13 NOVEMBER 1942, Page 7



DUBLIN is a strange place to be in these days. It is not so much the material facts of life, like the lack of complete black-out, the extreme shortage of tea, petrol and fuel, coupled with the relative abundance of such things as eggs, meat or cream, or the black stores of peat extending for the better part of two miles along the side of Phoenix Park, like some new geological formation. The real strangeness is in the atmosphere. It is not merely that -tire practises neutrality ; her neutrality is self-conscious and goes around with a chip on its shoulder. Newspaper headlines as often as not give more prominence to the German claims, even if un- supported. Censorship is rigid. In The Young Mr. Pitt, as shown in Ireland, Pitt is permitted to say that England has saved herself by her exertions, but the censor has cut out the rest of the famous sentence about her being destined to save Europe by her example. No war films, no news-reels even, are permitted from either side. The controversy over the killing of the surplus fallow-deer in Phoenix Park bulked as large in public interest as Libya, Guadal- canal or Stalingrad.

In the last twelve months I have been in two countries which were busy preserving their neutrality—the U.S.A. just before Pearl Harbour, and Eire. In both cases the maintenance of neutrality undoubtedly produced a certain feeling of guilt, largely repressed into the unconscious, but demanding constant and vocal justifica- tions ; in both cases there was anti-British feeling ; in both there was a genuine desire to continue the development of the country unhindered by the exigencies and horrors of war. But the guilt- complex is not so strong in Eire. The anti-British feeling is stronger, and the fact that Eire has only recently emerged from what a well- known writer described publicly in my hearing as " colonial status," has inevitably left a scar or even a split in men's minds. One is constantly meeting distinguished men who have fought for Britain, then passed a spell in British gaols, then fougheagainst other Irishmen. Furthermore, while America's Civil War is now receding into the pageant of history, that of Eire still colours present political passions. And those same passions are further inflamed by the irritant of pa_tition.

There has been a strong desire to assert Eire's new-found

political independence by pursuing a foreign policy as different as possible from Britain's. A curious phenomenon is the attitude of irritation towards America. This, too, has a psychological basis. One of the justifications for Eire's neutrality was the assertion that this was a war between rival imperialisms. When it was suggested that there were other and more vital issues at stake, American neutrality could be invoked as an adequate answer. But now that America is in the war, this rationalisation is no longer possible and the only refuge is irritation.* The general result is that to think straight is harder in Eire than in most other lands. While the clouds of emotional conflict shroud the political landscape, it is harder even to see what are the real problems of the future. One curious obstacle is the fact that there is a considerable psychological resistance to the idea of planning and efficient State intervention, even in social affairs, based on the irrational feeling that organisation is a step towards war. A good deal of talk is current about population questions in general and family allowances in particular. The prominence of this subject is doubtless due to tire's extreme demographic peculiarities. The country's population has been cut by half during the past hundred years ; there is an extremely high proportion of bachelors and spinsters ; the dowry system still obtains ; birth control is prohibited ; the age at marriage is exceedingly advanced, but after marriage there is high fertility.

There is a dawning realisation that the day is past when small nations could play an important role in international affairs (a view dear to De Valera's heart 'in those far-off days of Geneva and the League). But on the whole the country is too busy with its internal psychological problems to have much attention over for the future.

With regard to post-war trade, at any rate, the idea that some political arrangement with Britain may be the necessary accom- paniment of economic rapprochement does not seem to be faced. In point of fact, the situation that will confront Anglo-Irish relations after the war is pretty clear. The over-ruling consideration from Britain's standpoint is a strategic one : Northern Ireland at least must form an integral part of the British defence system. Then a strong tendency towards integration is certainly provided by economic forces: Eire and Britain are complementary neighbours. But the maddening fact of partition restricts the possibilities of rapprochement. In reality there are two divisions, one within the other, like Chinese boxes—that of the Six Counties from the rest of Ireland and that of Eire from the rest of the British Isles.

Remembering that any post-war international system is likely to have two interdependent sides—membership of some form of mutual benefit economic scheme and membership of some form of mutual benefit security scheme—perhaps we can envisage the Irish position in the post-war world in some such terms as these. There would be an All-Ireland Parliament, Ulster sending its representatives to Dublin instead of to Westminster. For defence purposes, and there- fore for foreign policy, Ireland would be part of the British Isles. In all other matters, it would enjoy autonomy, subject again to allowing autonomy to the six counties in such matters as education and local government. (Ireland would then, by the way, be better able to deal with the I.R.A., whose main headquarters are now north of the poorly guarded border.) It would then be able to enter whatever economic and political international organisations are set up, and doubtless also to enjoy close trade relations with Britain. Both the political and the economic integration of Eire with Britain would assuredly be more palatable if other small nations of Western Europe also entered the international security and economic organisations at the same time.

If it be objected that partition could not be abolished without rebellion in Ulster, it may be retorted that the situation will differ in many ways from that before the last war ; that there is no likeli- hood of a repetition of the Curragh incident ; and that without such military support, resistance in the six counties would be most unlikely. And if it be urged that Eire would never sacrifice her new-won independence to the extent of allowing herself to become part of the British system for defence purposes, the answer is that * This article was written before the American action in North Africa, which has obviously changed opinion in Eire considerably.—ED., The Spectator. in her case the need for close trade relations will be overriding, and that the abolition of partition would entirely alter the psychological basis for her political behaviour.

We should also remember two other facts. First, Eire's suscepti- bility to American influence ; the present mood of irritation is not likely to be lasting. Secondly, do not let us forget that Eire has contributed very materially, even if unofficially, to the British cause. Well over 200,000 Southern Irish, out of a total population of three millions, are now participating in Britain's war effort, nearly half of them in the armed forces.

In any case, the psychological atmosphere in Eire is unstable. Events will crystallise it, and with goodwill and common sense on the part of Britain, it should crystallise along -the general lines that United Nations policy is defining. There is no point in wasting any energy over Eire's neutrality ; but there is a great deal of point in making Eire cognisant to the fullest possible extent of the trends of Anglo-American thought and planning, both official and unofficial, on the subject of the post-war world, and of the fruitful role which she could play in the democratic Order.