Attack on Indifferentism (Rooney 1909)

1.501, 518. William Rooney, Prose Writings, (Dublin and Waterford: M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd., n.d.[1909] ), pp. 233, 236, 238-9. BL YA.1991.a.13422

Extracts from William Rooney, Prose Writings (1909).

These extracts are from Rooney’s article ‘“The Importance of Being in Earnest”’. Stephen Dedalus the aloof ‘indifferentist’ and mercurial Mulligan might appear to be the reverse of Rooney’s kind of ‘thinker’:

Amongst the other regrettable qualities which our Celtic ancestors have bequeathed us is a certain lack of tenacity of purpose. We generate from time to time a great deal of enthusiasm, which in a few months is consumed, leaving us once more in the ashes of humdrum, till some other rousing interest stirs again our energies for a brief space. . . .

¶¶We are ignorant of our past, hence we are at the mercy of every mountebank who chooses to claim for his programme the natural succession to the policies and doctrines of other days. We are ignorant of our present, and consequently are at a loss to answer the coward and the cad who justify their treason or their indifferentism by alleging lack of self-support and self-protection in the country. We are ignorant of the future, naturally, but we are also careless of it, for we avail not ourselves of the influences and resources around us in preparation for opportunities. We may possess enthusiasm and patriotism, but are not enough in earnest for people who may soon, and some time certainly will, have to face the ordeal which all must undergo who would win independence. . . .

¶¶Ireland has need of all her thinkers, and it is, therefore, the more necessary that they be in earnest. It is necessary that they be men whom no danger shall deter and whom no indifferentism shall discourage; that they be men whose love of right alone shall be sufficient to make them persevere and rise superior to all the disillusions which unselfish effort too frequently has to face. In a word, they must be men in earnest, and they can be most in earnest by having the whole case of  Ireland at their fingers’ ends. “Paul, not John,” says Dr. Doyle of Leighlin, “was the Apostle of the Gentiles,” and the men who desire to serve Ireland, in the sense of inducing her people to take a serious interest in her, must be no mere sentimentalists. Ireland has claims on nationhood that rest on more than a sentimental basis. Sentiment is the salt of human thought — it keeps a people fresh and pure, it preserves them for their destiny, destroying the enervating spirit of Esauism that is born with us all, but it is not impaired in any way by having reason to support it.