“Fides et Patria”


The methods of the British Treasury in effecting retrenchment in the public services of this country, and the fine discrimination exercised in England as compared with Ireland in the treatment of those more vital to the needs and the future well-being of the country, have been the subject of adverse comment from the very outset. These methods have been justly described as unfair, and proved to be inconsistent in many respects, so much so that they have called forth strong and emphatic public protests from time to time, and even their effects in other important directions have called forth their own condemnation. In common with the public press in the country, we have called attention to the more glaring of these unjust and in-consistent methods on different occasions and the grievances and evils which they have worked in defeating perhaps more urgent and pressing claims. They have been even ventilated in Parliament, and legislators and ministers have no doubt been familiarised with them; but so far without effect. Nothing short of a strong persistent, and united agitation has, generally speaking, ever succeeded in moving that elusive body yelept the British Treasury, to recognise and remove unjust financial burdens imposed on this country, such as for instance when some twelve months ago it was sought to strangle some of our more vital industries by the imposition of a destructive taxation. The lesson learned from that agitation when the united voice of the people made it clear that the proposals then made would be resisted by a determined people, should not be lost sight of now that the culminating point in the unjust fleecing of this country is insidiously attempted under the guise of retrenchment by the withdrawal of the grants to Irish public bodies charged with the educational needs of the nation. That Ireland was to be victimised in financial matters was made manifest from the very outset of the decision to effect economies in public services to meet the strain on the nation’s resources for carrying on the war, and the reckless manner in which the controllers of the public purse set about doing so in this country was first told by the framing community who while being urged to go in for more silage for the production of food-stuffs were deprived of the loans usually granted by the Board of Works for drainage purposes and the reclamation of land suitable for conversion to such purposes. In like manner, loans for the purchase of suitable farming implements to render farming more efficient and enable the poorer classes amongst the tillers of the soil to comply with the behests of the Department of Agriculture were put off as well as those for completing housing schemes and the provision cottage plots for tillage by agricultural labourers. The injustice and inconsistency of these raids on Irish public funds called forth public protest, and stress was laid on the fact that there was no effort made to interfere where real extravagance in public administration was rampant. It is scarcely necessary to travel over ground which we have already traversed in this respect, and the items of expenditure that might with advantage to the country be revised if fair, impartial, and equitable treatment were contemplated in effecting retrenchment. We may, however, point to the huge outlay which the maintenance of such systems as the Poor Law, the jails, the police, and the many other monuments of British rule in Ireland, the maintenance of which are still costing the country so dearly, and which remain but to keep alive memories of a past which we are now called upon to forget. The payment of public officials’ salaries to keep such institutions going and administer British Law in this country has been set down by competent authorities as reaching a total sum of fifty five million pounds annually. This fact was alluded to on the occasion of the delivery of a lecture in Naas by the Rev. T. A. Finlay S. J. T. and it was computed that the cost of the public services in this country was greater than the cost of the entire British army prior to the war. Yet we have so far heard nothing of any proposals to touch or tap these sources for the purpose of effecting economies. In commenting on these facts some weeks ago, we suggested that the time was opportune for again reviving the question of workhouse reform and the amalgamation of workhouses, which engaged so much attention at meetings of poor law and other boards throughout the country some time ago, and we notice with satisfaction that a move in this direction has now been made at Navan and the Baltinglass Board of Guardians, which proposes a conference of the public bodies concerned in the Counties of Wicklow, Carlow, Dublin and Kildare, with a view to eliciting an interchange of views on the subject, and possibly evolving some scheme by which reform and amalgamation might be effected. Many of these institutions are only partly occupied by the destitute, but the cost of their upkeep entails now more than ever they did in the past, in proof of which we have but to point to the annual estimates submitted to our administrative public bodies. In like manner, the jails are partially empty, and a chorus of freedom from crime continues to go out from the different assize circuits, to prove that the peace of the country is not of a passing or transitory character, and, therefore, the huge cost which these institutions involve must be regarded now more than ever as a waste of public money when the needs of the empire renders the demand for retrenchment so urgent and necessary. The Petty Sessions Courts throughout the country too, reveal a state of things which makes the maintenance of a huge force of police absurd, especially when the country, now almost denuded of its eligible military men, is called upon to furnish still more to the ranks of regiments at the front; and, if we except the usual back lane brawls between women, there is little or nothing to call for the vindication of the majesty of the law by paid magistrates, and the usual horde of officials of one kind or another dependent upon Dublin Castle and its patronage. Yet the cost of the police to look after us and keep us in order is infinitely more than that allowed for our educational needs, and while all the extravagances attached to these institutions is allowed to go unscathed, the paltry grants allowed for education are seized by the Treasury. This is perhaps the culminating point of the injustice, unfairness, and inconsistency which has characterised the Treasury dealings with Ireland in its retrenchment policy. England and the Allied nations are fighting to-day for amongst other objects, the preservation of small nationalities and is one of the pleas put before Irishmen at recruiting meetings as reasons for their joining the British army to take part in the fight for this particular object. Yet, while the country rings with these appeals, the British Treasury denies to Ireland even the meagre grant hitherto forthcoming for Irish Education, and the teachings of Irish and the cultivation of those traits and ideals which make for the preservation of our distinctive nationality. In effect, this means that the stifling or starving of the soul of Irish nationality, and Ireland, we presume, is reckoned a small nationality in this war, which recruiting agents tell us is as much Ireland’s as England’s war. In view of all this, and especially of the fine discrimination exercised in dealing with English educational purposes, which instead of being reduced, have been actually raised or increased in some instances, could injustice, unfairness, and inconsistency go further? Mr. Acland, questioned by Mr. Boland in the House of Commons a few days ago, said that a maximum sum of £145,000 was voted for special grants to universities or agricultural colleges in England and Wales in respect of losses due to the war, especially in fee for male students who had enlisted. As to the effects of the withdrawal of the grants to Ireland will produce, a statement issued by the Irish Training Colleges and Classes. under Co. Technical Instruction Committees, shows the position clearly. The Colleges for training teachers of Irish were established to meet the great demand for qualified teachers of the National Language, and to remedy the defect in our educational system which made no adequate provision for the training of such teachers. The majority of them are Summer Colleges whose sessions are carried on during the summer and are situated in Irish-speaking districts in the Counties of Louth, Antrim, Donegal, Mayo, Clare, Kerry, Cork and Waterford. The Winter Colleges are situated in the Cities of Dublin, Belfast and Cork and in Mullingar and Navan. Since their establishment the Colleges have been attended by an aggregate of over 13,000 students during the past two years the annual total attendance was over 1,500 yearly. The great majority of the students were teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools. The others included prominent men and women in intellectual and public life not only from Ireland, but from Great Britain, America, France and many other countries. Nearly every nationality in the world has been represented amongst the students. They were founded and administered by voluntary effort. Some years ago, the Colleges discovered that they were entitled under the existing regulations of the Department to earn grants under Section III. of the Department’s programme. That section provides for the payment of a fixed capitation fee for every teacher attending classes for teachers in any subject of the Department’s programme.

As Irish is one of these subjects, the Colleges were entitled to participate and their claims were recognised. The regulations of the Department were not in any way adapted to suit the Colleges. They earned the grants under the same conditions as any other “Teacher’s Class” in any other subject. The College’s have since been in receipt of these grants which enabled them to reduce the fees to the teacher’s attending, and to remunerate their professors, many of whom had given their services free or for inadequate salaries. The hitherto successful attempt to meet a public demand for qualified teachers not supplied by the public administration is now threatened with an unexpected financial crisis. With the failure of the supply of qualified teachers, the teaching of Irish and other subjects in schools and technical classes must also cease, and the localities in which the Summer Colleges are situated may lose the large sums annually spent by the students who lodged in the neighbourhood. In most districts the residents had gone to much expense to provide accommodation in their houses for the students. The principle is established that unsympathetic and ill-informed officials are to regulate the expenditure of Ireland in contemptuous disregard of Irish opinion and the needs and conditions of Ireland. These are but some of the results arising from the wanton action of the Treasury. Already overtaxed by three million annually, one would imagine that this is sufficient to satiate the greed for plunder by the Predominant Partner, but this is not so, and evidently nothing but a destruction of the inspiration and soul of Irish Nationality will satisfy its enemies, notwithstanding the slogans raised to rally Irish Regiments to aid small nations abroad. However, as pointed out in a circular issued by the Gaelic League and as proved by the large influential and enthusiastic proceedings which characterised the great meeting of protest in the Mansion House on Monday night, “there is enough life and vigour left in the Irish people, who have fought to maintain their nationality for 700 years, to defeat the latest mean and underhand attempt to strangle this small nationality.”

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