FOR three centuries, from the reign of Elizabeth to the Famine Exodus, Irish history presents the gloomy picture of an unorganized nation, in Queen Victoria's words "quivering in the grasp" of a highly organized foreign government, every movement of resistance followed by a stroke of power which reduced the vitality of the people by weakening their economy. Patriotic sentiment reassured itself by glorying in the memory of those who had given or risked their lives in these successive conflicts, and by a sort of mystic belief in the nation's indestructibility.

Ireland's hour of opportunity came in the latter part of the year 1921.

My first knowledge of the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 came with its publication. I was left in no doubt that the Treaty implied a great deal more than it expressly stated or than might be understood from it by one who had not followed in some degree the history of constitutional developments. During the ratification debate, on January 10, 1922, in the hope of removing misapprehensions and securing a wider agreement, I proposed that Dail Eireann, before proceeding to ratification, should adopt the following declaration: "That Dail Eireann affirms that Ireland is a sovereign nation, deriving its sovereignty in all respects from the will of the people of Ireland; that all the international relations of Ireland are governed on the part of Ireland by this sovereign status; and that all facilities and accommodations accorded by Ireland to another state or country are subject to the right of the Irish Government to take care that the liberty and well-being of the people of Ireland are not endangered." While this resolution was on the notice paper General Collins spoke to me about it, saying that it contained nothing that was not already implicit in the Treaty. That was also my view, but it was evident from the debate that there were others who were unable to grasp the implications of the Treaty and who might be reassured by a formal declaration. My resolution was opposed by Mr. De Valera, and so failed in its purpose, and I withdrew it. What I have said suffices to show that my view of the effect of the Treaty as regards national and international status was in accord with the interpretation of the principal Irish signatories.

This interpretation was made still more explicit in the Constitution, and was consequently accepted by the British Government and Parliament. The first article of the Constitution declares that "the Irish Free State is a co-equal member of the community of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations." The second article declares that "all powers of government and all authority legislative, executive and judicial in Ireland are derived from the people of Ireland and the same shall be exercized in the Irish Free State through the organizations established by or under and in accord with this Constitution." Article 1, in the word "co-equal," negatives any superior authority. Article 2 negatives any external authority.

The position thus achieved has been made more widely clear by the declarations of successive Imperial Conferences. It should be understood that the declarations of these Conferences are purely declaratory, not legislative. They serve the useful purpose of releasing matters of fact from misapprehensive controversy. Proposals were ventilated some time before the Imperial Conference of 1927, which, if they had been accepted, would possibly have tended towards erecting the Imperial Conference into an organ of superior constitutional legislation, a sort of super-state. Under such an arrangement, for example, New Zealand would have a voice, and possibly the determining voice, in deciding the national and international status of Canada, and vice versa; and the particular foreign relations of one or other state, even to questions of belligerency, might come to be decided in like manner. These proposals failed to germinate.

The only outstanding matter which, on the surface, appeared to conflict with the declared position of co-equality was the appellate jurisdiction of the British Privy Council. This jurisdiction is a survival in part of royal prerogative, in part of the older colonial position. The question as it affects Canada was the subject of an illuminating discussion in the Canadian House of Commons on July 1, 1931. Differences of opinion were shown to exist in Canada as to the desirability and practical expediency, from a Canadian standpoint, of maintaining the appellate jurisdiction, but the debate exhibited a clear consensus of opinion that the appellate jurisdiction could not now exist on the basis of any theory or tradition of superior judicial authority, or otherwise than by the free consent of Canada. The same is true as regards the Irish Free State, where it has been announced more than once on behalf of the government that the appellate jurisdiction of the British Privy Council can no longer be exercised. Now it has been almost a canon of British constitutional development that the fact of development has preceded its recognition in the theory of law and even in the theory of constitutional writers, so that actually the appellate jurisdiction of the Privy Council has ceased to exist. The case has special value in showing how, in these relations, underlying political facts may control apparently explicit provisions of law. Article 66 of the Free State Constitution, embodied in British as well as Irish legislation, lays down that, "The decision of the Supreme Court (of the Irish Free State) shall in all cases be final and conclusive and shall not be reviewed or capable of being reviewed by any other Court, Tribunal or Authority whatsoever: Provided that nothing in this Constitution shall impair the right of any person to petition His Majesty for special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court to His Majesty in Council or the right of His Majesty to grant such leave." The disappearance of this anomaly was naturally expedited by the fact that those who advocated its retention seemed to feel that it was more a mark of suzerainty than a safeguard of personal right.

It now becomes fitting to state the central fact conditioning the position of the states forming jointly "the British Commonwealth of Nations." In any governmental action, judicial, executive, or legislative, the terms "His Majesty" in official parlance or " the Crown " in ordinary political parlance signify the decision of the constitutional Ministers of State, presented traditionally and theoretically to the King in the guise of an advice. The sovereign authority of the British Parliament in the matter of legislation within its jurisdiction is unquestioned, yet every British statute professes to be "enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in Parliament assembled." In the case of each of the states of the " British Commonwealth" the "advice" upon which the Crown or His Majesty is said to act must proceed from the Ministers or Parliament of the State in and for which the action of the Crown is to have effect. It is this power of "advice" which makes the legal theory of co-equality operative in actual practice.

From personal experience at Geneva and elsewhere I am aware that this position, in theory and practice, was not clear at the outset to some who regarded it from the standpoint of international jurisprudence or of international tradition. In theory, because on the whole the position was unprecedented, and international jurisprudence, having no basis in concrete legislative authority, is accustomed to have chief regard to precedents. In practice, because, until this position developed, "His Britannic Majesty" signified the British Government alone. The change in theory is now better and more widely appreciated. The change in practice has been exemplified by the exercise of the power of appointing diplomatic representatives and by the recognition of this power on the part of other states.

NATIONAL FINANCE

When the Free State came into being the control of finance passed into the hands of the Irish Government. It naturally took over the assets and liabilities of the British Government in the area of the Free State. Under Article 5 of the Treaty the proportionate liability of the Free State for the preëxisting National Debt of the United Kingdom (mainly the War Debt of 1914-1918) and for British war pensions, and the countervailing just claims of Ireland, were to be determined by agreement or arbitration. In 1925 the question was settled by the two governments. The Free State remained under no proportionate liability for the British National Debt, but remained liable for civil pensions payable in respect of service in Ireland. It also remained liable for interest and amortization of the undischarged part of moneys advanced under the Irish Land Purchase Acts, by which former tenants became proprietors. This liability, like that for pensions, diminishes every year and in the course of a generation will have ceased.

The change of government has involved no very revolutionary change in the methods of raising revenue. The tendency has been to increase the proportion of total revenue contributed by indirect taxation. A policy of selective protection has been adopted and has yielded considerable sums in protective duties. The rate of income tax has been reduced from six shillings in the pound to three shillings. Duties on tea, coffee and cocoa have been abolished, and the duty on sugar considerably reduced. Protective duties have been imposed on boots, clothing, woollens, furniture, butter, soap, candles and certain other goods.

The revenue and expenditure figures for the last ten years are as follows:

 

Year Revenue Expenditure
1922-23 £27,863,030 £29,595,718
1923-24 31,414,255 38,687,006
1924-25 26,948,114 27,937,834
1925-26 25,439,097 26,693,488
1926-27 25,060,379 27,392,787
1927-28 24,123,270 26,180,831
1928-29 24,221,046 25,435,734
1929-30 24,172,639 25,072,711
1930-31 24,223,000 25,989,000

These figures are at first sight misleading, for in each year normal revenue actually exceeded normal expenditure. Deficits were incurred due to the fact that in each of these years there were included important outlays of an abnormal and non-recurrent nature which might quite properly have been met by borrowing. In the early years the heavy outlay on the army and funds for paying compensation for damages arising out of the civil war were included. In the later years came special expenditures of a constructive nature: the improvement of land, the reorganization of the agricultural industry and the relief of distress. The total amount of abnormal expenditure incurred since the setting up of the Free State has been roughly estimated at £39,000,000, and of this sum £23,500,000, or sixty percent, has been paid for out of current revenue.

It will be noticed that the taxation figures for the past four years have been almost stationary, indicating that a condition of equilibrium has been reached. A comparison with other small countries similar in economic structure to the Irish Free State is interesting (figures in pounds sterling):

 

  Free Netherlands Denmark Switzerland New
  State       Zealand
  1927-28 1926 1927 1927 1928
State Taxes 23,367,000 46,474,000 21,568,000 12,837,000 17,145,000
Local Taxes 4,909,000 19,130,000 20,729,000 19,795,000 6,123,000
  ----------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
Total Taxes 28,276,000 65,604,000 42,297,000 32,632,000 23,268,000
Taxation per          
  capita £9:3:6 £8:16:0 £12:6:3 £8:3:3 £16:2:5

When we analyze our public expenditure we find that an unusually large proportion of it is spent on education and social services. The following table of central government expenditures shows the percentage devoted to various purposes in several small countries:

 

  Irish Free State Denmark Switzerland New Zealand
Defense 8.6 14.3 23.9  3.87
Old Age Pensions 11.0 24.0 (a)  5.65 10.2 (c)
Debt Service 6.5 (b) 39.19 39.1
Education 18.0 20.0 2.0 12.54
Agriculture 7.6  3.0  3.83  1.46
Trade and Industry 1.7  3.7  3.12  0.32
Pensions 8.7  3.5  1.58  4.6
Public Health 1.8 ----  0.63  4.86
Social Insurance 1.5 } 6.0 {  3.41  (d)
Unemployment Relief 1.5  0.85  (d)
Other Social Welfare 0.6  0.42  (d)
(a) And other social allowances. (b) In 1927 the Danish Debt services were met by fresh borrowing. (c) And family allowances. (d) These services do not appear separately in official statistics.

Since the Free State was set up three long-term loans have been successfully raised. The first 5 percent National Loan of £10,000,000, issued at 95 in 1923, was subscribed wholly in the Free State. The second National Loan of £7,087,175, also at 5 percent, floated partly in New York, was issued at 97. The third Loan of £6,000,000, floated in 1930, was issued at 93½ on a 4½ percent basis. About the time the third loan was floated, Japan made one of 5½ percent at 90; New Zealand one of 5 percent at 99; India one of 6 percent at 99; and Germany one of 5½ percent at 90. In other words, the Free State's credit ranks so high that it can borrow on more favorable terms than the other countries referred to. The prices of the three loans on the Dublin Stock Exchange at the moment of writing are 103⅝, 106½ and 97¾ respectively. A savings certificate issue, first made in 1923, has also proved that the Free State's security is as firmly believed in by the small investor at home as by the bigger investor at home and abroad. Already investments in Irish Savings Certificates exceed ten and a half million pounds. The Free State's net burden of National Debt stands at the figure £15,274,000, which is considerably less than one year's revenue.

The results of the financial policy of the last ten years may be summed up under the following heads: a comparatively small public debt; comparatively low taxation; state services maintained and improved; large constructional works instituted; and a high standing of national credit. These results have been achieved notwithstanding the effects of several years of armed conflict before and after the Treaty, involving large destruction of property and economic apparatus, a succession of bad years for agriculture, and the reactions of world depression, especially in Great Britain, the main export market for Irish produce.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

Many of those who were most active in bringing about the Irish Revolution had previously been engaged in the British Civil Service, in Irish county or municipal administration, in the legal and medical professions, or in other occupations of a general public bearing. This, along with a kind of national aptitude for organization, may explain how, almost without delay and in the midst of an armed internal conflict, a complete administrative system was established and began to function effectively.

It is needless to specify the details, for in its administrative structure the Irish Free State presents the same principal features that are familiar in other states. In certain departments a considerable reorganization was carried out, but the changes from the British régime were effected for the most part without grave inconvenience to the public. Perhaps the most singular feature of the revolution was that during actual hostilities, while the British Government suspended the operation of its own law, the revolutionaries declared a state of law and established courts to make it effective. Some of the present Supreme Court and High Court judges are men who, at the risk of their lives, presided over the courts of the Irish Republic.

The judicial administration of law has been reorganized throughout. The old courts of petty sessions and the justices of the peace, who were usually chosen from the gentry without regard for legal qualifications, have been replaced. The police system likewise has been completely remodelled. Unlike the former Royal Irish Constabulary, the new police force has no military character and is not armed with lethal weapons. There are instances of unusual crime and some glorification of terrorism, the morbid consequences of domestic and world-wide upheaval; but in general the country is crimeless and the prisons are sparsely inhabited.

ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION

How grave was the problem of national reconstruction that faced the Irish Free State may be brought home by a brief review of the statistics of population. Probably no other state of our time, old or new, has had to deal with so immense a difficulty of this sort.

In 1841 the population of the present Free State area was 6,528,799. In 1926 it was 2,971,992. The decline in population had gone on steadily, decade after decade, and had been accompanied by a decline in industrial occupations. Towns became villages, villages disappeared. The most fertile areas, such as Meath, suffered the greatest loss of population. This process, continued during three generations, produced inevitable effects in the popular mind and in the mind of those who directed the operations of business and the flow of capital. To refrain from enterprise and to despair of development became the highest economic and financial wisdom. It would be rash to suppose that any confident reaction has set in during the present period of world depression.

As regards emigration, we shall pass over the abnormal period that followed the famine years 1845-47. In the decade 1871-1880, deducting the figures of immigration, we find that the yearly exodus averaged a little over 50,000. During the Land War decade, 1881-1890, it rose above 60,000. In the decade 1891-1901 it fell to 40,000; in 1901-1910 to 26,000. War conditions, with governmental restriction and large movements of troops, make the figures for the succeeding decade of little service in comparison. Following the domestic upheaval, the emigration figure rose in 1925 and 1926 above 30,000. Since then it has steadily and rapidly declined: in 1927, to 27,148; in 1928, to 24,691; in 1929, to 20,802; in 1930, to 15,966. In the twelve months ending with May 1931 the net emigration was 8,615; in the last half of that period it was only 605. While the causes of this remarkable decrease are largely external, the fact remains that the outflow of the most vigorous section of the Irish population has virtually dried up for the first time in 85 years. Since there is an annual plurality of births over deaths, amounting to about 16,000, it is fairly certain that the population is today increasing.

As a result of the decline in industry in Ireland under the Union the proportion of the population engaged in industrial pursuits at the time of the Treaty was abnormally small. To adjust the balance between agriculture and industry by the encouragement of manufactures had become one of the national aspirations. The Free State Government adopted the policy of imposing protective tariffs in cases where full inquiry showed that the imposition of a tariff would lead to increased employment without a disproportionate rise in the cost of living. In 1927 a Tariff Commission was set up which examines and reports to the government on all applications for protection. As a result of this policy 120 new factories have been established and employment has been measurably increased.

In its protective policy the government has never lost sight of the predominance of the agricultural industry and has not favored the imposition of any tax on what might be styled the farmer's raw material. A large body of opinion, however, presses for more thoroughgoing protection and amongst other things advocates a tax on imported grain. The degree to which protection may be applied is, in this country as in others, a matter of constant political discussion and controversy.

The number of persons unemployed in the Irish Free State on July 1 in each of the past six years has been as follows: 1926--22,407; 1927--18,742; 1928--20,952; 1929--17,126; 1930--19,141; 1931--21,427. In interpreting these figures we must take several important factors into account. For one thing, in Ireland as elsewhere there has been a large increase of employment for women, chiefly in clerical occupations. Again, the emigration statistics, summarized above, imply that many who in former times would have sought employment outside of Ireland now remain in Ireland. Of these, a large proportion must be the sons and daughters of the "small farmer" class, belonging to families who work on their holdings of land. The extent to which such persons are economically occupied cannot easily be ascertained or expressed by statistical methods. The problem of their economic employment in Ireland is the problem of the development of rural industry.

AGRICULTURE

The Free State is predominantly an agricultural country. Its mild climate and fertile pastures make it eminently suited to stock-raising and dairy farming. It has at its doors a large industrial population to absorb its surplus produce. These facts are the basis of its present economic life.

Ten years ago the agricultural industry was going through a period of acute depression. During the Great War, when Ireland had a virtual monopoly of the British market and when food supplies were so vital to Great Britain, quantity had naturally enough become more important than quality. After the war, then, faced by renewed competition from overseas, Irish produce fell to a low place on the market. One of the government's first steps was to appoint a commission of inquiry into how to give Irish agriculture a sure basis for future expansion and prosperity. The commission's recommendations resulted in the passage of legislation providing for the raising of quality in all branches of agricultural produce. Acts providing for the grading, testing and marketing of eggs and dairy produce were introduced, with the result that Irish eggs have since then consistently occupied a foremost place on the British market, commanding higher prices, grade for grade, than any other imported eggs. Similarly, Irish creamery butter has regained its high reputation for quality. Its price on the English market, however, has been affected by the irregularity of its supply, due to the fact that winter dairying has not been extensively practiced in Ireland. As a stimulus to winter dairying a tariff has been put on imported butter. By assuring a remunerative price for milk in the home market progressive farmers should be induced to increase winter milk production.

The livestock trade, which is the biggest single branch of the export trade, was already in 1921 one of the country's greatest assets. The problem arising was to safeguard it and meet an intensified competition from abroad. In 1925 the Livestock Breeding Act was passed providing that no bull may be kept unless it has been licensed as suitable for breeding purposes. The elimination of inferior bulls has resulted in a marked improvement in the standard of the country's livestock and has led to proposals in other countries for similar legislation.

Ireland has long enjoyed a remunerative trade in bacon and hams. In recent years English restrictions against the importation of fresh meat from certain Continental countries where foot-and-mouth disease prevailed has afforded the Free State an opportunity of establishing a steady seasonal export trade in fresh pork in addition to the existing trade in bacon. During the last year the Livestock Breeding Act was made applicable to boars as well as bulls, and fresh legislation was introduced to secure the highest standards in all fresh meat exports.

Up to the middle of the last century Ireland was a grain-producing and grain-exporting country. The opening up of the great wheat-growing areas in North America and elsewhere dealt this business a severe blow. The area under grain crops, which in 1851 was 2,377,000 acres, had fallen in 1911 to 903,000 acres. By 1926 it had declined to 825,000 acres. The government maintains that the present system of mixed stock-raising and dairy farming is best suited to the country and that in view of world competition and Irish climatic conditions the production of grain for sale is an unprofitable undertaking for Irish farmers. Its policy is to induce farmers to till more, not in order to sell more grain but to provide foodstuffs for their own livestock. In order to help farmers in the southeastern counties, which were formerly grain-growing districts, the sugar beet crop was introduced in 1925 by government aid and was readily taken up by the farming community.

The government's agricultural policy has not been carried through without opposition, and pleas for a protected home market for wheat and other cereals have often been heard. The advocates of this latter course, while admitting that it would only be possible inside a high tariff wall and with subsidies and guaranteed prices to the growers, argue that increased employment and independence of outside markets would compensate for the higher costs to the consumer.

The necessity for providing farmers with special credit facilities was recognized and met by the setting up in 1928 of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. Its function is to provide individual farmers, coöperative societies and agricultural enterprises generally with long-term loans. Under the old régime an annual grant of £559,011 was made for the relief of local rates on agricultural land. In 1925 this grant was doubled by the Free State Government. In May 1931 came an additional grant of £750,000. Considerable grants have also been made to secondary schools and to the University Colleges of Dublin and Cork for the development of agricultural education and research.

The policy of buying out landlords and converting the previous tenants into owners, subject to the payment of terminable annuities, began with the Ashbourne Act in 1887 and was developed in subsequent acts so that by the time the Free State came into being 11,550,000 acres of land had been vested in 354,000 tenants at a price of £110,500,000. There remained nearly 100,000 holdings to be dealt with, comprising approximately 3,000,000 acres at an estimated price of £20,000,000, as well as 1,000,000 acres of untenanted land. In 1923, under the Free State's first Land Act, 578,000 acres of tenanted land and 380,000 acres of untenanted land have been vested in the Land Commission. In the spring of 1931 a final land act was passed to speed up the work and by it all remaining tenants are vested as from either May 1 or November 1, 1931. The change now almost accomplished in the Irish agrarian system amounts to a social revolution. Half a century ago the land of Ireland was owned by a small class of landlords, largely resident out of Ireland and for the rest known by the accepted description of "England's faithful garrison" or by a synonym familiar to readers of American history, "the Loyalists." Today the same land is mainly the property of the descendants of those whom ancient hostility had dispossessed, and is in most cases the property of "small holders," worked by themselves and their families.

EDUCATION

The education policy of the Irish Free State has been based mainly on the principle of state aid rather than on the principle of state control. As Minister of Education in the first years of the Free State I entertained no doubt that to bring the whole direction of the education of the young under political control would be a more radical and penetrating form of state socialism than the political control of the material means of economic production and distribution. The first Minister of Education at the same time in Northern Ireland was Lord Londonderry, a leading Conservative politician in England and a leading opponent of the kind of socialism embodied in the policy of the Labor Government of Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, however, he adopted the policy of state control, with the result that his government has ever since been in continual conflict not only with the Catholics, always opposed to that policy, but with a large body of Protestant opinion which rejects the view that education is wholly and rightly a function of the state.

It is not a matter that can be simplified by doctrinaire phraseology. In practice, state aid cannot be given unconditionally, and its conditions must imply a greater or less degree of supervision or of guarantees. As regards the universities, there are two in the Irish Free State, the University of Dublin, established under Queen Elizabeth, and the National University, established in 1908. Both have received liberal financial aid from the Free State government. In general the view is taken that the constitution, personnel, and educational record of the universities furnish a sufficient guarantee for the proper use of such financial aid.

Under the British régime, the secondary and primary schools were brought under a system of centralized official supervision as a condition of receiving financial aid. This supervision extended to program, time-table, examination and classification, and almost every detail of instruction and administration. The system has been modified in some respects but has not been superseded. It implies that the school, however managed, staffed, and administered, is less capable of understanding and serving the interests of its pupils and the community and is less trustworthy than a governmental department and its officials; further, that however excellent the record of schools and teachers may be, their danger of falling from grace is only to be averted by the regulations, prescriptions, and unwearied vigilance of a department of state. In a country economically dependent for the most part on its rural economy, the effects of British industrialism, Irish economic decay, and emigration, have combined to render Irish prosperity, especially Irish rural prosperity, the least considered object of education even in the schools of rural communities. The standard of success was not the betterment of the surrounding community but the degree in which education enabled a proportion of the pupils to become sharers and helpers in the prosperity of some distant city or country. Under the Free State administration some beginnings of reform, tending to give another direction to educational purpose, have been instituted, but it can hardly be said that the popular mind has yet been able to recover the idea of the school as a means towards local and thereby towards national well-being.

In one respect the educational policy and administration of the Irish Free State have been eminently successful. Practically everybody in Ireland is a declared adherent of this or that religious denomination. In no country have religious conflicts been more prolonged or entered more deeply into concerns of government, economic and cultural life, and above all education. Parents as a rule (and at present not less than at any former time), when choice is possible, choose for their children schools giving an education in accordance with their religious requirements. Almost without exception, then, the primary and secondary schools are recognized to belong to some religious denomination. The principle of state aid insures that any school which complies with the official regulations and submits to the official supervision is entitled to a proportionate share in the funds provided for education of its grade. It is fully recognized on all sides that the policy of the state has brought peace and satisfaction into what was formerly in Ireland, and is still in many countries, a field of contention.

As in matters of education, so in all other fields liberty and fair play for the adherents of all religious denominations is the desire of the people and the policy of the government. When the government proposed to establish a censorship against immoral publications certain literary circles in Ireland and in other countries proclaimed their fears that the functions of censorship might be abused. These functions have now been two years in operation and those who expressed fears about them beforehand appear to have forgotten all about the matter.

Elementary education, declared free to all by the Constitution, has been made compulsory for all by statute. In addition to the special grants to university colleges for agricultural education already mentioned, recent provision has been made for a general plan of vocational education. On the cultural side, grants have been made in encouragement of the arts, dramatic study, archaeology, the collection of national folklore, and similar pursuits.

Many observers and not a few domestic critics have found matter for discussion in the apparent antinomy of Free State policy: an unbending utilitarianism, exemplified in the Shannon Scheme and such matters as the regulation of livestock breeding, and, on the other hand, a no less obstinate adherence to idealistic and cultural aims, conspicuously in the case of the Irish language. There is in truth no opposition and no want of harmony between these two lines of national policy. If there be any error in the case it lies in the mental abstractions of those who, separating the life of material utilities from the life of culture and ideals, create a dialectical opposition and discord which do not actually exist.

CONCLUSION

My personal recollections of Irish public affairs go back to the beginnings of the Land League, to Davitt and Parnell, and the varying fortunes of the struggle for national autonomy. I saw the era during which government and the people were on opposite sides, and while I did not doubt the capacity of the Irish people to manage their own affairs I felt certain that the first ten years of self-government would be a time of unexampled difficulty and trial. I could not foresee that those ten years would also be a time of world-wide political unrest and of acute economic depression.

Looking back now on those ten years I feel that without indulging in idle boasting we can say that it is a matter of history that Ireland has come well out of the test. I do not ascribe the result to any small group of exceptional men, for high administrative capacity has been found among men newly raised to responsible positions in various departments of government. At the same time, a serious warning may be uttered against any flattering friendly voice which would represent the position of the Irish Free State as one of enviable success. Ireland has held on well in these years largely because, in comparison with her resources, her actual development stood on a low level. The storm that lays waste a rich crop of grain leaves a neighboring stretch of natural pasture unharmed. Other countries find their difficulty in maintaining a highly developed and highly organized economy in a wasted and debt-ridden economic world. Ireland's problem is to build up a normal economy from a lower plane. The task is made vastly more difficult by the adverse economic conditions of other countries. To find productive employment for the population of the towns, to introduce a healthy complexity into the monotony and almost barbarous simplicity of agricultural industry, to provide for a future in which population may again become normally proportioned to natural resources -- this is a task which demands courage and tenacious purpose in administration, and in the people a change from the downgrade to the upgrade mentality. During the past ten years, the revenue of the Irish Free State has been heavily charged, as I have shown, with items of capital expenditure. The necessity for continued capital expenditure in the development of economic resources will continue to press heavily in years to come. No one doubts that the Irish Government has done wisely in seeking to establish a sound and stable basis of national credit. This, however, is no more than the first step in economic recovery and progress. The task of reconstruction still lies ahead. All the financial resources of the state, wisely husbanded and wisely expended, well be required to place it on the road to full achievement.

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  • EOIN MACNEILL, Speaker of the Dáil Eireann, 1921--22; Minister of Education and member of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, 1922--26; Professor of Early History in the National University of Ireland
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