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By Jason Michael
An independent Scotland with Elizabeth Queen of Scots as its head of state sounds positively repulsive. For many of us Yes is as much about rejecting London rule as it is about rejecting the monarchy. But “republicanism” gives them nightmares.
“We’re not really enemies, you know,” I responded to Trevor Moore – one of the few unionists I follow on Twitter, “pretty sure in the real world we have plenty in common.” The polarisation of Scottish politics has created a false sense of deeper conflict, which to some degree most of us buy into. He and I have at least one thing in common; neither of us actually lives in Scotland. Presumably, as his online profile begins with the words “Wage slave,” he moved to Texas for the same reason I came to Ireland – work. No doubt had we to meet in a pub in Dublin or Houston we’d get on like a house on fire. He’s wearing Mardi Gras throws and a Stetson in his profile picture – what’s not to like?
On social media there has always been a level of hostility towards that faction of the “other side’s” belligerents who live abroad; the International Brigades – as I like to call us. Rev. Stuart Campbell, the controversial figure behind Wings Over Scotland, gets no end of grief for living in Bath in the south west of England. His “outsider” status is always used as a stick with which to beat him for his “interference.” While I have never asked him, the same must to true for the Union’s outside interferers like Trevor. It’s certainly true in my case. But I have the feeling the response to my own interference is different. My interference is Irish, and that is not the same as Bath or Houston.
Even though we are all Scots – I am presuming Trevor is, the criticism of our involvement hinges primarily on the fact that we don’t live in Scotland. It has nothing to do with us. Of course it does, of course. Scotland has always had an involved diaspora community, and no matter where we are in the world we will always be Scots. Yet Ireland has a special significance in unionist mythology. Ireland is an idea they fear and loathe in almost equal measure. Be it the old guard’s detestation of Irish Catholicism – the “Fenians” – or unionism’s more recent memories of imperial humiliation and the reluctance of the Provisional IRA to take British domination lying down, Ireland troubles their waters.
Where other Scots abroad get slapped down with the tort of not living here, those of us in Ireland are subjected to the “Oh, you’re living there?!” Britain spent so long dehumanising the Irish as subhuman apes in magazines like Punch it began to believe its own racist propaganda. The Irish of British imperial invention were drunken, lazy, stupid, and feckless. It came as a shock then when these “inferior” people decided they had had enough. At the apex of the British Empire its never setting sun was plucked from the sky and smothered on the streets of Dublin, Cork, and Galway. Before Gandhi liberated India the Irish women of Cumann na mBan and the boys in the ranks of the Óglaigh na hÉireann were busy showing British soldiers – hardened on the Western Front – how to discharge a rifle.
British imperialists have never forgiven Ireland for forcing them to strike the Union flag from Dublin Castle. Its establishment mindset that Ireland has a tenuous claim to independent statehood – à la Melonie Phillips inter alia – is testimony enough to the bitterness of this grudge. In the world of respectable diplomacy it is never stated outright, but it trickles down and seeps out whenever Britain is reminded of its vulnerability to the peoples it has likewise subjugated; the rebellious and restless Scots and Welsh. When we kick off the spectre of Ireland haunts them. It is Ireland’s republicanism they have in mind – and not that of France, Italy, or the United Stated – when they waspishly spit out this word as us. This republicanism is London’s primal fear. I can understand why a Scottish independentista living in the Republic of Ireland really whizzes on their cornflakes.
I am a republican. For this I make no apology. Before anyone gets over excited and before the British secret service come knocking on my door, this does not mean I condone violence. It means only that I believe – in the political sense – that hereditary monarchy is as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. This said – it is also important to stress that I am not presently engaged in a plot on Mrs Saxe Coburg und Gotha or any member of her family’s life. As a Scottish nationalist and a republican all I want is Scottish independence and the dissolution of the monarchy in my country. I’d be quite happy to have any member of the by then former Royal Family as my neighbour and follow citizen.
Discussion on Britain’s monarchy and Republicanism