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By Jason Michael
THIS IS NOT ABOUT POKING the Scottish National Party or the independence movement, rather it is quite the opposite. The truth of the matter is that Sinn Féin – whatever we think of it and the dark and painful history of political violence in Ireland – has been at this exact game far longer than the SNP. The struggle for Irish freedom has been, from its beginning, a struggle against a Britain unmasked of its pretence to civility and democracy. With England’s absolute refusal to negotiate with Ireland, every single attempt made by the people of Ireland to liberate themselves from British rule was met with the same hammer blow of executions, exiles, reprisals, and brutal repressions. The rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848 – “the Famine Rebellion,” 1867, and the Easter Rising of 1916 followed the same pattern: A demand for liberty, a British refusal, an Irish rebellion, and an overwhelming demonstration of raw military violence from the British Empire.
Irish Republicanism was never the preserve of Irish Catholics or “nationalists.” Republicanism and the aspiration for Irish independence – for an “Irish-Ireland” – was never about sectarianism. It was the effort to cast off the divisions Britain had introduced by force as part of its colonial project. In fact, the fathers of Irish Republicanism – and to this day the greatest heroes of Republicanism – were, to a man, Irish Protestants; men like Theobald Wolfe Tone, Belfast man Henry Joy McCracken, Lord Edward FitzGerald, and Robert Emmet. These were the men praised to the heavens by Pádraig Pearse, the leader of the 1916 rising who read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic outside the General Post Office in Dublin at the beginning of the rebellion.
Britain’s narrative of the Irish “Troubles,” as evinced in its rare coverage of its crimes in Ireland on the BBC and its flat refusal to teach these events to its children, presents a skewed vision of Ireland’s struggle. It frames it quite deliberately as an Ulster conflict, thus making it foreign and frightening to those who seek independence for Scotland and Wales. The “Ulsterisation” of Ireland’s independence struggle forces this conflict to be about religious differences and an internecine dispute between “communities.” But this was never the truth.
Ulster, the northernmost province of Ireland’s four provinces, is in reality the final theatre of an independence process for the whole of the island of Ireland that began on the 24 May 1798. And it was in response to this now active will on the part of the Irish people that the British government started to favour and support the early Orange institutions – first established against the background of land agitation in Armagh in 1795, some 105 years after the Battle of the Boyne. The hope then – as it remains still – was to manufacture an anti-Catholic sectarian bitterness within the Republican movement and in so doing turn Ulster Protestants into useful idiots, “Ulster Loyalists.”
We are wrong to accept England’s narrative of Irish independence as a toxic and bigoted violent clash of different religious communities – one we do not wish to see introduced into Scottish politics. This narrative is already at the heart of Scottish politics. It was there before any of us were born, and it was not imported by Irish Catholics or Republicans. This narrative parades through streets in Scotland every July and August, and it was inserted into Scotland by the same imperial power that forced it upon Ireland. Rather, we must accept the true and historical narrative of Irish independence – a national campaign for independence from Britain waged for the entire nation and not merely those parts of it considered of little value to London. This all-Ireland narrative (1798 to the present) – independence for the whole nation and all its communities – is exactly analogous to the current narrative of the Scottish and Welsh independence movements – movements that Great Britain is working overtime to Ulsterise.
Sinn Féin, an all-Ireland Republican party, has been where the SNP and Plaid Cymru are now. It has played the talk-deflect-stall game of negotiation with Britain, it has been told “Now is not the time,” it has won elections and been denied its democratic demands, and it has experienced the full force of Britain’s broken temper. When An Uachtarán Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, speaks of the arrogance of the British Prime Minister and the intransigence of the British state when it comes to respecting the democratic decisions of the people of Ireland, she knows what she’s talking about. McDonald comes from a tradition of experience of British arrogance, intransigence, hostility, and violence reaching back all the way through the Troubles, through the Civil War, through each of the rebellions, and all the way back to the revolt of the Republican United Irishmen.
Sinn Féin knows and understands this cat-and-mouse politics of negotiation with Britain. It knows that Britain has always and without a single exception acted in bad faith and broken its promises. Right now, it is doing it again – “the Tans are at it again (a reference to the “Black and Tans” sent by Britain to terrorise the Irish population from 1919).” Not only has the current British government entered into an alliance through bribery with the DUP – one of the belligerents in the Troubles, it is working hand-in-glove with Ulster Loyalists to undo the Good Friday Agreement. British lies and broken promises, British media spin and anti-Irish propaganda are nothing new to Mary Lou and Sinn Féin in every part of the island of Ireland. Sinn Féin – in fact, every woman and man in Ireland – has come to expect nothing from Britain but lies and bad faith.
Scotland has not quite learned this yet. Of course, there are many of us in the Scottish independence movement who are well aware of the lies, the deceptions, and manipulations of England, but still the Scottish government, the SNP, and various other well-meaning independentistas are operating like innocents – believing, in spite of the now overwhelming evidence, that British politicians can be trusted, that the BBC will provide a fair and balanced platform, and that in the end Britain will honour the democratic decisions of the Scottish people. The whole of Europe knows that Britain is not to be trusted. This is not just a matter of Irish anti-Britishness. This is cold hard experience. Britain cannot be trusted to be honest and act in good faith.
Today, SNP politicians are asking on social media if it is time to start boycotting BBC Question Time – one single politics panel show on the BBC! Not only is it time to boycott this one performance, it is time for the Scottish government, the SNP, and the whole of the independence movement in Scotland to turn their backs on the BBC, Westminster politics, and Great Britain. There is nothing – nothing – Scotland can achieve by taking up seats in Westminster. It too is an infantile performance, designed to humiliate and control a defeated and subjugated Scotland.
It is time for Scotland to learn from Sinn Féin and follow its lead. Yes, of course, we are right to recoil from the violence of the past. Sinn Féin has itself recoiled from the violence of the past. We too had violence in our past, and – like the Irish – we have enshrined that violence in fond cultural memory. But those days are past now, and in the past they must remain. The Irish Republicans are playing a shrewd political game that will now see a united Ireland before another Scottish independence referendum, and they have done this not by following the rules laid down by Britain – a foreign power, but by rejecting them. We too must reject Britain’s rules and all the trappings that trap us that we might be mature and rise now and be the nation again.
Sinn Féin’s Leader on Why Brexit Threatens the Peace Process in Ireland
21 thoughts on “Ireland Can Show Scotland the Way”
Jason, this is where you really excel. Its like you set off a massive field of dominos in my brain as new facts force me to re-process what I thought I knew before. Its amazing how far back in my memory these Westminster narratives are lodged…all the way back to childhood.
Not only Ireland, but the entire Brexit process has revealed Westminster as a glassed jawed bully when it doesn’t get to set the rules. It can’t help falling over itself due to its misplaced exceptionalism. However, Scotland can not rest easy – a bully embarrassed is a danger to those it can still lord it over as it lashes out to restore its bruised pride.
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Timely and inspirational Jason. Thank you.
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female.
This is not a ramble! It is a serious warning. It is serious as a firing squad!
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And still the SNP is trying to rescue England!
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Very very incisive analysis of the process in which Scotland finds itself. Ireland has been where we currently are. Where Ireland has trodden; we might have to tread in turn. Very sad, but it will not be our choice. English duplicity and intransigence will take us there.
This is the truth that too many Scots are too afraid to hear.
England will not leave Scotland to go in peace. As with everywhere, they will stir sectarian and racial hatred, poison the well and probably even try to partition our country as they did Ireland.
The British State is arguably the most disgusting body on the planet.
Arrogant, exceptionalist, ignorant bullying venal thugs.
We will need to very very strong to withstand what they unleash upon Scotland when they finally lose Ireland.
Brilliant article,the Ulsterisation of Scottish politics is ongoing and frightening to a West of Scotland person born in the early 50’s, please can we make it stop!!!
Great report Jason but why do you like many others keep referring to British ,Britain ,why not say it as it truly is which is English ,England.
yes we know that the British nationalists treat British as meaning English but throughout your report you appear afraid to say it is England it is the English that you are referring to in this report when you say “Ireland can show Scotland the way”.
Stop saying British stop saying Britain,it’s England that stops the reunification of Ireland and England that fights against Scottish independence.
I suspect you and so many other journalists have the same fear, you are frightened to say it’s England you are frightened to say it’s the English ,I think you fear the kind of backlash mr blackford got for calling may a liar, you fear being called anti English ,let’s face it if you are against the British state you are against England, if you criticise the British state you criticise England.
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And that needed to be said.
Terence, I understand and appreciate what you are saying and to an extent I agree. However, “Britain” and “British” carry political connotations England and English lack. Other than being a simple geographical term, Britain is a state-political entity and – more importantly – an ideology; unionism in Scotland, Wales, and the six counties, and imperialism in England. It is this I wish to address when I speak of Britain and the British state.
At last someone telling the truth,wake up Scotland,this is our land not skives to all English rule,it’s time to be Free of these shackles.
Every Scot should read this to fill in the truth about Ireland that they were never told at school
An excellent article and very thought provoking. Much of what you said I have thought about but not taken my thoughts on it far enough. You’ve shown me where I was heading with it all and it now makes such a lot of sense…. if THAT makes sense! Thank you for putting it so clearly and so succinctly.
What you write is a little bit scary – but if the Irish folks can do it, I’m sure we can too, if we follow their lead. Freedom has always been hard won. But it’s always worth it. Let’s do this, I say.
A well written and truthful article about the sorry state we are currently in and where we need to be quickly before it’s too late to escape this debacle
Couldn’t agree more!
My sister-in-law from USA said to me in 2000 : when the 6 counties join Eire , then Scotland will vote for Independence. I can see she was correct .
The time HAS come for us to turn our back on westmonster and her goverment