Just watched another episode re-run of "The Tenements". It's good but, Bryan Murphy's personal politics is getting tedious.
Upon Ireland's independence, there was a massive expectation of great social change and material betterment, such as the construction of social housing and so forth. Murphy remarks that independence wasn't without difficulty. Indeed. Unfortunately, we had a:
- Civil War (1922-1923) and internment (until 1926)
- Wall Street Crash (1929)
- Economic War (1933 onwards)
- WWII (1939-1945)
- No Marshall Plan (1948)
- Political instability i.e. four or more Governments in succession (1948-1956) and austerity
As such, we had average economic growth of just 1% per annum for about 30 years.
In spite of this, Irish Governments began building extensive council housing schemes from the 1930 onwards e.g. Cabra, Marino and Drimnagh etc.
As an explanation for Ireland's initial inertia towards social housing, Diarmaid Ferriter (RTÉ's favourite historian) opines rural Ireland was far more organized and as such, implies the political establishment reflected their values and material needs and was basically Anti-Urban.
The Anti-Urbanism of Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael is the urban liberal left's main social theory of 20th century Ireland. But I think its bunkum: remember Seán Lemass and C.S. "Todd" Andrews? Both were not only Dubliners, but working class Dubs: Andrews was largely brought up in Terenure but did live in a somewhat comfortable tenement in Summerhill, where his father was apprenticed to his father in law (both families were from the inner city). Lemass was from Capel street (Lemass is from le Maitre, basically a descendant of the Protestant Huguenots of the Liberties). Oscar Traynor, anyone?
Fine Gael similarly had Dublin (or Co. Dublin) leaders in Cosgrave and others.
Remember that social housing largely began with De Valera's 1932 government and most of Dublin 3 to Dublin 13 was built in 1930-1970, mostly by Fianna Fáil governments (not a F.F. supporter, am a Dub). F.F.'s support in working class Dublin can be understood in that light.
Murphy moans that this new housing was often not to the liking of the inner city Dubliners. Many didn't want to leave their relatives, and were used to generations of inner city life (often along the same couple of streets). They didn't like being planted out into then rural areas, like Crumlin and Cabra and children were "afraid of the cows" (Phibsborough had a cattle mart in the 1950's). Ah for ************************'s sake. The then Governments failure to provide jobs in those areas are legitimate arguments.
Overall, I think Irish Governments did the best they could, given resources. Furthermore, working class Dubliners repaid F.F. with decades of unflinching loyalty. Lemass remarked that Ireland didn't need a Labour party because Fianna Fáil was it. Dubliners thought so.
As to the relatively more political engagement of rural Ireland, perhaps there is something to say for that in so far as that Ireland's rural dwellers have traditionally held more political clout than, say England's rural poor mainly because Ireland was up until very recently majority-rural.
One could make the argument that Catholic, rural Ireland was more revolutionary than urban dwellers. Just as Russia's rural poor proved Marx wrong, so did the Irish: every major social and revolutionary movement in the 19th century arose in rural Ireland and this did leave a lasting legacy. Consider the following:
- 1600s: Clan warfare
- 1690s: Outlaw "Tories" (tóraigh, seek). Redmond O'Hanlon, south Armagh
- 1700s: Outlaw Raparees (Jacobites and vestiges of clan society)
- 1760s: the White boys (rural anti-landlord violence and social movement)
- 1798: (launched in Dublin, Belfast but remember the Defenders, Michael O'Dwyer of Wicklow, the "Races of Castlebar" and of course, Wexford)
- 1800: The Rockites & Terry Alts (anti-landlordism with a nasty sectarian and millenarian tendency)
- 1829: Catholic Emancipation, Daniel O'Connell and the Catholic Association
- 1848, 1849: Risings, and Post-Famine "Independence Party"
- 1856, 1867: The Fenian Brotherhood, later "I.R.B."
- 1870s: Ribbon Fenianism and land agitation
- 1879: Irish National Land-League (Davitt), founded in Co. Mayo. Capt. Boycott.
- 1884: I.N.L.L. becomes, Irish National League, Parnell's party. First of its kind in Europe.
- 1880s-1900s: Land agitation and land acts
- 1905: Sinn Féin founded in Dublin, but with most leading members form the country. First national President a Galwayman (Edwar Martyn)
- 1916-1926: Revolutionary period. Many Dubliners involved but many with rural background
I am an avid reader of history, Dublin history and lately I have become interested in social history. My view is that the Dublin working class were remarkably passive considering the dreadful conditions they endured (read "Dear, Dirty Dublin" and "Darkest Dublin"). Terrible. Yet, I can discern no real internal social movement, except the Labour movement arising towards the end of the 1890s (the 1913 Lockout was lead mainly for foreign-born Irish men, Connolly and Larkin). Stretching back to the early 18th C. to modern days, all vibrant political movements in Dublin arose from outside the county e.g. the nationalists, United Irishmen (Belfast) and trade unionism (?)
I have read extensively about the poor living conditions and high rate alcohol abuse (manifested in the disproportionately high number of arrests for drunkenness per capita with the rest of the then U.K.) and associated crimes. I noted the disproportionately high number of people living in tenement type accommodation (double the U.K. average). Yet, not until the rise of the Nationalist, Labour and then Republican movements (typically from outside) do I begin to sense a change in the internal politics of Dublin.
The only native Dubliner "movement" was perhaps the Ormond Boys in the 18th c., and their Protestant enemies, the Liberty Boys (Lemass's ancestors?!)
Why is this?
I don't know.
One possible suggestion is that Dublin was a small majority-Protestant town until the middle of the 18th c., when its population began to grow due to internal migration from the country due to famine and adverse weather conditions, climate change ("the Great Frost", famine in 1721).
Tenements began in the Liberties quarter towards the end of the century (due to further English restrictions on Irish trade, here woolen trade in particular). The collapse of these industries and the woolen and silk trades resulted in brief Protestant estrangement with England, 1798 and then reaffirmed British loyalty and ultimate exodus to the newly-established townships on Dublin's periphery e.g. Clontarf, Drumcondra, Rathmines, Blackrock, "Kingstown" etc. Their former homes became residences for dozens of impoverished Catholics mainly.
Nevertheless, Protestants maintained an absolute majority on the Corporation until the "reformed" 1842 Corpo (and were well represented right up until Independence). Those Protestant Corporations did absolutely nothing for the Inner City poor (with honorable exceptions, e.g. John Gray, a Nationalist from Co. Mayo) and its members often lived in the nine surrounding townships rather than the city. Although the Catholic politicians that followed were barely better (Joseph M Meade), modest attempts at social housing were enacted in the 1870s onwards.
With no real industries left, the only jobs are of the most menial nature: labourers, hawkers, dock workers and housekeeper type positions. Most are for derisory pay. There is therefore little opportunity to organize into unions and much to risk. Tradesmen are earning 15 shillings a week, which would guarantee a diet of tea, bread and perhaps bacon and cabbage for dinner. Maybe milk and butter. Your home could be either a floor (perhaps two, three rooms) in a fine, old Georgian house for you and your twelve children. Or one room, with rug partitions. Plus 1-2 unrelated lodgers (sexual abuse, anyone?)
The Dublin tenement poor therefore had much to risk in political agitation, and young children caught stealing could face a multitude of punishments including: the Workhouse, Reformatories or Transportation! (1860s), Industrial Schools (1870s onwards -the more humane alternative). I wonder what this potential threat did for the revolutionary fervour of the humble Dubliner?
Murphy and Ferriter in particular are rather ambiguous towards that great, Revolutionary movement the Catholic Church. It's true though: Priests were often Chairmen of local branches of Land League or the Nationalist Party (or its splinter factions). Many priests were firebrands and considered dangerous by the authorities. In Dublin, as today, religious observance wasn't quite 100% and although the Church was generally held in esteem, it wasn't the only Church and people changed religion more often than you would think! (Though usually one-way). I would say the Catholic Church did not consider Dublin a heartland, or bastion and was wary of the C.O.I. Church Missions and other groups, the Walkerites.
The profusion of English-y names in Dublin is a testament to English migration here, particularly in the 17th and early 18th c. (the oldest) and then late 19th c., who worked in the transportation sector (Rail, and maritime. So much so that two Churches were built to accommodate them: St Matthews' Ringsend and St. Barnabas, East Wall -demolished in the '60s). Nevertheless in time most would become Catholic (yay!) But I wonder what the Catholic Church's attitude was towards them?
So Dublin, the most traditionally English part of Ireland (with a population that derive a certain ancestry from England, irrespective of religion) versus the rural Ireland, fiercely and inexplicably Catholic and with a long history of rural violence stretching back to Clan warfare times. One becomes a marginalized, passive voice and the other the inheritor of the State? Or a simplification?