The Nov. 24, 1922, firing squad execution of Anglo-Irish Treaty opponent Erskine Childers became one of the most high-profile events of Ireland’s civil war, then in its fifth month. Another six months of internecine conflict lay ahead. But as the 26-county Irish Free State and partitioned, six-county Northern Ireland governments formalized in December, the Irish began to consider life beyond the revolutionary period that had started a decade earlier. The reflections below–two from native Irish writers–appeared in U.S. newspapers in November 1922:
The Donegal-born MacManus published ‘Story if the Irish Race’ in October 1921, then returned home in summer 1922 for the first time in eight years. He wrote:
“One of the very first sights that interested me as well as one of the most pleasant–and also one of the most important for Ireland’s future–was the marvelous flock of children that seemed to spring from the ground wheresoever I went over the face of the country. … I was delighted to see the bands of little ones that dotted the roads–to see them and to hear them–for Irish children do not believe in locking their sweet joy within their tiny bosoms.”
“Of the many vital educational changes the greatest and most valuable is that which establishes and entrenches the Irish language in its place in practically every school in the country. … Though the Gaelic movement made great advances during the last twenty years, its progress within the next three years will be marvelous. There will be very few people of the younger generation who will not be Irish speakers and Irish readers. … The re-establishing of this rich and beautiful language again, giving a new orientation to the Irish mind, will be a spiritual blessing of profound significance.”
“The curse of landlordism, which had for ages blighted the nation’s life, is now almost entirely uprooted. The great majority of the small holders of the country now own their land without dispute. And this undisputed possession of the land that was theirs and their forefathers through centuries, has given them a stimulus that transforms them. People are energetic who had been lethargic, are ambitious who had been crushed, and prosperous who had been poverty stricken. They now dress well who formerly could not afford a new coat once in five years, and they eat well, and they pleasure themselves and know the joy of living to which they had once been strangers.””Stork’s Busiest Days In The Emerald Isle”, New York Times, Nov.19 1922.
Irish culture goes on
“Americans undoubtedly gather the impression that Dublin is a city of murder and arson and that all of the old Irish culture has been subsumed in the clatter of and smoke of war. But this is not so. Irish culture goes on. A little circle of Irish intellectuals meet three nights a week to discuss literature, Irish history and Irish economics, and follows the trends and progress of the world. Often these meetings are held while the rat-tat-tat of machine guns continues in the streets. … A bit of American tinge is given to these sessions by occasional visits from American correspondents, some of whom are studying the intellectual side of Ireland. The war may go on, but Irish culture doesn’t die.”Daniel O’Connell of the Hearst-owned International News Service, Nov. 24, 1922.
The Longford-born Colum published some of his earliest poetry in Arthur Griffith’s ‘United Irishman’ and was active in the Gaelic League and Abbey Theater before the revolutionary period. He emigrated to America in 1914, but traveled home frequently, including 1922. These excerpts are from two pieces:
“The salient thing about Ireland is that the country holds together. … No one feels this orphaned government is in real peril–the anti-governmental forces are felt as an inconvenience, an expense and an irritant, but they are not now felt as a danger. Mind you, there is no enthusiasm for the government or the Free State that is about to come into existence. … There was enthusiasm for the treaty last December but all zest has since been knocked out of the people. The Irish remember they are not clear of the British Empire.”
“It seems odd to speak of settlement and reconstruction in a country whose main activity is civil war; it seems odd to talk of reconstruction in a city where the children on the street play with toy revolvers and keep up games of taking prisoners and doing Red Cross services. It seems odd to talk of settlement and reconstruction in such a country and such a city. Nevertheless, the mood of the people makes it palpable that the epoch of revolution is past and that the only thing that will stir them again is reconstruction and the proper ordering of their affairs.””Ireland’s Epoch of Revolution is Ended, Says Padraic Colum; Now Comes Here Reconstruction” The Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1922.
“Ireland is learning in many directions. She is learning to organize and operate an army; she is learning how to rebuild a police force and magistracy; she is learning what the elements of a constitution are; she is learning about parliamentary procedure; she is even learning what the price of civil disturbance may be. Above all, she is learning to do without England–that England was a symbol of injustice, rapine and atrocity. She has seen now what fearful blows Irishmen can deal at Irishmen and what injustices and evil-dealing can take place in an Ireland that is without a Dublin Castle. Ireland, in fact, is loosing her England ‘complex’ and soon she will be able to get about her business without any particular reference to her great and much distracted neighbor–a consummation devoutly to be wished for!””Literally ‘The Boys’ Rule Ireland”, New York Tribune, Nov. 19, 1922.
|”Stork’s Busiest Days In The Emerald Isle”, New York Times, Nov.19 1922.
|Daniel O’Connell of the Hearst-owned International News Service, Nov. 24, 1922.
|”Ireland’s Epoch of Revolution is Ended, Says Padraic Colum; Now Comes Here Reconstruction” The Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1922.
|”Literally ‘The Boys’ Rule Ireland”, New York Tribune, Nov. 19, 1922.