Enigma of Ireland (iv).
Mail - November 9th, 1933
POLICY OF THE IRISH REPUBLICAN
Force Independent of Mr. de Valera
By Gareth Jones
cool, calm, and collected. With its dignified red brick Georgian houses,
with its prosperous streets, and the normal appearance of its brisk population,
I found it difficult to realise that beneath the surface there was a large force
in armed opposition to the Free State - the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.).
I had read one of
its principles written by Pearse; “It is your duty to arm. Until you
have armed yourself and made yourself skilful in the use of arms you have no
right to a voice in any concern of the Irish Nation, no right to consider
yourself a member of the Irish Nation, or of any Nation, no right to raise your
head among any decent body of men. Arm!”
I knew that the I.R.A.
had sworn to increase their military efficiency until the “Republic of Ireland
is freed from foreign aggression,” and that it was opposed to Mr. de Valera on
account of his slowness in declaring a Republic.
One morning I set
out to find “Mr. Gallagher” (that is not his real name), who, I was told.
was an I.R.A. officer. When I found his house I was received by an elderly
woman, who immediately sent for him.
A REMARKABLE MAN
There was a
long wait, after which a remarkable man appeared. He had longish sandy
hair with a touch of grey, an intellectual forehead, sincere deep eyes, and a
He impressed me
at once as a rigid, unbending idealist, and I felt respect for his honesty
although I feared that this type of uncompromising one-track mind was the source
of fanaticism and ruthlessness. He was, I thought an “all for the
cause” man, self-sacrificing, with high personal dualities, but dangerous.
When I asked him
for his personal view his reply gave a clue to the character of the movement I
was trying to study: “I am a soldier and my personal views must be
subordinated to the views of my movement.” When he said this I had the
impression that the I.R.A. values that kind of discipline and that
subordination’ of self-found in the National Socialist, the Communist, and the
All the time he
stood fumbling with his keys. Should he let me in? At last his
coldness gave way to hospitality and he took me into a big room, after I had
promised not to publish his views under his name.
BLUE SHIRTS ATTACKED
He attacked the
Blue Shirts as tools of England and O’Duffy as an Imperialist and he foresaw
but a fleeting existence for this new organisation. England, he assured
me, was cunning in the way she always wanted to rule Ireland and in the way she
could make Irish people turn traitor by buying them.
Ireland, because Ireland was the only source of food in wartime. All that
savoured of English influence must be blown up. The present Civil Service,
Customs, and Administration were such that the English could come in and control
the country at once, and thus these must be destroyed before a real Irish State
could be built.
your economic policy?” I asked - and I felt rather guilty in asking such a
materialistic question, because I had found that most Nationalist Irishmen have
the deepest contempt for economics. The Republican replied:
freedom. We cannot discuss economics until we have freedom,” but he
stated that an economic structure could not be built unless it had its
foundations in nationality.
pointed to one of the greatest weaknesses in Irish politicians of Republican
hue, namely, an emotion which bids them cast aside practical problems of bread
and butter as something unworthy compared with a vague ideal of freedom.
Their answers to questions on trade or exports or finance are usually of the
utmost ignorance and are couched in terms of nationalistic sentiment or of
dramatic allegory which have no reference to the question asked.
While I admired
the Republicans’ sincerity, I was appalled at their disregard for those simple
laws of making a livelihood without which no nation, however idealistic, can
live. Typica1 of this is a remark of an Irish Republican girl: “I should
rather live barefoot on the mountains tending goats than have to depend on
English goods.” I found later that I had come to the right source for a
judgment of the character of I.R.A. leaders, for when I told an Irishman that I
had met “Mr. Gallagher,” he was surprised and said, “He is the I.R.A.”
What of their
present policy? This was expounded to me later by a tall, friendly I.R.A.
officer, who declared: “Our main purpose is to achieve the freedom of Ireland,
by force if necessary, and for that purpose we maintain an army.
“We are an
independent body and are independent of Mr. de Valera. We differ from the
Fianna Fail (Mr. de Valera’s party) in that Mr. de Valera and his followers
have thought that by working through the Free State Parliament and eventually by
obtaining a majority in Parliament, they could by constitutional means restore
have shown that they have been forced to maintain the Treaty to a very
considerable extent, and to maintain all those officers in the Army who were
hostile to them. The men controlling the key positions, appointed at the
dictatorship of England, still hold those positions, and are even using their
power to sabotage the de Valera Government.
advance towards a Republic until all the machinery of the State - Civil Service,
Parliament, Senate - has been abolished.”
Since the real
relation of Mr. de Valera with the Irish Republican Army is one of the most
important problems of Ireland, I asked: “Are you really opposed to Mr. de
Valera or are you just urging him on?”
officer replied: “If Mr. de Valera showed himself in a position to achieve our
objective we would assist him. Our efforts have been entirely concentrated on
urging him forward.”
differences exist between Mr. de Valera and the I.R.A., not only on the question
of how soon a Republic should be set up, but also on home policy. The
I.R.A. ‘would favour nationalising all the credit of the country and having
State control of industries, not, however, to the exclusion of all private
land policy is more extreme than Mr. de Valera’s policy, and is as follows:
“The soil of the nation and all its resources (minerals, &c.) are the
property of the people and shall be subject to their jurisdiction.
“It shall be
the policy of the State to settle on the soil as great a proportion of the
population as it can bear and that economic sense justifies. To this end,
and also in an endeavour to solve the problem of congested and uneconomic
holdings, ranches (big cattle farms) shall be distributed. After such
redistribution occupiers shall be confirmed in the occupation of their holdings.
The right of the individual is admitted to personal and private property, the
possession of which is not in conflict with, or detrimental to, the common
The I.R.A. also
objects to the de Valera Government allowing the economic life of the country to
be to such a large extent in the bands of foreigners.
SYMPATHY WITH WALES
That the term
“foreigners” is applied with enmity to Wales I do not believe, for in
talking to the Republican officer I found great interest taken in the Welsh.
One of the items in the Republican weekly paper that week was entitled
“Welshmen Who Hate England – ‘I Uffern a Lloegr’ (To Hell with England!)
says ex-Service man,” and my I.R.A. officer was sorry that through the decline
in coal exports and the blow dealt to Holyhead Wales has in the present conflict
lost more than England. He asked me to say: “The Irish people regret
that the Welsh people have to suffer on account of the economic war.”
What is the
future of the I.R.A.? The man who could answer this question could solve
the enigma of Ireland. I shall not attempt to do so. Prophecies that
it will soon be involved in a grave civil war and that Blue Shirts will fight
the I.R.A. I hold to be alarmist and sensational, although this winter isolated
attacks by hot-heads are sure to occur.
The Army is said
to be much stronger than the Blue Shirts can ever hope to be and is recruiting
thousands of young people who in normal times would have emigrated to America.
They are drilling openly in the hills and their supply of arms is stated to have
increased. Whatever policy will be adopted towards them they will be an
important and violent factor working towards a United Irish Republic and towards
an extreme social policy.