“And tell us what is the matter with Ireland.”
This was the last injunction a fellow journalist, propagandized into testy impatience with Ireland, gave me before I sailed for that bit of Europe which lies closest to America.
It became perfectly obvious that Ireland was poor; poor to ignorance, poor to starvation, poor to insanity and death. And that the cause of her poverty is her exploitation by the world capitalist next door to her.
In Ireland there is no disagreement as to the cause of her poverty. There is very little difference as to the best remedy—three-fourths of Ireland have expressed their belief that the country can live only as a republic. Even the two great forces in Ireland that are said to be for the status quo, I found in active sympathy with the republican cause. In the Catholic Church the young priests are eager workers for Sinn Fein, and in Ulster the laborers are backing their leaders in a plea for self-determination. But there are, of course, those who say that a republic is not enough. In the cities where poverty is blackest, there are those who state that the new republic must be a workers’ republic. In the villages and country places where the co-operative movement is growing strong, there are those who believe that the new republic must be a co-operative commonwealth.
What’s the matter with Ireland?
OUT OF A JOB
Is Ireland poor? I decided to base my answer to that question on personal investigation. I dressed myself as a working girl—it is to the working class that seven-eighths of the Irish people belong—and in a week in the slums of Dublin I found that lack of employment is continually driving the people to migration, low-wage slavery, or acceptance of charity.
At the woman’s employment bureau of the ministry of munitions, I discovered that 50,000 Irish boys and girls are annually sent to the English harvests, and that during the war there were 80,000 placements in the English munition factories.
“But I don’t want to leave home,” I heard a little ex-fusemaker say as we stood in queues at the chicken-wire hatch in the big bare room turned over by the ministry of munitions for the replacement of women who had worked on army supplies. Her voice trembled with the uncertainty of one who knew she could not dictate.
“Then you’ve got to be a servant,” said the direct young woman at the hatch. “There’s nothing left in Ireland but domestic jobs.”
“Isn’t—you told me there might be something in Belfast?”
“Linen mills are on part time now—no chance. There’s only one place for good jobs now—that’s across the channel.”
The little girl bit her lip. She shook her head and went out the rear exit provided for ex-war workers. Together we splashed into the broken-bricked alley that was sloppy with melting spring sleet.