The political policy of the Protestant Bishop of Limerick, as enunciated at the Diocesan Synod in Tralee yesterday, is nothing if not thorough. He entirely approves of emigration and the reduction of the Irish population, which he maintains is “more of a service than an injury to Ireland, whose prosperity seemed to increase as her population decreased.” Where the Bishop finds justification for this astounding statement is not for us to hazard conjecture. Certainly, he does not find it in the statistics of wealth, which demonstrate the very opposite.
The clearing away of the productive class in any community can never have but one effect, namely, a decrease in the wealth of the nation. And with the exodus of the workers, pauperism, as we all know, grows. Between 1890 and 1900, the number of paupers in Ireland increased from 454,000 to 485,000. Limerick Union, in the year ending March 1900, showed a grand total of over 11,000, against 9,500 in 1883, and 8,000 in 1897. The population was draining away all the time, while pauperism was going up. But perhaps the Bishop would contend that an increase in pauperism is really a sign of prosperity.
How can we reconcile such a view with the harsh reality of the situation? It is a well-known fact that emigration has been forced upon the Irish people by the harsh conditions prevailing in their homeland. A lack of opportunities, combined with political and social unrest, has made the prospect of starting afresh in another country a welcome alternative. This mass exodus of Irish people, however, has left a vacuum that has only served to exacerbate the already dire economic and social problems in the country.
It is disheartening to see a prominent figure in the religious and social life of the country seemingly endorsing such a damaging policy. Surely the Bishop must be aware of the human cost of emigration, as families have been torn apart, and communities have been broken and left in ruins. The population is being destroyed not out of choice, but out of necessity and misery, and instead of advocating for policies that would alleviate this suffering, the Bishop appears to be promoting it.
Moreover, the shrinking population, paired with increasing pauperism, has had devastating consequences on the overall morale of the nation. As we all know, poverty breeds resentment, and this has manifested itself in various forms of civil unrest over the years. Instead of focusing on reducing the number of people in Ireland, we should be striving towards developing and cultivating an environment that fosters growth, prosperity, and harmony.
It is disconcerting to witness a man of the Church – an institution that has long been associated with the struggle of the Irish people – subscribing to such a destructive policy. In times of turmoil, one would expect ecclesiastical figures to provide guidance and hope, rather than to advocate on behalf of the continuation of dire circumstances.
One must wonder if the Bishop has truly considered the long-term effects that this policy would have on Ireland and its people. We can scarcely imagine a future where Ireland’s lush landscapes exist only to house an increasingly small and impoverished population. The nation’s cultural, economic and social decline would be accelerated beyond repair, resulting in an Ireland that is a shadow of its former self.
Ultimately, the Bishop’s support of emigration and population reduction is distressing and misguided. It is beyond comprehension how anyone, much less a person such as the Bishop, could view a decrease in Ireland’s population as more of a service than an injury to the nation.
For the good of the Irish people, it is our fervent hope that the Bishop may reconsider his stance on this matter, and advocate instead for policies that will lead to growth and prosperity for all, rather than further suffering and decline. We cannot continue down the path of emigration and population diminution; this only serves to perpetuate Ireland’s struggles. It is time for us to forge a new path, one that not only maintains our population but actively encourages it to flourish. Only then will we truly be able to say that we have struck the anvil for a united and prosperous Ireland.
Northants Evening Telegraph – Friday 05 September 1902