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Those who have known Ireland for the last dozen years cannot have failed to notice the advent of a wholly new spirit, clearly based upon constructive thought, and expressing itself in a wide range of fresh practical activities. The movement for the organisation of agriculture and rural credit on co-operative lines, efforts of various kinds to revive old or initiate new industries, and, lastly, the creation of a department of Government to foster all that was healthy in the voluntary effort of the people to build up the economic side of their life, are each interesting in themselves. When taken together, and in conjunction with the literary and artistic movements, and viewed in their relation to history, politics, religion, education, and the other past and present influences operating upon the Irish mind and character, these movements appear to me to be worthy of the most thoughtful consideration by all who are responsible for, or desire the well-being of the Irish people.
I should not, however, in days when my whole time and energies belong to the public service, have undertaken the task of writing a book on a subject so complex and apparently so inseparable from heated controversy, were I not convinced that the expression of certain thoughts which have come to me from practical contact with Irish problems, was the best contribution I could make to the work on which I was engaged. I wished, if I could, to bring into clearer light the essential unity of the various progressive movements in Ireland, and to do something towards promoting a greater definiteness of aim and method, and a better understanding of each other's work, among those who are in various ways striving for the upbuilding of a worthy national life in Ireland.
So far the task, if difficult, was congenial and free from embarrassment. Unhappily, it had been borne in upon me, in the course of a long study of Irish life, that our failure to rise to our opportunities and to give practical evidence of the intellectual qualities with which the race is admittedly gifted, was due to certain defects of character, not ethically grave, but economically paralysing. I need hardly say I refer to the lack of moral courage, initiative, independence and self-reliance--defects which, however they may be accounted for, it is the first duty of modern Ireland to recognise and overcome. I believe in the new movements in Ireland, principally because they seem to me to exert a stimulating influence upon our moral fibre.
Holding such an opinion, I had to decide between preserving a discreet silence and speaking my full mind. The former course would, it appeared to me, be a poor example of the moral courage which I hold to be Ireland's sorest need. Moreover, while I am full of hope for the future of my country, its present condition does not, in my view, admit of any delay in arriving at the truth as to the essential principles which should guide all who wish to take a part, however humble, in the work of national regeneration.
I desire to state definitely that I have not written in any representative capacity except where I say so explicitly. I write on my own responsibility, with the full knowledge that there is much in the book with which many of those with whom I work do not agree.