“For there is no nation of people under the sunne that doth love equall and indifferent [= impartial] justice better than the Irish; or will rest better satisfied with the execution thereof, although it bee against themselves; so as they may have the protection and benefit of the law, when uppon just cause they do desire it.”
The ancient Irish loved their laws and took pride in obeying and enforcing them. The different attitude of the modern Irish towards foreign laws and administration is amply explained by the morally indefensible character of those laws and that administration, to be read in English statutes and ordinances and in the history of English rule in Ireland—a subject too vast and harrowing, and in every sense foreign to what has gone before, to be entered upon here. Though the Parliament of 1782-1800 was little more than a Pale Parliament, in which the mass of the Irish people had no representation whatever, one of its Acts, to its credit be it said, was an attempt to mitigate the Penal Laws and emancipate the oppressed Gaelic and Catholic population of Ireland. With the partial exception of that brief interval, law in Ireland has, during the last 360 years, meant English laws specially enacted for the destruction of any Irish trade or industry that entered into competition with a corresponding English trade or industry. In later times those crude barbarities have been gradually superseded by the more defensible laws now in force in Ireland, all of which can be studied in statutes passed by the Parliament, since the Union with Scotland, called British.
Pending the desirable work of a more competent Brehon Law Commission and translators, the subject must be studied in the six volumes of Ancient Laws of Ireland, produced by the first Commission, from 1865 to 1901, ignoring the long introductions and many of the notes. Whitley Stokes: Criticism of Atkinson’s Glossary (London, 1903); R. Dareste: Etudes d’histoire de droit (Paris, 1889); d’Arbois de Jubainville and Paul Collinet: Etudes sur le droit celtique, 2 vols. (Paris, 1895); Joyce: Social History of Ancient Ireland, 2 vols. (London, 1913); Laurence Ginnell: The Brehon Laws (London, 1894).
By W.H. GRATTAN FLOOD, Mus. D., M.R.I.A., K.S.G.
Perhaps nothing so strikingly brings home the association of Ireland with music as the fact that the harp is emblazoned on the national arms. Ireland, “the mother of sweet singers”, as Pope writes; Ireland, “where”, according to St. Columcille, “the clerics sing like the birds”; Ireland can proudly point to a musical history of over 2,000 years. The Milesians, the De Dananns, and other pre-Christian colonists were musical. Hecataeus (B.C. 540-475) describes the Celts of Ireland as singing songs to the harp in praise of Apollo, and Aethicus of Istria, a Christian philosopher of the early fourth century, describes the culture of the Irish. Certain it is that, even before the coming of St. Patrick, the Irish were a highly cultured nation, and the national Apostle utilized music and song in his work of conversion. In the early Lives of the Irish Saints musical references abound, and the Irish school of music attracted foreign scholars from the sixth to the ninth century.