THE Patrician Congress in Dublin is an excellent occasion for us to take a brief look at Ireland today.
Many of us, perhaps, in this country, both Irish and nonIrish are a little out-of-date both in our knowledge and our altitudes where Irish and AngloIrish relations are concerned. We tend to look back rather than look forward.
The Ireland of today, both in the religious and the secular field is very much looking forward.
The Patrician Congress itself has been an opportunity to pinpoint that quite unique record of missionary work all over the world. Where indeed would the Church be today, so far as the spread of the Church all over the world is concerned. had there been no Catholic Ireland?
If it is true, as so many feel. that the Church today is entering a new apostolic phase in which the almost complete secularising of society will be challenged by an intensified Catholic witness through a keener liturgical. pastoral and lay formation, Ireland will once again become a spear-head. The problems involved are already being studied. not least at the heart of Ireland's priestly training—problems already so well discussed and met in M aynooth's review. the Furrow.
BUT in an apostolic era in which attention is especially being given to true Christian formation at the natural, as well as supernatural. level. it is indirectly of spiritual importance that Ireland as a national. political and cultural entity should be sure of herself and sensing that she is on the forward road.
Here it is possible to quote chapter and verse to indicate that this is the case and that there are good prospects of an ever better future.
In 1960, for example. the number of persons engaged in non-agricultural economic activity increased by a figure which exactly counterbalanced the number who left the country. in other words, the problems of unemployment and emigration were being met by fresh employment in Ireland itself.
Other facts worth bearing in mind when we think of Ireland's future include the following.
The number of Irishmen em ploycd in industry over twentyfive years has doubled and industrial production has increased threefold. Though the expansion of agriculture in Ireland's soft climate is not easy, today there are 40,000 tractors whereas before the war there were only 2,000. On the other hand forestry has made great progress from rock-bottom; 25.000 acres arc being planted each year and the number of forestacres is 300,000.
Even mining, which practically came to an end eighty years ago, has been most effectively revived, and Ireland has one of the largest copper producing areas in Europe.
Such developments, supporting new housing and liberal social services, have meant that life-expectation has been steadily and markedly increasing.
The signs are that this turning of the corner will gradually lead to economic conditions in Ireland reversing the long trend of depopulation The difficulties of finding employment and a good life in agriculture will be met, not only by steady industrial growth. but by increasing opportunities of attracting to Ireland industrialists from abroad who will be given by the GcNernment every opportunity of settling and establishing new industries.
For many, Ireland's flourishing tourist trade will provide the first incentive to settle in the country rather than merely to enjoy a holiday in it. Costs will be relatively low and labour easily available. Those who go to Ireland to settle and to help develop it will go with the knowledge that the Irish consume more calories per head than any other nation in the world, and this despite the fact that the average person in Ireland only possesses half the income of his counterpart in Britain. Clearly, priorities are well understood in Ireland.
There is every reason, too, to expect that the growing tourist trade will in time begin to repopulate the West—so much so, that a spokesman could say "1 should not be altogether surprised if years hence our complaint may not be about the denudation but about the 'second invasion' of the West. The term 'congested districts' might then assume a fresh meaning!"
It would seem that if Britain enters the Common Market this Continued in column 3
IRELAND AND EUROPE
will automatically entail Ireland following suit. The result will be fresh difficulties at first but great fresh industrial opportunities in the long run, IRELAND'S turning of the economic corner, the Common Market and the long-term problem of settlement of partition should not be thought of solely in secular terms. Ireland is far too deeply a religious nation for that.
The growth of wealth, security and opportunity must tend to integrate Ireland more closely with the Continent. and this will bring Catholic Ireland as a country, rather than just through individuals, into ever closer relationship with the Catholic world of Europe. Linked thus—as was the case in the days of St. Patrick himself —Ireland's deep faith and long pastoral and missionary experience will prove a tremendous added strength to the Continental Catholic studies and experiences of today, while Ireland itself will lose any historical and geographical sense of separation.
Ireland's story has long been unhappy—and we in this country have in very large measure been the historic cause of this. But if (we repeat) we can all make a resolution to look forward instead of backward. we shall be helping to promote a common spiritual growth and insight. itself resting on a marked economic and social growth. It is men. good men, who. under God, finally count. Today, we believe. there are many. Working together from these Islands and from Western Europe as a whole, we may sincerely pray for and hope for a great strengthening of Catholic witness before the world of today.