A short time ago (March 20th) a meeting was held in Dublin of a society called the Irish Workhouse Association. We are not in a position to say whether the proceedings have been very fully reported or not. We should hope not; and we must observe that this seems very probable since we find that one reverend gentleman remarked, evidently in a spirit of scóva indignatio, that the Christian treatment of the poor was not an “urgent” question, that term being reserved for something connected with the licensing trade or the labour interests. We observe, however, in the proceedings as reported, that curious kind of incoherence that so often perplexes the foreigner who tries to comprehend the lines on which Irish public business is conducted. People seem to have adopted the odd plan of addressing the meeting either by letter or by speech on all sorts of topics, whether such were exactly on the programme or not, or whether the persons who spoke or wrote had or had not any accurate information. There did not appear to be perfect unanimity of feeling as to the present management of Poor Law business. One member stated that he believed the Irish Poor Law Guardians to be actuated by a high sense of duty. On the other hand, an eminent physician stated that not politics nor religion (which are commonly said to rule everything in Ireland), but contracts governed the workhouses; and nobody contradicted him. Perhaps the two statements are reconcilable, high sense of duty meaning duty to one's favourite contractors. It is comforting to think from the speech of the Chairman of the Society that that body seems to think workhouses (even conducted under a high sense of duty?) are not suitable places for the insane. On the other hand, an eminent ecclesiastic, whose views were made familiar to us through a paper read at the Cork meeting in 1901, wrote triumphantly of the success which he foresees for his efforts towards the establishment for the chronic and harmless insane of auxiliary asylums not under medical control. Those who have any knowledge of the condition of the insane in the Irish workhouses at present will hesitate before they endorse this scheme, since it seems to offer no guarantee that the supervision in the new auxiliary will not be less than in the old workhouse. However, merely from the point of view of the workhouse reformer, it would no doubt be a “reform” to get rid of the insane.
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