Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/361

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347
IRISH-AUSTRALIAN CHARACTERISTICS.

centres works hard all day for himself and his family, and gives his evenings to the service of the community that has called him to a foremost place in its Town Hall; and many an Irish farmer in thinly-settled districts travels twelve or fifteen miles at periodical intervals to take his seat in the shire council, of which he is an elected member. Facts like these are the strongest possible condemnation of the traditional policy, which has so long and so unwisely refused to Irishmen in their own native land, those legislative and municipal rights, which they have proved themselves fully competent to exercise in all other English-speaking dominions. As Sir Charles Gavan Duffy once told a Melbourne audience, "the history of the Irish race in Australia was one they might fairly be proud of. They exercised a large influence in public affairs, and he challenged any man to say it was not a beneficial and a salutary one. Every enlargement of Australian liberty had them for zealous friends; every enemy of Australian rights had them for uncompromising antagonists."

One further characteristic of the Irish in Australia must not be overlooked, and that is the general good-will, the prevailing amity of their social relations with their fellow-citizens of other nationalities. It is unfortunately true that, in times of exceptional political excitement, it is possible for unscrupulous agitators to raise and profit by an anti-Irish or anti-Catholic cry, but, viewing the colonies in their normal condition, the harmony that subsists between the inhabitants of Irish birth or parentage and the other component parts of the population, is one of the most noticeable and gratifying features of Australian life. In every colonial centre, Irishmen are found associated on the most amicable terms with their fellow-citizens of other nationalities in the management of public and charitable institutions, and in