The Corporation is reluctant to look economic facts in the face. It asserts that the main cause of the social evils of Dublin is the dire poverty of the greater part of the working classes. This is true enough. But it is a simple waste of words to say that "If work and wages were plentiful and ample the solution of the housing question would be simple." Of course it would; but work and wages are not plentiful and ample, and, as long as Dublin is a city of little manufacturing enterprise, so that the larger portion of the working classes are unskilled labourers, work and wages are not going to be plentiful and ample. If nothing is to be done until these conditions are altered, nothing will be done until long after the children of the tenement-dwellers of to-day have grown up and died in the appalling surroundings that now exist. It is regarded by the Corporation as unjust that the casual labourer should be removed to a healthy habitation in the outskirts of the city, because this would make him live at a distance from his chances of employment, and add to his expense and labour.
It does not seem to occur to these critics that, even if this consideration were wholly true — which it certainly is not — what the labourer and his family would gain in health, comfort, and cleanliness by their translation to the suburbs would more than recompense them for any incidental inconvenience. A secondary objection is raised to the proposed removal of the slum-dwellers to the suburbs. It is asked whether the small traders who cater for the wants of the workers must also migrate and open new shops, which might conceivably put them to more expense than they could afford. The plaintive dilemma is suggested that they must move or starve. It is more fair to ask, must the honest worker suffer so that the parasitic middleman may be protected? As a whole, the rejoinder of the Housing Committee displays a sad lack of imagination and vision.
A vast amount of sickly cant is, and always has been, talked about the astonishing virtue of the Irish race. When it is intended to apply to Dublin such talk is really ludicrous. Whether the housing question has little or much to do with it, the fact remains that Dublin has been severely criticised.
The attempt to "vindicate the good name of Dublin" by calling in aid the police statistics of "crimes against morals" is not convincing. Everybody knows that the police are grossly lax in their duties in this connection. The remedy for this state of affairs may lie in various directions, but it certainly does not lie in the direction of shutting one's eyes to facts, and saying that Dublin is a paragon of virtue among cities. The people who say that it is demand evidence to the contrary. One wonders whether business or pleasure has never taken them through the chief thoroughfares of the city just after nightfall.
The Church of Ireland Gazette, 29th May 1914.
Images: Blackpitts, Dublin, 1914 (top) and other images from the Dublin Housing Enquiry 1914.