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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.
Irish Republicanism was begun by Irish Protestants like Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. A united Ireland will be Green… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) February 14, 2019
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.
If police are needed to protect a church, the march shouldn't be permitted in the first place. Orange marches shame… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Ross Greer (@Ross_Greer) July 08, 2018
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.
Angus B MacNeil MP (@AngusMacNeilSNP) February 14, 2019
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