BY MICHAEL DE LA BEDOYERE
0 one from Great Britain can visit Ireland without wondering a great deal if, when and how the historic differences between the two neighbouring islands can be once and for all reconciled.
They have so much in common : the proximity of their geographical positions there at the north-west corner of Europe. the larger island, as it were, embracing the smaller one. the smaller one standing like a sentinel with his heel fixed firmly into the ocean that guards the never-ending coast-lines of these lands there at the north-west corner of Europe, their complementary economic position; their common language (for we may take it that the Irish language will never supplant the English, though it endows Ireland with another richness all her own); their long historical association, for, whatever be the nature of their relations in the future, their quarrels in the past have been domestic; the intermingling of their peoples.
There is no getting away from these things, and any settlement which does not allow them all the weight that is due to them will be in so far the poorer.
The Three Differences Equally, there are three deep differences, the difference of race, the difference of religion and, what 1 should call, the difference of will.
To the majority of Irishmen these differences go much deeper than the ties, and, rightly so, for they are spiritual differences whereas the ties are material and accidental. This reason alone constitutes sufficient condemnation of Britain's past record towards her sister isle, and it is most significant that Britain has never voluntarily conceded to Ireland anything but material advantage—and not very much of that.
It may even be said that today the close connection between Britain and Northern Ireland is a voluntary concession on both sides to material gain for the sake of which both have shut their eyes to spiritual differences. It is true that here there is community of religion, but, without casting reflections on the genuine religion of many a sincere Protestant it is possible to say that the religious establishments on both sides of the water have lost their spiritual spark and that what warmth remains in the ashes is used to give the appearance of some spiritual element to a purely material bargain.
Spiritual or Material In these circumstances it'is not surprising if the Irishman, if his nature is spir'itual—I am using the term in its widest sense—can scarcely see the ties, while, if his nature is material, he cynically hopes for the best bargain he can get without manifesting any real love for Britain.
I have myself suggested in previous articles that Ireland would do well to shake off the large amount that remains to her of English outlook, but I had in mind not so much what was really English, the English culture as expressed in the great literature, the common heritage of both islands or the common needs of life and defence that result from physical proximity, but rather the economic liberalism, the material outlook, the Protestant values all of which England has acquired since Reformation brought worldly prosperity at the expense of the spirit. I should not wish to be considered one of those ultra-broadminded intellectuals who are friends to every country but their own and who can see so much more clearly the rights of their neighbours than their own just claims.
England has, i believe, a very great deal worth giving to give Ireland, and I believe she will have more to give as time goes on.
English Protestantism Dying Out Protestantism and commercialism are still the predominant notes of England, but it is doubtful how long •they will remain so. Protestantism as a religion is certainly dying and, even today, Catholicism has the largest number of communicant members of any religion in England. Commercialism, in the sense of England, being either the workshop or the market of the world, is also dying. Who knows but that in a comparatively few years England will not be forced to compensate herself for loss of material wealth by recourse to the spiritual fount of Catholicism and the English culture, the England of the cathedrals, of literature, of the countryside, of the spirit that made the finest soldier, the finest sailor, the finest squire and yeoman in history?
An Angel in Disguise
It may seem extravagant to write like this, but would it be so surprising if the death of the largely alien influences that came with the Reformation (and they are most certainly dying) enabled England to find herself again? That is all it would mean?
However this may be, the patriotic Englishman who, with the help of the true religion and the philosophy attached to it, tries to see below the appearances, will be forgiven for attaching all the value possible to the ties that still exist between his country and the island which is in danger of becoming permanently estranged.
do mean to suggest that for the sake of a hypothetical future change Ireland should submit politically or economically to present-day England, except in so far as she freely desires to, but I do hope that the future relations between the two countries will he something unique in international relations, the relations as it were of cousins who live next door to one another. It only depends on England, I shall be told. But no, it also depends upon Ireland. Few Irishmen, I am bold enough to suggest, will have thought of England's possible future as I have suggested it, yet to the Catholic Irishman related to the Englishman by so many real tics the idea should have come naturally.
It is of such stuff that spiritual friendship is born.
The Crown But does it mean anything in practice? I think it does. For example, it would be well and proper for Ireland to be loyal to the Crown.
By saying this I have probably undone any good my previous words may have done. But I am writing from the English point of view.
To me the Crown, though at present Protestant and of Protestant establishment, seems an eminently suitable symbol of the right kind of union between the two coun
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