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THE ECONOMIC IDEALS OF IRISH NATIONALISM: FRUGAL COMFORT OR LAVISH AUSTERITY? MARY E. DALY joseph carrigan, the head of the United States Economic Cooperation Administration mission to Ireland, which was the agency responsible for the Marshall Aid program, wrote in 1949 to Seán MacBride, the Irish Minister for External AVairs, to express his frustration at Ireland’s apparent lack of concern about her inability to generate dollar earnings. As I have discussed the matter with Government oYcials, I Wnd everyone most friendly and receptive to suggestions, but little action seems to follow . I have been impressed in some instances by the lightness of concern about it, in other instances by the expressed hopelessness as to Ireland’s ability to do anything about it, and in still other instances by the apparent feeling that it is not Ireland’s problem but that it must be solved by action entirely outside of Ireland. Some appear to feel that something is going to happen to take care of it. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Ireland is not facing up this problem. Such criticism was not uncommon during the immediate postwar years. A British oYcial commented on “. . . how self-centred and in a way isolated from reality Dublin appeared to be,” and he concluded: “I was particularly anxious to get them interested in Bretton-Woods organisations but it really seemed as though the people I talked to were thinking about it for the Wrst time.” Another claimed that higher prices for Irish agricultural produce would result in small farmers eating more and doing less. . . . The Irish are nearer to subsistence farming mentality than we are and have yet to learn the attractions (or alleged attractions) of farming to make money for the purpose of buying things the farm cannot produce.1 THE ECONOMIC IDEALS OF IRISH NATIONALISM 77 1 University College, Dublin, Archives (UCDA), McGilligan Papers, P 35/c/6; London, Public Records Office (PRO), B.T. 11/4246 21 June 1946; B.T. 11/8821 24 May Similar views had been expressed by a number of early nineteenth-century economists, among them Ricardo, Malthus and McCulloch, who believed “That ‘a taste for other objects besides mere food’ was a primary necessity for economic development in Ireland.”2 While such opinions may reXect uncritical foreign acceptance of Irish cultural stereotypes, Carrigan’s views seem to be corroborated by MacBride’s response: Ireland’s approach to political and economic problems is not based on materialism ; basically, Ireland is moved more by a genuine desire to serve the ideals in which she believes. These ideals are the democratic way of life, Christian social and economic principles, human liberty, the right to national self determination and family life.3 This is one among many litanies of cultural values enunciated by Irish nationalists. In the 1840s, the Young Irelander Thomas Davis described the Irish people as “pious, hospitable, and brave, faithful observers of family ties, cultivators of learning, music and poetry”—values jeopardized by materialist English values. In 1904, Michael Davitt described England’s rule of Ireland prior to 1870 as “a systematic opposition to the Wve great underlying principles of civilized society as these lived and had their being and expressions in Celtic character”: love of country; attachment to home and to familial land; fervent loyalty to religious faith, “unsurpassed by that of any Christian nation”; and national pride in learning. The most evocative image of this nature is Taoiseach Eamon de Valéra’s famous St. Patrick’s Day broadcast of 1943. The Ireland which we have dreamed of would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as the basis of right living, of a people who were satisWed with frugal comfort and devoted their leisure to things of the spirit—a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose Welds and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contests of athletic youth and the laughter of comely maidens, whose Wresides would be forums for the wisdom of old age. It would, in a word, be the home of a people living the life that God desires...


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