Friday, March 6, 2009

The not-so-good and the not-so-great: an interruption

Malcolm, back from his Ulster peregrinations, intended the series of anecdotal exposées to continue, if not serially, at least regularly. After all, he's off again in a few days time. And these little gobbets are a doddle to produce.

Then he hit two obstacles.

One was the nature of the beast.

The next obvious posting would, alphabetically, bring him to close to B is for Blue. Normally, Malcolm could knock off a few hundred words on the topic of the Blueshirts without breaking sweat.

Yet, he felt there was need for something more than mere dismissive mockery. Perhaps such consideration should be procrastinated until O for O'Duffy or some later peg-to-hang-a-hat on.

He was reconsidering at some length, when the second obstacle was presented him.

This second obstacle was quite bizarre.

Friday of last week, having spent a peaceful night after the previous evening in the company of Milady Aramintha, la Châtelaine de Knocknamuckly, and despite the noisy construction-workers in the surrounding Scots Pines (for clue thereon, see above), Malcolm proceeded to clear his head with morning coffee in a oh-so-naice café. There were only two prints to hand: The Sun and The Irish News. So, a no-brainer: he chose the newspaper.

Deep in the bowels of the Irish News is an "On this day" column, one of those retrospectives inviting us to mock the afflicted of previous generations. This one was a lulu, all the way from 27th February 1940; so here it is in full:
That no further books written by war-mongers in the English language, which were insulting to the Chancellor of the German Reich [Herr Hitler] be allowed in the library, and that any such books on the shelves at present should be immediately removed, was a resolution debated for almost two hours by Galway County Library Committee on Saturday.

In the end, consideration of it was adjourned.

The proposer, Mr C McGuinness, national teacher, said Eire was a neutral country. Many books had been written by British scribblers at the dictation of war-mongers to be used as propaganda among Irish people.

The chairman, Mr E Corbett, seconded the proposal.

Senator Liam O Buachalla said that for the next 12 months the committee should purchase no books from England except on technical matters relating to agriculture and industry. They could use money saved in re-binding and getting out old Irish classics.

Mr Kelly said that if they were to cut out all English books, the books they have now would become stale.

Mr Cunningham said that it was not for the committee to dictate to people what they should read.

They should not deprive readers of their customary variety.

Senator O Buachalla: We have 75,000 volumes here and that is variety enough for anyone.
Malcolm was taken aback.

A distant memory of long-previous reading came back to him, inspired by the recognition of "Senator Liam Ó Buachalla". He was a staunch Fianna Fáil man. He was appointed to the Senate by de Valera in October 1939, and remained there until 1960. During the Fianna Fáil administrations of 1951-54 and 1957-1969, Ó Buachalla was the Government's placeman for Cathaoirleach (Seanad Speaker).

A bit of effort (and, yes, Googling) produced the piece Malcolm recollected. It was a Seanad debate of 27th May, 1941, when the Labour Party was attempting to revoke the emergency powers decree to impose wage controls (and, incidentally to make strike action and picketing illegal). It is a debate which has direct relevance to the present moment.

With a bit of effort, one can again appreciate Liam's wit and wisdom as he valiantly acts as Seán MacEntee's sole-and-solitary wingman. Who can fail to admire his sociological disquisition?:
In this country, as I suppose in every country, the community is made up of various classes. It is unfortunate that we have to use the word “classes,” but we have just got to use it because there is no better word available just yet. The community is made up, as we all know, of the capitalist, the middle-man, the rentier, the worker, the unemployed, and that unfortunate element of the community that has permanently to depend on the State and other institutions for whatever income it enjoys. Each of these classes is affected by this order, some of them affected directly, some of them indirectly, but each of the classes is affected by the order. The ultimate object envisaged is the well-being of the whole community. That is the ultimate object of the order. It does seem to puzzle some people, or we are led to believe it puzzles them, that the restricting of increases in incomes of both capitalists and workers in the present emergency is in their best interests, but such is the truth. I agree at once that the effect of the order is to restrict liberty, and the restriction of liberty is against our grain, but restriction of liberty in this instance may well enable us to enjoy later on a greater measure of economic and social freedom than might be possible should we be unwilling to forego some of our liberty to-day. At the same time, I, for one, am not convinced that the mass of the Irish people, workers and capitalists alike, feel that any great injustice is being perpetrated on them by this order. People interested in the problems of the workers, people studying social conditions, are quite well aware how often workers, admitting that they speak as individuals, declare their willingness to forego some of their liberty or some of their freedom if the foregoing of such freedom would lead to greater security. I admit that in these cases they speak as individuals but, nevertheless, taking a fair number of individuals as statistical samples, one is entitled to come to the conclusion that they represent the mind of the whole, and I am convinced that the workers, left to themselves, do not feel that their freedom is endangered in any way.
Ah yes! Just what could be predicted from a Professor of Economics of University College, Galway during those enlightened years.

Tosh it was when it was uttered.
Tosh it was when Malcolm read it forty-odd years back.
Tosh it remains.

So, last word to Milady Aramintha, la Châtelaine de Knocknamuckly:

It's wonderful the workings of a wheelbarrow.
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