ALLINGHAM 18 July 2014 The Irish Times
An unsigned article on Ireland in the July 1866 edition of Fraser’s Magazine was remarkable for its time, and boldness. It could well have been penned by William Allingham, the Donegal bank clerk who left his ledgers behind after seven years to join the customs service in Belfast in order to better his chances of pursuing a literary career.
The article described a hard-pressed Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, confronting the gigantic military power of Napoleon more than half a century earlier in the Peninsular War. Significantly, the Iron Duke, who had served as chief secretary in Ireland not long before, found time “in the menacing pauses of the war”, as Fraser’s put it, to write to the cabinet in London about the state of Ireland: “He pointed out the weak moral influence of the British Government in that country, the misery and discontent of the poor, the want of loyalty among the middle classes, the dissatisfaction even of the rich and the disastrous results of religious dissension pervading deeply the frame of society.”
Given this state of affairs, the hold of England on Ireland might prove even less firm than his own on the Peninsula, Wellesley warned.
While the Ireland of 1866 was undoubtedly different, noted Fraser’s Magazine, it resembled “in some essential features the ominous sketch of 1810”. The reference to the iconic duke was less a case of deliberate name-dropping than authoritative justification for the argument that was to follow. It amounted to saying that if the man who saved the British Empire from Napoleon could address the question of social and religious inequity in Ireland in the middle of a war he was not at all confident of winning, then any reasonable reader must, at least, ask why.
The type of reader ripe for such persuasion peppered Allingham’s 1824-89 diary entries. His merchant father had taken him out of school at 14 to join the bank, but as a voracious reader he continued his education informally and managed to teach himself Latin, Greek, French and German.
Allingham’s tersely written diary notes could leave most of the Victorian greats in the ha’penny place, for the graphic detail and insight they afforded into the daily doings of the most notable writers of the era: the poet laureate, Alfred Tennyson for example, or the irascible historian-philosopher, Thomas Carlyle; even the pre-Raphaelite artist and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These were all close friends of his over many years. It is clear that while he enjoyed their company and was prepared to suspend judgment in many sparkling encounters, he was anything but dispassionate when reference was made to Ireland. On the erudite Carlyle, he wrote thus: “He cares nothing for Ireland except what feeds his prejudices. His is the least judicial of minds.”
As for Tennyson, the poet laureate referred to Ireland as “that horrible island”, knowing nothing of its history, Allingham noted. Later, England’s most lauded Victorian poet was to say, patronisingly, of Ireland: “I heartily wish it was in the middle of the Atlantic, a thousand miles away from England. I like the Irish, but they’re a fearful nuisance.”
Allingham’s superb notation indicates a man who understood empire, but remained an outsider, the boy from Ballyshannon who never forgot his roots. As such he posed a veiled threat to the complacency of the salon imperialists, without displaying aggression.
The Ballyshannon man is remembered for his poetry rather than his journalism, yet he resigned his customs job in 1870 at the age of 46 to join Fraser’s Magazine as a sub-editor, and afterwards was editor for nine years. Yeats believed Allingham to have been his Irish verse master, “starting me in the way I have gone”, he conceded.
Allingham’s 5,000-line epic narrative poem, Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland, had been serialised in Fraser’s in 1863. The poem stands as a parable on the evils of rackrent and the grotesque system of land tenure that preceded Davitt’s Land League and what was to follow. It was Allingham’s favourite, although its greatness was not recognised by the contemporary literati.
Significantly, the Russian novelist, Ivan Turgenev, claimed that he never understood Ireland until he read Laurence Bloomfield. And what gratified Allingham most was when Gladstone quoted from it in the House of Commons and described it as “an extremely clever work”. The British prime minister was not to become a home rule advocate for another 20 years, but Laurence Bloomfield had sown the seed.
GIOVANNI 26 April 2014
Lorenzo the Magnificent could easily have been the role model for Shakespeare’s Polonius, on the basis of the letter his son, Giovanni, found in his rooms the day he was inducted into the college of cardinals. It was April 1492, more than a century before Hamlet was first staged: the lad was just 16.
His father’s letter exhorted the young cardinal to be mindful of the magnitude of the favour bestowed on the house of de’ Medici, “the greatest dignity we have ever enjoyed” and understand that it was not through Giovanni’s merits or prudence that this had happened. He must seek to show his gratitude by a pious, chaste and exemplary life. It would be a disgrace, said Lorenzo, if Giovanni were to forsake the path he had trodden hitherto, and abandoned regular observance of the sacraments.
The young man was urged to keep regular hours and persevere in studies appropriate to his office, in effect to undergo an apprenticeship commensurate with his elevated role, and to keep a low profile.
“I well know that as you are now to reside at Rome, that sink of iniquity, the difficulty of conducting yourself by these admonitions will be increased,” wrote the Florentine leader.
Giovanni would probably meet with those who would “endeavour to corrupt” and incite him to vice, Lorenzo, warned, as his “early attainment to so great a dignity” was not observed without envy. Those who could not prevent the young de’ Medici receiving such high honour might endeavour to diminish it by inducing him to forfeit a good public opinion.
The entire Christian world would prosper if cardinals were as they ought to be, Lorenzo wrote. In the event, “there would always be a good pope on which the tranquillity of Christendom so materially depends”. Giovanni should always put the honour and state of the church and the apostolic see above every consideration. “Nor, while you keep this in view, will it be difficult for you to favour your family and your native place,” he added wryly.
As the youngest cardinal in the college, Giovanni ought to be “most vigilant and unassuming”. A handsome and well-ordered house would be “preferable to a great retinue and a splendid residence”. Silk and jewels were out. Instead, he should confine himself to a few elegant antiques or handsome books: “Invite others to your house oftener than you receive invitations. Practise neither too frequently.”
Then, as if in anticipation of Polonius’s advice to Laertes, “To thine own self be true”, the father urged his son to observe one commonsense rule above all others: “Rise early in the day.” This would be “of the greatest utility” to his health and expedite the business of a cardinal in the performance of divine service, studying, holding audiences etc.
This appeal for probity appears completely out of character in so unscrupulous a politician as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Throughout his life the de’ Medici chief had been ruthless in the consolidation of his banking family’s power in Florence. In addition, he had enjoyed a licentious lifestyle and, eschewing modesty, had spent lavishly as a patron of the arts. The explanation, apparently, was that he was on his deathbed when he wrote the letter and seeking spiritual reconciliation through the good offices of the Dominican monk Savonarola. Lorenzo died shortly afterwards.
Whether Giovanni took his father’s advice to heart is unclear, but he did enough to become pope. As Leo X he left his mark on the course of world history in two seminal events. The first was his intervention on accession to the papacy in the rescue of Nicolò Machiavelli, who had served as Florentine vice-chancellor for 14 years.
Machiavelli was literally saved from the rack by Giovanni and retired to a farm outside Florence, where he wrote his great handbook of statecraft, The Prince .
Of even greater world import was Pope Leo’s refusal to take seriously a respectfully couched letter from Martin Luther – written in May 1518 – who denied that he was a heretic and sought to publish “a little treatise to explain my Theses under the guardianship of your name and the shadow of your protection”.
Leo sidestepped his dying father’s advice and did not meet developments head on, but temporised for several years before finally excommunicating Luther in 1521.
Giovanni de’ Medici’s death that same year spared him from witnessing the fall-out from his indecision, with the Reformation in full bloom a short time afterwards.
TRUCE 25 September 2012
The First World War, which claimed the lives of more than 10 million soldiers, most of them around Leaving Cert age, cast a menacing shadow across Europe that lingers a century later.
In this context an Irish initiative to commemorate events surrounding the 1914 Christmas truce in Flanders is worthy of note. It concerns the development of a sports field near the site where British and German soldiers played their legendary football match and is the brainchild of the Derry writer Don Mullan, whose book, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, helped initiate the Saville inquiry.
At the core of the project is the ideal that youth from around the world will come to play football and other sports, and then return home to spread the message of peace in their own communities. Such an initiative, it is envisaged, will serve to enhance the memory of the hundreds of thousands of young men, British, Irish, French, Canadian, Australian German etc. tragically killed in the first World War, and serve to nurture belief in the primacy of life. As such, appropriately, it is in line with the wider project of European integration beloved of the EU’s founders.
Germany, forced to bite the bullet of defeat in 1918, wilted under the burden of reparations imposed, notably, by France and Britain. During the country’s first stab at democracy in the Weimar Republic period 1918-33, successive German governments chose to print money in preference to raising taxes. The resulting hyperinflation and currency collapse was to bring about enormous suffering for the German people.
The folk memory of these years of devastation is still a reality for a wide swath of German political and economic opinion. Hence the reluctance by Angela Merkel and her advisers to entertain calls for the European Central Bank to act as a lender of last resort for the sovereign states of the EU.
One of Merkel’s predecessors, 93-year-old Helmut Schmidt, delivered a blistering wake-up call on 18 July last year at the Social Democratic Party congress in Berlin with his analysis of the historical evolution towards the European project. It was a clear recall to fundamentals, not least for the wider Germany which needed, in effect, he said, either to pass or at least deal sensitively with the tempting chalice of economic hegemony, in deference to the project of European integration. SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, told the delegates: “We need a market that conforms to democracy, not a democracy that conforms to the market”.
The German ambassador to Ireland, Dr Eckhard Lübkemeier, was a special guest at a concert in Kimmage Manor last December to raise funds for the development of the Flanders sports field. It was held in conjunction with the international Christmas truce carol and folk festival in Flanders and was broadcast live by satellite around the world.
The project’s ground-breaking ceremony took place in Flanders last January, led by Willi Lemke, UN special adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. The British and German ambassadors were in attendance as well as a representative from the Irish Embassy. At Mullan’s request, singer Jerry Lynch delivered Cormac MacConnell’s evocative A Silent Night, Christmas 1914 and one could hear a pin drop. The German ambassador was clearly moved by the symbolism of the event and has been most supportive, says Mullan. Hence his hosting of a crucial meeting this coming Friday at which ambassadors or their representatives from Ireland, Britain, France, Austria and Turkey will attend, where the Derry man will present the Christmas truce concept.
The project, inclusive of a small stadium, will cost about €5 million and that is where the support of the individual governments will be important, Mullan argues. He will present the Christmas truce project to the diplomats as an opportunity to create a peace memorial rather than a war memorial, an appropriate legacy for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first World War.
The proposed development is located on a hill overlooking what was once no-man’s land, close to where the football game was played between soldiers serving on the opposing British and German sides during the short-lived 1914 Christmas truce. It conjures up a gentle parody of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s classic, Cré na Cille, with the reality of thousands of graves being replaced, at least in imagination, by the joyful spectre of eager sportsmen and their supporters focused on life, not death.
It is not far from the tower in the Messines Peace Park inaugurated by President Mary McAleese in November 1998, a few weeks after the Omagh bombing. The peace tower is dedicated to the memory of those Irish who fought and died in the first World War.
Significantly, it is erected at the site of the Messines Ridge battlefield, the only location in the conflict where the 36th Ulster and the 16th Irish divisions fought side by side. The memorial recalls the sacrifices of those from the island of Ireland, of all traditions, who took part in the war.
LUTHER 6 November 1999
Last Sunday- the final Reformation Sunday of the current millennium – was an appropriate date for the Catholic Church to bury its main difference with the Lutherans, the thorny issue of justification by faith. The day was marked in Augsburg, Germany, by a formal accord signed by representatives of the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation.
It said: “Together we confess: by grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to do good works.”
In Ireland, the historic occasion was marked by a special ecumenical service at the Lutheran Church, in Dublin’s Adelaide Road, at which the guest speaker was Fr. Michael Hurley, SJ, co-founder of the Irish School of Ecumenics. It was the 482nd anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg: October 31st, 1517.
One of these theses argued that any “truly repentant” Christian had the right to full remission of the penalty and guilt accruing for his sins, without indulgences. Another said that Christians were to be taught that anyone who gave to the poor or lent to the needy did a much better deed than the person who “bought” indulgences. Yet another postulated that because love grew by works of love, man thereby became better. Man did not, however, become better by means of indulgences.
It will be recalled that it was Luther’s fundamental objection to the selling of indulgences (the proceeds to be put towards the building costs of St. Peter’s in Rome), that prompted him to “go public” on the church door, thus expediting the Reformation.
As Fr. Hurley told his audience, it had taken Rome 30 years of intense study and debate to arrive at the present consensus, just in time for the millennial commemoration of the birth of Christ. He was gracious in his comments and apologised for the enthusiasm with which the Society of Jesus had pursued the Counter-Reformation. Understatement was the order of the day last Sunday, both in Augsburg and Dublin.
The Catholic Church’s emphasis on “good works” as a prerequisite for salvation has long been a major bone of contentin among leading theologians. More than 20 years ago, one othe most controversial of these, the Swiss intellectual, Hans Kung, argued trenchantly in his book, On Being a Christian:
“Only theologians who have not understood the Pauline message of justification and who try to adapt themselves to the efficiency-orientated society, speak of attending to the ‘operational’ factor, ‘good works’ and thus to the epistle of James (2:14-26) with its doctrine of ‘justification by works’.
“As if Paul did not understand the ‘operational’ factor very much more than the Hellenistic Christian, unknown to us, who at the end of the first century in good faith made use of the name of James, the brother of the Lord, in order to defend orthopraxis (practical righteousness) to the best of his knowledge and ability against an inactive orthodoxy. By comparison with him…Paul did not merely produce a better defence of orthopraxis. He also understood and substantiated much more comprehensively what is decisively important in being human and being Christian.”
Luther, as a young monk, apparently had great difficulty in reconciling his image of wrathful divine justice with the notion of a loving god. Eventually, he was to find his answer and total conviction in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1:17), “because here is revealed God’s way of righting wrong, a way that starts from faith and ends in faith”.
After the service the congregation in Adelaide Road spilled out into the Lutherhaus next door, where visitors were invited to partake in refreshments on the pastor’s solid assurance that “Luther always liked a good party”.
The atmosphere was cordial as people debated the ramifications of the accord and whether it would herald the unity of the Church of Rome with the 80 million or so members of the World Lutheran Federation. The burning issue on the minds of some of the papists present was indulgences – in the light of the Vatican’s recent decision to declare a special indulgence for the year 2000. Another Jesuit – Fr. Hurley had yet to arrive – saw no real difficulty: indulgences were still part of the Church’s teaching, closely linked to the “intention” of the recipient. But the notion of working up a “credit balance” for oneself – though not for the dead – appeared to be anathema.
CARRIGAN 10 January 2001
The number of sexual abuse cases in our courts and news media raises a nagging question: is such disturbing conduct on the increase, or is it merely that the greater openness of present-day society makes this appear to be so?
An article in the current edition of the quarterly review, Studies, dealing with official attitudes to child abuse and sexual misdemeanours in the early years of the State, casts new light on this issue. Its author, Finola Kennedy, recounts the story of the Carrigan report, which was circulated to members of the Cabinet on December 2nd, 1931. An accompanying memo warned that it might not be wise to give currency to the damaging allegations which the report made on the standard of morality in the country.
Ms Kennedy says the full story of the Committee on the Criminal Law Amendment Acts and Juvenile Prostitution, and the suppression of its report, has never been told: “It is, I believe, of some importance at the present time when the spotlight has been turned on cases of sexual abuse of young people, and when a high premium is being placed on openness in every aspect of public life.”
The committee was appointed by W.T. Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedhal government on June 17th, 1930 to consider whether the Criminal Law Amendment Acts of 1880 and 1885 needed modification – and whether new legislation was required to deal with juvenile prostitution. It was broadly representative and saw itself as emphasising”the secular aspect of social morality”.
Its members comprised: Mr. Williamn Carrigan, KC (chairman); Rev. H.B. Kennedy (Dean of Christchurch); Surgeon Francis Morrin; Mrs Jane Power (a commissioner of the Dublin Union); and Miss V. O’Connell (matron of the Coombe Hospital).
Carrigan had acted as prosecuting counsel in an infamous 1926 case in which a medical doctor and a former garda superintendent were charged with the murder of Lily O’Neill, a prostitute, known as “Honour Bright”. Carrigan described the murder as “a sordid tale of debauchery by a pair of moral degerates”. Both men were acquitted, however, after their defence counsel, Joe O’Connor appeal to the jury, thus: “Is it because they go on a spree, and fall victim to the two things that men have fallen victim to from the beginning of time – wine and women – that you are not to judge them by ordinary standards, but to treat them as human vampires?”
The Carrigan committee delivered its findings on August 20th, 1931 and concluded that:
* there was an alarming amount of sexual crime, increasing yearly, a feature of which was the large number of cases of criminal interference with girls and children from 16 years downwards, including many cases of children under 10 years;
* the police estimated that not 15 per cent of such cases were prosecuted because of (1) the anxiety of parents to keep them secret in the interests of their children, the victims of such outrages, which overcame the desire to punish the offenders; and (2) the reluctance of parents to subject their children to the ordeal of appearing before a public court to be examined and cross-examined.
Technical difficulties encountered by prosecuting lawyers included the fact that it was difficult to prove an offence had been committed because of the private nature of the act. They were reliant on the “uncorroborated” evidence of a single witness, the child.
The report, in essence, pointed to the ways in which the prevailing judicial processes operated to the detriment of children, says Ms Kennedy, “leading to their sometimes being treated as accomplices in a crime rather than victims of an outrage”.
This put a strain on the child, under which he or she frequently broke down and the prosecution failed or had to be abandoned.
Among its 21 recommendations, the report called for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18 years and said the offence of solicitation should be applicable to men as well as women. The Department of Justice strongly advised against the report’s publication.
In February 1932 the first Fianna Fáil government, led by Eamon de Valera, took office and James Geoghegan was appointed Minister for Justice. On October 27th the Cabinet received a memo from Geoghegan severely critical of the Carrigan report and insisting that it should not be published as it was too one-sided.
There was a clear difference of opinion between Carrigan and the minister, says Ms Kennedy. Carrigan painted a bleak picture of the standard of “social conduct’ in the country which the minister and the Department thought was exaggerated: “Carrigan favoured a considerable tightening of the law to protect women and children, while the view of the Department was that it was unbalanced to be too severe on men, while overlooking the shortcomings of women in these matters, and the, at times, highly coloured imaginations of children.”
Age of consent
Under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935 the age of consent was raised to 17, not 18. Unlawful knowledge of a girl between 15 and 17 years was defined as a “misdemeanour”, not a felony (as applied in cases where the girl was under15). In addition, Carrigan had suggested that contraceptives hould be dealt with under an enactment similar to the Dangerious Drugs Act 1920. The memo from the Department declared that this was outside the committee’s terms of reference.
“Tantalising questions present themselves,” Ms Kennedy argues, “about the way in which the Carrigan report was dealt with by de Valera, his ministers and by key civil servants, both regarding the decision not to publish, and the decision not to follow its recommendations.” To pose just one questions, she says: if Carrigan had been debated in public, would public awareness of the prevalence of child sexual abuse have ensured that the relevant authorities took the appropriate action?
If, as Bentham had it, “publicity is the soul of justice,” she concludes, “perhaps the answer is in the affirmative.”