Mail - Monday, March 12th, 1934.
DE VALERA PRAISES WALES
A Contrast in Nationalism
HIS OPINION OF BLUE SHIRTS
By Gareth Jones
I was listening
to a slashing attack upon the Government in the dignified hall of the Dail, the
Free State Parliament, when Mr. James Dillon, son of the late John Dillon, of
Westminster fame, was booming his criticisms of the new militia in Ireland.
I noticed the
clock. In a few minutes’ time - at four o’clock - my interview with
the President, Mr. Eamon de Valera, was to take place.
orators to their invective, I hurried through the corridors, with their bright
green, orange, and yellow carpets, and met the President’s secretary outside a
door marked “Private.”
In a few moments
he took me inside a large well-panelled room at the other end of which sat a
tall, pensive, pale man with long, delicate hands and thin aquiline features who
was dressed in a sombre black suit.
Before long I was
alone with the most remarkable personality of Ireland, hated bitterly by many
and worshipped by millions - Mr. de Valera.
He was not as I
had pictured him. I expected a grim, fierce, rigid type, but I found a man
whose face lit up from time to time with a subtle, charming smile. After
shaking hands, he bade me sit by him at the desk, and began discussing the
respective positions of the native language in Wales and in Ireland.
“I have always
admired the way in which the people of Wales have clung to their language,” he
“Welsh has been
preserved as a spoken tongue and has been used and is being used in life and
literature to a far greater extent than Irish is being used in Ireland, but we
are making headway in preserving Irish as a community language and extending its
use throughout the country.”
Our discussion on
the Welsh and Irish languages led to an explanation of the origin of the Irish
word for ‘Free State.’ Mr. de Valera asked me if we had a word in Welsh for
‘Republic’ and I replied that I could not think of one.
HIS TALK WITH “L. G.”
He then described
an historic talk between himself and Mr. Lloyd George in 1921 in which the Prime
Minister asked him: “Have you a word for ‘Republic’ in Irish?” Mr.
de Valera replied that there was a word, ‘Poblacht,’ but that some doubt had
been expressed by purists as to whether that was a good chosen Irish word, and
the word ‘Saorstat’ was chosen instead.
“What does that
word mean?” asked Mr. Lloyd George. Mr. de Valera said it was a compound
word -” Saor” free, and “Stat,” state: Free State.
Valera showed a keen and sympathetic interest in Welsh movements and thought
highly of the idea of the Welsh Book Festival and the selection of the six best
books of 1933.
nationalism in Wales with that in Ireland, he said that the Welsh people had
paid more regard to linguistic and cultural nationalism than the Irish people,
and that for a considerable period the idea of political independence had
overshadowed the cultural aspects of nationality in Ireland.
The more the
people of Wales and other countries with their own distinctive cultures retained
their national individuality the richer would be the variety of thought and
achievement in the world.
“What is likely
to be the future of trade relations between Ireland and Wales?” I asked
the President. He replied that the aim of his Government was to balance
trade with other countries on the principle of mutual purchase, and so far as
Wales was concerned the Government would be prepared to consider a bargain with
the British Government as with any other Government.
“What of Welsh
coal?” I asked.
“We are now
developing our own peat resources, and we hope to develop them more and more,
and eventually we shall probably require smaller supplies of coal from other
countries. Nevertheless, for some years to come there will have to be a
considerable import of fuel, and Welsh coal would come within the scope of any
agreement such as that to which I have referred,” said the President.
I asked him for
an explanation of the principles of self-sufficiency which guided his policy,
and he explained that the Free State was engaged in conserving the home market
for native products, both agricultural products and manufactured goods.
“We are not
reducing external trade just for the sake of reducing it,” said Mr. de Valera,
“but endeavouring to produce a better balance between agriculture and
manufactures. In the past Ireland was dependent almost entirely on
agriculture, and we are trying to build up industries, not alone to provide a
more varied life, but to find work for our people.
The stoppage of
emigration has made the problem of employment a vital one for us. The
shrinkage in the world market for agriculture produce makes imperative for us to
enlarge our home market. This we are doing by restricting unnecessary
imports and by developing both our manufacturing industries and the cultivation
of the land for the production of cereals. Peat, wheat, beet, and tobacco
will all give additional employment to agricultural workers, while the new
industries springing up in the towns will help to absorb more and snore of our
Turning from the
economic to the political situation, I brought up the question of the Blue
Shirts, but Mr. de Valera did not attach much Importance to the Blue Shirt
movement as a national movement.
He concluded with
an expression of warm regard for friends of his in Wales and for the national
aspirations of the Welsh people, and, promising to greet Wales on his behalf, I
left him to his battle against the increasing problems that beset him.