The Christmas holidays are approaching, wallets are loosening all over the planet … now is the right time to tell you about Irish generosity. Ireland is a small country, has never been a colonizer nor a superpower. This has a lot of downsides but also some advantages, especially regarding the state of mind: the Irish are devoid of arrogance and endowed with empathy.
One of the things that strikes you about living in Ireland is the culture of donation. Hardly a weekend goes by without volunteers standing at the supermarket checkout, offering to bag your groceries in exchange for a small donation to the charity they volunteer for.
In Anglo-Saxon countries, unlike France, state subsidies for charities are meager, so they are subject to the goodwill of the population … who do not hesitate to put the hand in the pockets. Interesting fact: the Irish state also gives tax reductions for donations, but one can easily arrange, that the tax deduction goes in the form of an additional donation to the association rather than to the donor’s credit. We are a long way from the very protective French State and the expectations of the French, who always see their president as the descendant of the Almighty King of France; as a result, they are constantly disappointed of course.
Ireland is a small country, which has long been very poor. Remember that the Great Famine was a founding event of Irish DNA (I use the term « founding » in a neutral way). Here are two instructive examples of Irish generosity that many people ignore, including sometimes the Irish themselves:
At the end of World War II, the young Irish state had remained neutral during the conflict, unlike World War I. A movement was thus organized at the end of the war, to help European children, mainly German children. At this time, rightly stunned by the horrors of the Nazis, Europe considered the Germans to be persona non grata, including children.
The thing is that 1945 also marked the centenary of the Great Famine for the Irish. Keeping in their collective memory both the horror of their own past as well as the memory of those who had helped them at the time, it was important for the conservative Fianna Fail government to do something for children Germans who suffered from hunger themselves. This state of mind gave birth to “Operation Shamrock” (reminder: the Shamrock is the famous Irish 3 leaf clover, never buy a 4 leaf clover btw. it is a tourist trap, not an Irish shamrock !). This is how 500 children, the vast majority of them being catholic children from the Ruhr region, arrived in 1946 at the port of Dun Laoghaire near Dublin (yes the religious question was underlying, more about that in a later article).
After spending several weeks in the Wicklows in the center of Glencree, being looked after, groomed (meaning freed of lices and co) and fed with Irish butter, they were then placed in the care of foster families across the country for 3 years, under the supervision of the Red Cross and a charity created for the occasion, the Save the German Children Society (SGCS).
The children stayed until 1949, then some of them returned to Germany, but a number of them stayed in Ireland. For the record, it was the work of the SGCS, who organized German lessons for these children, which led in the 1950s to the creation of the German school in Dublin, the well-known St Killians, which now shares the premises with the French school.
In gratitude for the rescue of these children, Germany then later offered the magnificent statue of the 3 fates which can be admired in St Stephen’s green (see picture). The fates are characters of Germanic mythology: they are the ones who weave the threads of destiny, a nice symbol for this story!
The second example also originates from the Great Famine, when Native Americans of the Choctaw tribe all came together in 1847 to send $ 170 to starving Ireland. You should know that fifteen years previously to the Great Famine, the Choctaw tribe had been forced by the American government to leave its lands in Alabama, for a long walk of 500 miles to settle in Oklahoma, and many had died of hunger and illness on the road.
In Midleton, it is the homeland of Jameson near Cork, a magnificent sculpture of feathers reminds visitors of the generosity of the Choctaw during the great famine.
Both populations experienced dispossession, exile and famine, this has created lasting bonds between Ireland and the Native Americans. So when the Navajo – who despite the concession of the sublime Monument Valley, remain nowdays particularly disadvantaged – recently called for help because they were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, their call was heard. Over $ 3 million has been recently donated directly by the Irish to help the Navajo overcome the disease, some of the contributors being famous and wealthy, some absolutely not.
And the moral of this story:
1 the richest people rarely donate the most
2 any event, no matter how tragic, can give birth to beautiful surprises