IRISH IDEAS

By William O'Brien

Page 31

AMONG THE CLOUDS IN IRELAND

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from January's ice to August's gold, fade not altogether untenderly away into ancient history. The truth is, Mr. Balfour's prison policy is as dead as King Cheops under his pyramid. He (the Chief Secretary, not the Pharaoh) began with convicts' jackets, shaved heads, and oakum-picking for his political prisoners, with assault and battery by half-a-dozen turnkeys for whoever objected; he ends by giving his 'criminals' the run of the Galway Queen's College Library for their reading, and supplying them with official pens and foolscap gratis to write their novels withal. The collapse of Coercion outside the prison walls is just as notable. When I was last at liberty, my wife and myself were pursued over the Lakes of Killarney by policemen in boats, and over the mountains by policemen on cars and bicycles. Around the hotel where we stayed at Glengarriff a police-car remained harnessed night and day, a police-boat moved about the mouth of the bay, and a police-scout on a neighbouring hill swept the hotel grounds with a telescope. Police-bicycles, police-boats, and police-cars have vanished with the pitch-cap and the Penal Laws. We have actually passed for whole miles through our own country without having so much as a single police 'shadow' slouching at our heels. The ingenuity which had formerly to be employed to shake off the nightmares in the dark grey coats and rifles has now only to be applied to the more innocent, if more difficult, task of evading the 'little addresses' and the 'few words' with which popular hospitality will insist upon enlivening the road.

How comes the change? It is not that the Balfourisation of Ireland has advanced an inch. Every tenants' combination against which Mr. Balfour was warring when we entered prison was as impregnable in its entrenchments ...continue reading »

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