Michael Hill’s January article, “Celtic Justice,” is an interesting historical piece for anyone studying pagan Celtic culture. But he seems to believe that some form of Celtic-Irish law and tradition still exists today. This is pure fantasy. There is no Celtic world left. There is no surviving system of Celtic justice. Such a world exists only in a Celtic encyclopedia.

The Irish language barely exists. It survives only on the west coast of Ireland, but even there, the young are reluctant to speak it or to sing it in song. U2 is preferred along with every other empty feature of the modern Americanized mass culture.

The Irish have become the most conformist people on the planet. The Irish ambassador to the United States recently changed his name to an English spelling so that he would not confuse the Americans.

Dr. Hill also apparently admires the IRA, which he seems to view as a continuation of the Celtic clan. He implies that the “Celtic idea of private justice” partly explains why the IRA refused to surrender their weapons at the start of a recent peace conference with Britain. But in reality, the IRA is a leftwing Marxist group which desires an even more secular transformation of Ireland.

Although written about the decline of traditional culture in the Highlands of Celtic Scotland in the 1930’s (before the advent of television), Louis MacNeice’s humorous poem Bagpipe Music seems to fit modern-day Ireland:

It’s no go the Yogi-man, it’s no go

All we want is a bank balance and
a bit of skirt in a taxi.

Annie MacDougall went to milk,

caught her foot in the heather.

Woke to hear a dance record playing of Old Vienna.

It’s no go your maidenheads,
it’s no go your culture,

All we want is a Dunlop tyre and
the devil mend the puncture.

        —Patrick Walsh
Dorchester, MA

Dr. Hill Replies:

Mr. Walsh’s contention that “There is no Celtic world left” is true in the sense that the scourge of modernity has left its mark on all traditional cultures throughout the Western world. Certainly Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are no exceptions to this disturbing trend. However, the point of mv article was not to argue for the existence of a pristine Celtic culture, untouched by U2, the Spice Girls, or Quentin Tarantino. Rather, it was to say that historically the Celtic peoples have developed and administered their own system of private justice in contradistinction to the ineffectual public sort that encourages everything from murder to bad manners to proliferate in our society. In the present century this tradition, for better or worse, has been carried on in the old Celtic world by the IRA.

More seriously, Mr. Walsh accuses me of admiring the IRA. While I certainly admire the exploits of, say, Tom Barry’s West Cork Flying Column during the 1920-21 conflict, where some 300 poorly armed irregulars held at bay over 12,000 British troops, this in no way implies that I have any sympathy for the socialist politics and civilian terror tactics of the current organization.

After 200 years of selfish misrule by the unitary state, the West is in decline. If civilization is to be preserved in an increasingly barbarous age, then private justice will play a salient role. Though today’s Celts (in both the Old World and the New) no longer speak the language of their ancestors, many of them—especially in rural areas—do retain a certain tough way of looking at life that is out of step with the modern world. When our luxurious style of living inevitably gives way to the hard realities of life as our ancestors knew it, men such as these will be indispensable. And their creed may well be; “Am fear nach gheidh na h-airm ‘nam na sith, cha bhi iad aige ‘n am a chogaidh” (“He who keeps not his arms in time of peace, will have no arms in time of war”).