In the Shadows
Outside the great circle of light, in whose flame the destiny of the nations of the world is being molded, and whose rays reach out to all parts of the world, dear old Ireland, patient and true as of old, stands trembling in the shadows, awaiting that freedom which she has been so long and so unjustly denied. Once more she seems to have been passed by and those rays of justice are not for her; she must still be the humble planet receiving its light only from the reflected glory of brighter worlds. With overburdened hear, she is lifting her hands in supplication towards that country for whose sake she once brought upon herself the wrath of her conqueror that her oppressed sister-colony might gain the freedom that she herself had been so long denied. Nor does she base her entreaty on pity alone; what she asks is justice and gratitude, for not alone in America’s struggle for independence, but during the years since, while this nation was climbing the heights to the pinnacle on which she now stands, Ireland has stood firm in her friendship, gladly giving her sons that our nation might live. To-day, America stands first among the nations of the world and the brightest place in the circle of light is hers. Shall America answer Ireland’s call and stand firm behind the words of her President? Will America’s pledge to insure freedom to all small nations who are dominated by a rule of might rather than right be unredeemed where Ireland is concerned? is the Peace Conference, the greatest council the world has ever known, to be the bearer of the light of justice to all save Ireland? She but asks for justice. Her sons are languishing in English prison cells on ill-defined pretexts and without trial; while her oppressors are making peace for the world and are meting “justice” to mankind.
Ireland has paid her price that this Conference might be possible and that Prussian Autocracy might not rule the world. She has been persecuted and her motives distorted by the false accusations of her tyrant-ruler. The chief aim was to arouse the antagonism of the world against Ireland, by charging her with being an ally of Germany although there was no bond between the two countries save those sought by Ulster, the thorn in Ireland’s side, when in 1914 that province asked the aid of the “great Protestant Prince, the Kaiser”. The only feeling in Irish hearts towards that devastator of civilization is a better memory of Hessian and Hanoverian kings.
The Peace Conference is rapidly drawing to a close and Ireland is still in the shadow, but her spirit is as brave today as it was when first the heel of the oppressor descended upon her—the same spirit with which for five hundred years she has fought the tyranny of her conqueror, while in turn her homes, her industries, all but the very air she breathed was denied her. She was robbed of the culture which had made her for many happy years the center of intellectual perfection and the “Isle of Saints and Scholars.” But if iron laws robbed her of her schools and universities, they could not take away her religious fervor, and through all the years of oppression and suffering, she is still the “Isle of Saints”: saints perhaps not so well-known for great learning as for a greater gift—purity, that virtue which is strongest and best in an Irish heart.
Today the world is being molded by men whose names will ever be written on the monument of fame—men representative of one of the greatest ages in History. Ireland stands alone. Must we say alone? No, for she is with a higher Lord of the Universe—Him who came into the world to bring peace to all men. He has no representative in that council which aims to spread the light of justice and to give the joy of peace t all corners of the earth. Ireland is not alone, for He is with her in the shadow outside the circle. He for whose sake she has suffered persecution without faltering is still with her, and while placing all her trust in His divine keeping, she has battled with all the courage of right against her chains; yet, ever keeping alive and untarnished His holy faith, her most precious treasure even in the darkest hour.
What the future holds for Ireland remains to be seen, but whatever be her fate, her dauntless spirit, purged and strengthened by the fires of darkest trial, will rise above adversities, and gently murmuring “Fiat voluntas tua”, will take up anew her struggle for liberty. Perhaps, it may not be the will of the Almighty that Ireland shall ever regain her freedom; yet, her efforts will never cease until that day when her loyal sons and daughters take that place beside the heavenly throne which Jesus Christ Himself promised on the Mount when He said: “Blessed are the meek and humble of heart for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Mary C. Sheridan, ’19