Electorate points a moral to Dev.
WELL, it's over. This year's Presidential Election is now acknowledged to have been one of the most fascinating of recent times. The pundits are already making merry with the voting trends and statistics, and each of the political parties involved is taking stock of its position in the light of the result that nobody really expected.
True, President Dc Valera won the right to a second seven-year term in the former Vice-regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park. But the fact that his majority was slashed from 120,000 to fractionally over 10,000 has a moral in it for almost everybody.
The first moral is for the President himself. Mr. Dc Valera must surely now realise—and the subdued tone of his postof aims than as a speech of a "political" character, and that the two objectives which are dearest to his heart are not necessarily dearest to the heart of the Irish people.
These objectives—the restoration of the Irish language and the reunification of the country were the cardinal points of the speech he made during the 1916 Commemoration Ceremonies at the G.P.O.
It is a measure of the changed thinking in the country that this speech should have been regarded less as the traditional statement of aims than as a speech of a 'political' character, and that the reaction to it—as reaction there undoubtedly was—should have cost the President so many votes.
The Irish people, it would seem, are re-arranging their list of priorities. Time will tell whether this will he fruitful or not.
The second moral is for the Fianna Fail government, which now has been forced to realise that the country is not really happy with the way things are going.
The people, by their vote, clearly signified that they were willing to accept a personal presidency but not a political dictatorship ... and the personal nature of the President's plea for the language and for re-unification failed to disguise (and in fact formed a grotesque contrast to) the present atmosphere of industrial unrest and economic uncertainty.
The third moral is for Fine Gael. The party mounted, on behalf of Tom O'Higgins (probably one of the least fancied men who have ever participated in an Irish presidential contest) a campaign that was a classic of its kind.
Whistle-stop tours, public appearances and social events were organised on the American model, if not quite on the American scale.
There was a rousing party congress to put the election workers in fine fettle. By and large, the campaign succeeded admirably in its object, which was to introduce Tom O'Higgins to an electorate which knew very little about him and to persuade over half a million of that electorate that they should vote for him on political as well as on personal grounds.
The party will have to beware, however, lest the moral victory which they appear to have won gives them delusions of grandeur.
The fact is that if Mr. Lemass were to go to the country tomorrow, he would almost certainly be returned, if only because Fine Gael are still, when it comes to the pinch, incapable of offering the electorate a convincing alternative government.
It is much easier to provide it with an attractive presidential candidate and a few political issues thrown in to spice the dish.
In this sense, the party's resounding success last week will only serve to paper over the crisis of identity which has been worrying Fine Gael ever since Mr. James Dillon's departure from the party leadership—and, indeed, for some time before that.
Finally, there is the labour party, which has come out of the election considerably worse than any other party.
When the government—presumably with this in mind—postponed the local government elections (which were to have been held concurrently with the presidential election) until next year, labour was faced with the difficulty of mounting two separate campaigns.
In the circumstances, they decided to abandon the presidency, to the great relief of the Fianna Fail leadership. In the event, labour
were conspicuous by their absence from one of the most exciting political contests of recent years and have clearly suffered because of this.
Much of the blame here must he apportioned to the labour leaders, who not only failed to put up a labour candidate but who failed to adopt any consistent attitude towards the two candidates who presented themselves.
The leader of the party, Mr. Corisb, told his followers to vote according to their consciences: some labour TD's told labour supporters not to vote at all, and the vice-chairman of the party told them to vote for Mr. O'Higgins—a plea which seemed to owe more to the strength of Mr. De Valera's personality than to any allegedly socialist tendencies in Mr. O'Higgins' thinking.
There are, too, the thousands of labour voters who voted for Mr. O'Higgins this time and who feel, however mistakenly, that it is nice to be on a potentially winning side.
THE PLAY by Scan O'Casey that Dublin never saw opened in the Olympia Theatre here this week. Writing before critical appreciations are available it would he unwise to make any general comments, but the play itself has a fascinating history.
It was originally to have been the focal point of the 1958 Dublin Theatre Festival.
The director was to have been Godfrey Quigley but, as production time approached, there were rumours of a disagreement between the director and the author.
"The story at that time" as one knowledgable columnist remembered in Dublin this week, "was that Quigley asked that some re-writing should be done, to tighten up the action, and the old druid of Torquay refused, and ultimately withdrew the play. O'Casey had already done this," he adds, "when the famous row about the Archbishop of Dublin refusing to have a votive mass for the festival blew up.
"Since then, the impression has got around, whether deliberately fostered or not, that the Archbishop of Dublin 'banned' the O'Casey play. This is not true, and it is as well that it should be known to he untrue, in fairness to everybody concerned."
Now, Mrs. Eileen O'Casey, the playwright's widow has generously given permission for the play to be performed. The Abbey Theatre has, equally generously, allowed Thomas Mac Anna time to produce it: and Radio Eirean has allowed several members of its fine repertory company to take important parts. The end-product should be well worth seeing.
A POCKET CONTROVERSY smouldered for a while in Cork last week with the news that the parish priest of the church of St. Michael The Archangel in Blacrock had told the brides who wanted to be married in the church that if they wore stiletto heels the ceremony could not be conducted inside the railing of the high altar. He was afraid that the heels would damage the wooden floor of the sanctuary.
"Every bride wants to look her best on her wedding day," one disappointed girl observed, "and the number of girls who would wear flat heel shoes on occasions like that are very few. I wore stiletto heels and was married outside the rails and I was disappointed. However, I cna see the Canon's point of view, too."