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The Enigma of Ireland (iv). 
The Western Mail - November 9th, 1933


Armed Force Independent of Mr. de Valera

By Gareth Jones 

Dublin looks 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. 


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 determined chin. 

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 Fascist parties. 

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. 


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. 

England needed 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. 

“What about 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:

“We want 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. 


This reply 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 the Republic. 

“Recent events 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. 

“We cannot 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?” 

The I.R.A. 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.” 


Nevertheless, 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 enterprise. 

The I.R.A.’s 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 good.” 

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. 


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. 













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