AUSES ARE DROPPED
By Norman St. John-Stevas
IRELAND-and not everyone NI ill welcome it unreservedly-really is catching up with the twentieth century. The symbol of change was Mr. Dc Valera's elevation to the Presidency, taking with him to the rarified atmosphere of Phoenix Park the two national King Charles' heads of the non possum/IS attitude to partition and the crusade for the Irish language.
His successor. Scan Lemass, clearly cares little for lost causes, although he would not say so in public. and is primarily interested in giving Ireland an expanding and vigorous economy. Dynamic, go-getting, realistic, he has not Dev's magic appeal, but he is what Ireland needs. a hardheaded tycoon rather than a romantic visionary.
The wind of change is now blowing across the border and chilling for the first time since 1922 the lion-hearts of Stormont. Mr. Lemass is making a vigorous and sincere effort to end the border raids, refers publicly to "Northern Ireland" rather than the pejorative "six counties," and has offered full co-operation to the North in all matters of common economic concern.
Political re-union, he has declared. must wait for mutual consent: local Option could deal with Northern rejection of present birth control and divorce policies; and he has hinted that Ireland might well re-enter the Commonwealth as the price of unity.
So far Lord Brookeborough has returned a stolid negative to these overt ures. which have placed him in the nice dilemma of .either donning Dublin's discarded Ostrich feathers or co-operating. and thus exposing file economic irrelevance Ireland's change of attitude in foreign policy has been no less startling. At the Council of Europe she followed the "sore thumb" policy in relation to partition. poking it in everyone's eye at any opportunity, and earning instead of the expected sympathy some well merited resentment.
In the United Nations. this silly charade, played for the benefit of the old folks at home, has been abandoned. Ireland has followed a consistent policy of supporting the rights of small nations and working for the relaxation of tension between the power blocs. She has voted against the United States for the inclusion of the discussion of the admission of Red China on the U.N. agenda. for Algeria and hence against France. and for human rights in South Africa.
Her proposal for a mutual agreement between the nuclear powers not to give atomic weapons to outsiders is now before the disarmament commission.
Irish prestige at the U.N. is at a new peak and her most brilliant diplomatist, Mr. Boland. has now been proposed for President of the United Nations Assembly. His election is generally expected. At home a determined effort is being made to raise agricultural and industrial activity and so stem emigration, still running at the horrific figure of 40,000 a year. In agriculture emphasis is being placed on improving grassland and eradicating bovine tuberculosis. Export industries are being encouraged by a ten-year exemption from taxes for all export profits.
Typical of the new spirit in Ireland has been the prompt reaction to the threat of obsoles' cence offered to Shannon airport by the jet aircraft. which have no I need to stop and refuel. Under an energetic young executive. Mr. Brendan O'Regan, a new industrial estate is being developed at the airport, where manufactures will be free of duties and profits free of taxation, the latter for a period of twenty-five years.
In transport another brilliant organiser, Dr. C. E. Andrews, has come close to achieving the impossible and making Irish railways pay. One of the Irish paradoxes is that although "socialist" in Ireland is almost as wicked a word as in the U.S.A.. the most successful industries arc all State-run.
Only in the Church is the wind reduced to zephyr status. The devotion of the people continues as before: the churches are packed to an extent unknown outside Spain and Mexico and (dare I say it?) England. The moral standards of the people are as high as ever: they really believe the sixth commandment can be kept. Yet high intellectual and artistic achievement. the crown of a flourishing culture. seem as elusive as ever. Why. with Ireland's great tradition of Celtic religious art. are priests and people still content with cheap. ugly, often imported repository horrors?
Where are the modern churches of Ireland? One has to travel as far as Galway to sec them, and, apart from two there. one in Cork. and one each in Dublin and Limerick. there is nothing.
Where arc the successors to Evic Hone and Michael Healy. whose ravishing stained glass gleaming in a dozen counties testifies to what might have been? Yet there is one encouraging sign: the formation of tt group of
young Catholic intellectuals. Tuairitn. a kind of Catholic Bow Group or Fabian Society, who have inspired a newspaper "Hibernia" and published some excellent and impartial reports on controversial questions.
Perhaps these young. zealous. and devoted men and women will be the leaven who will bring Ireland to play her rightful part in creating and sustaining contemporary Catholic culture. All lovers and friends of Ireland must hope for this.