Why Ireland Ignores The Coronation
By AODH DE BLACAM [This article appears in a series the contents of which represent personal views not necessarily adopted by the Catholic Herald.
It is a pure accident that the present subject is being treated in the present week. The Editor considered postponing its publication, but finally trusted the readers of the Catholic Herald to be broad-minded enough to listen, even in Coronation Week. to an Irishman's explanation of why our sister isle, bound to us by ties of religion. is not represented. If to know all is WI always to forgive all—and this applies to both sides it is at any rate the necessary preliminary to reaching a permanent understanding.] AT the Coronation of King George VI, Ireland as Ireland will not be represented. Of all the nations of Europe, that which is virtually the most ancient will be absent. Ireland, which a Sovereign Pontiff has named Natio Fidelissima, does not share in the rejoicings.
This is sad, and history will see it as a flaw in Britain's interests, for which heavy blame must rest on dilatory or evasive statesmen. Ireland absent is a gap in an international gathering like the absence of one of the primary colours in a painting.
"Does It Matter?"
Some will say that the absence does not matter: these have no historic sense. They may treat it as a mark of sulkiness or jealousy: but those arc qualities which are absent from the Irish nature, that notoriously is generous and joyous and loves to give and share hospitality.
The reason that Ireland is absent is that it is partitioned. If British occupied any other European nation's territory, in defiance of its will, would that nation be present in your celebrations? If British troops were still on the Rhine, would Germany send representatives to Westminster's pageantry and feasts?
Irishmen do not hate Englishmen. I challenge any British traveller whatever, who leas visited Ireland and has borne himself with the civility of a gentleman, to deny that he got from our people as free a welcome as he knew in any land. Irish folk like English folk, when there is no political aggression, if only because they are so utterly different that their company is so enjoyable; and Irish people, are they not popular in England, also largely by reason of the contrast?
Limit to Friendship
Yet to like people as people, to be amused by them, interested in them, glad to share time with them, does not mean that you want to be treated as one nation with them or to yield any part of your property, freedom, or individuality to them.
I like my next-door neighbour and his ways, but if he sat in my house and put his feet on the table and refused to budge, long after he had outworn his welcome and I wanted the table for my books or my supper, relations would be strained between us, and 1 would not be found at his son's coming-of-age.
We are sorry to be absent from your party, not because we covet the cakes, but because of the prolonged dissension that obliges this absence of neighbours, and the fact, by the way. that you are eating some of the cakes that belong to us and that we need for our own children—at least, we claim them, and you will not come to Court to settle it.
Englishmen Who Understand
Though statesmen have failed to come to a frank, neighbourly settlement with us. and to withdraw their soldiers from one of our four green fields, there are signs that other Englishmen are beginning to see that friendship is better than feud. This I discern in three new books.
The first is by an eminent Irishman, Mr. Henry Harrison, 0.B.E., MC., whom noone can call an enemy of England, though his Irish patriotism has been known ever since he was secretary to Parnell, fifty years ago. Ireland and the British Empire, 1937, is the title (Robert Hall, 10s. 6d. net)—and the author sets forth our case as one who expects Englishmen to hear it and to see its reason. " Conflict or Collaboration?" is his sub-title, and that sums up in three words the issue be fore Englishmen. " Peace should be consolidated while there is yet time. And the time may be very short. An Anglo-Irish peace." says this Irish patriot and friend of England. alluding to the threatened war, " is a condition of ultimate success."
Legal Free State
The second book is The Empire in the World (Oxford University Press, 10s. 6d. net), edited by E. Thomas Cook. The section on Ireland in this work. written by a Dominion journalist, frankly acknowledges the position of sovereignty to which three-quarters of the Irish territory has arrived. The third book is Professor A. Berriedale Keith's Letters and Essays on Current Problems (Oxford University Press, 8s. 6d. net). in which Britain's greatest constitutional expert proves the legality of the Free State's new status and pleads for an Anglo-Irish settlement based on recognition thereof.
Professor Keith, in one pregnant passage, deals with the great blunder of Englishmen, the notion that friendly relations must be based on the recognition by lreiand of an allegiance which A nem
liked, and which now simply does not exist as a juridical fact.
Some Englishmen are not up to date. They reason as if the last fifteen years had
not happened. Intelligent men of goodwill see the error and write about it but
do the politicians? Will the statesmen ever be friendly, short of a Counter-Revolution that will reverse 1688?
Extent of Alliance
The leaders of the Irish movement recognise that Ireland and England have reasons to be friends, such as their geographical contiguity. They propose " association" in matters of common interest.
This implies consultation for defence of this area of Europe, commercial preference and other acts of neighbourliness. In proposing " association," our men have set
a headline to Christendom. The Protestant Reformation split the nations of Europe into isolated and antagonistic packs.
Do we want that to last? We would rather be isolated than subjected. but we believe that pure isolation is against nature—it is jungle law. We propose " association " as the means by which the nations of Christendom can get back to the pre-Reformation polity of Europe.
Take These:— Take Yugoslavia, where the Croats are subject to a Serbian King and a Serbian ascendancy. The State is in turmoil, though no one denies that Croats, Serbs and Slovenes by nature have some common interests.
Take the Little Entente or the Balkan League. where completely independent nations set up a council to confer on common interests, economic and otherwise. The Little Entente is one of the soundest, surest institutions in Europe—simply because it is a free neighbourly arrangement.
If only English imperialists would see that constraint won't do, that it breeds revolt instead of co-operation. and if they would recognise that a thing as ancient, glorious and beloved as the unity of the Irish nation in Ireland is a thing that cannot be kept down forever, but is a natural force that may be beneficial or destructive. according as it is respected or abused— then. indeed, our Christian nation's efforts to make peace would not be frustrated. It is then—if only it had come to pass in time—that a free Ireland would be sharing in the felicitations which the free nations of the Continent are sending to the K'ng of England, the successor longo intervallo of St. Edward the Confessor.
Mr. George Eliot Anstruther, journalist and author, will write in this series next week.