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By Jason Michael
Reading Effie Deans’ blog, Lily of St Leonards, is one of those things we know we shouldn’t do, but – due to our natural morbid curiosity – remains one of those naughty pleasures we often find impossible to resist. We’re all the same. We spend a few minutes or and hour or so doing the things we ought to do online, before getting bored and googling dark and dangerous things. This is the same common impulse that makes horror movies, rollercoasters, and pub brawling so appealing. Once my own work is done I will usually fire up YouTube and watch “fail videos” for amusement. I know it’s wrong, but we’ve all been that trooper.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little braver, I’ll drop in on my favourite unionist blogger’s website to see what’s happening over there on the other side of Scotland’s political no-man’s-land. What makes Effie so appealing – to me at least – is the awareness that even the unionists and British nationalists who make Hitler salutes while dancing beneath upside-down union flegs recognise that she’s a liability. Effie Deans, an employee of Aberdeen University – if we are to believe her, is hilarious. Her unintentional comedy genius is such that I had thought for a long time she was an independentista parodying the antics of a demented elderly yoon.
Yesterday was one of those days. I clicked on her block and decided, for the craic, to disappear for a while down the rabbit hole. I wasn’t disappointed either. Perhaps to mark Bastille Day, who knows?!, she had published “Get us out” – an impressively Churchillesque diatribe on Mrs May’s pussyfooting around Brexit and what reads like a wartime call-to-arms, appealing to Britons everywhere in rural Aberdeenshire to rise up and break the chains of Euro-Nazism.
Her depiction of the European Union as a new threat from the continent; as an existential battle against Euro-Nazism, is no exaggeration. The featured image of the blog post is nothing less than an updated version of the Dad’s Army map – the one with little union jack arrows being chased out of Europe by swastika arrows. In her map Great Britain (Mmm)TM is surrounded by the evil EU empire on all sides, forever dug-in in its perennially entrenched salient. Her monomaniacal representation of Europe, however, betrays her vast ignorance of history. The European Union, rather than being a product of the Third Reich, was a response to it – an effort to preserve peace – and in this it has, for all its shortcomings, been remarkably successful.
If anything, her affectation of Captain Mainwaring impersonating Winston Churchill is a testimony to the insanity that is unleashed when we start tearing down the structures that have for seven decades protected us from the hell of war.
Just read how she signs off:
Let there be no room for those who would surrender to foreign powers. This is not 1940… We weathered that storm, we can weather this. It would be worth it. This is the answer to all scare stories about leaving the EU. Whatever it takes to regain our freedom and our sovereignty will be small in comparison to the price our grandfathers paid willingly.
It’s July. We can only expect the cry of ‘No surrender’ to go down well with the sorts of the people she is writing for; the sort of person who uses the occasion of an Orange parade to assault a priest and old people coming out of church on a Saturday evening.
But this isn’t the only place where her history is on the wrong side of education. Effie has a special place in her obsidian dark heart for Ireland. She is deeply anti-Irish, and – given her patronising love for Northern Ireland (a British colony) – we can only assume this loathing to be related to her ‘No surrender’ rhetoric. It’s not Ireland she despises. She hates that part of Ireland that is not British, that has refused to learn its place, that is… Catholic. Effie Deans’ anti-Irishness stinks of good old-fashioned British royalist – Protestant succession – bigotry. She’s not alone. This eighteenth century religious intolerance nostalgia fetish is a hallmark of unionism in Scotland, so it would be unfair to single her out. At least she hasn’t attacked pensioners coming out of Mass.
“We should inform the Republic of Ireland,” she opines, “that there is an international border between Dublin and Belfast.” Her inner Ian Paisley hasn’t quite gotten to grips with the Good Friday Agreement – you know, that moment when Ulster said Yes. It’s all very well for her in rural Aberdeenshire to be stuck in a 1970s time warp, but, and while Ireland relinquished its constitutional claim to the North in the GFA, Ireland – all of Ireland – has moved on. “Northern Ireland” – as Britain acknowledges – is not a nation. Ireland – all of Ireland – is a nation. This is why even Britain speaks of the possibility of a border poll to reunify the island. How can there be an inter-national border within a nation? There is a border, sure, but this is a temporary line demarking the jurisdictions of two states on the land of one nation – Ireland.
But Ireland is evil. It’s not British and it’s Catholic – so it has to be evil. If the Irish don’t like her grand designs for their nation, she pens, “they could decide that they [want] to encourage a renewal of bombing.” Jesus wept! The stupidity is great in this one. Her wilful ignorance of the Irish experience – again, not uncommon for a British nationalist – is staggering. She seems to be of the opinion that Dáil Éireann had a hotline to the leadership of the IRA during the Troubles, giving it orders and details of where and when to strike.
It would be a waste of time, I guess, telling her that since the Irish Civil War – which followed its struggle for independence from British rule – the Irish state too was at war with An Óglaigh na hÉireann (the IRA and later Provisional IRA); an organisation which refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Irish Republic. History is not Effie’s forte.
Still, reading her blog is a source of enduring fascination. It is always as vitriolic as it is nasty as it is ill-informed, but it gives us an honest view into the almost psychotic workings of the Scottish unionist imagination. It is quite Joycean in its stream of consciousness rambling, and we in the independence movement can learn a great deal from this sort of intoxicated and unguarded openness. Effie Deans is the epitome of the knuckle-dragging moron who lives just under the surface of every well-spoken and reserved Scottish unionist. She is the homunculus in the driving seat of every Ruth Davidson.
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