weepiag, at being compelled, after hundreds of years. of English rule in Ireland, to put her chosen representatives into prison, you may depend upon it that, though Ireland may take your subsidies and your just laws, she will hate vou as before. The tone of English speaking and writing about Ireland has more to do with Irish disaffection than Englishmen are aware of." Nothing could be better said. But our readers will ask how it is possible to speak with respect and courtesy of such acts as the agrarian murders, the mutilation of cattle, the proposal to rob the landlords of rent justly due, and not even disputed as unjust, and so forth ? We reply that no one expects this. Such acts should be treated with the scorn they deserve. But we should remember how few there are, after all, in Ireland, who deliberately commit them. Would England have thought it just for the nation to be identified with the skulking rick- burners and violent machine-breakers of 1842 ? Nothing is more easy than for political passion so to disguise the cha- racter of grossly criminal acts that, while very few commit them, hundreds of thousands apologise for them, and feel utterly indisposed to aid the law in its attempt to punish the offenders. And especially is this the case with a people like the Irish, who can hug illusions which please them till it seems to them almost an act of irreligion to open their eyes to the truth. And, after all, who is it who
ministers most to those illusions T Is it not the English writer or the caricaturist who deliberately tries to excite scorn for Ireland and for everything Irish ? What we have to do is, as Mr. Rathbone says, to dismiss once and for ever that fatal tone of contempt which poisons every act of justice to a great race ; to persist in governing by "sympathy, justice, firmness," always keeping sympathy first, in spite of all the bitter disappointments to which we shall be exposed ; and to subdue our own impatience for speedy results. If an honest priest can go on trying to tell the truth to his parishioners, when thirty or forty leave the church because he denounces false and demoralising doggrel, is it too much to expect that a great Empire, which advisedly keeps Ireland in a Union that she regards as at present hateful, for the sake of the other elements in that Empire, should be patient and long- suffering in the attempt to prove to her that we do desire her prosperity and her happiness at least as much as we desire the prosperity and happiness of any other part of the United Kingdom ?