In Conversation with the Orange Order

By Jason Michael

Well it’s the 12th of July and I am in Ireland. Where else would a Scottish nationalist with a name from the wrong side of the Northern Irish divide be but in Portadown and Belfast talking to the leadership of the Orange Order?

It was a glorious summer day and a public holiday in Northern Ireland, but the coach to Belfast was empty. It’s the 12th of July and the traffic was moving in a steady flow out of the city, with thousands of the city’s residents aiming to be anywhere else but Belfast during the often tense annual loyalist commemoration of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. While certain segments of the unionist and loyalist community were displaying a sense of buoyancy and triumphalism not witnessed in quite some time – a likely product of the DUP’s arrangement with the Westminster government – I felt it important to go and talk with members of the Orange Order on their own turf during their big day.

Social media has been awash with images of the bonfires, prepared for the eleventh night celebrations, decorated with symbols of Catholicism; statues of the Virgin Mary, the flags of Vatican City and the tricolour of the Irish Republic, and a host of other flags and symbols representing the forces loyalism in the north of Ireland imagines itself to be at odds with. There was no attempt to obfuscate the sectarian bigotry and the anti-immigrant racism at these events. Yet most of the online commentary was, and understandably so, hostile to this much maligned community. I wanted to hear what they had to say for themselves and see with my own eyes what an Orange parade was like in the heartland of loyalist culture in Northern Ireland.


Orangemen from Glasgow in Belfast for the 12th of July.

Alan Burns, the Chairman of the Portadown Committee of the Loyalist Orange Order, was the first person I spoke to about visiting. I contacted him by email and had a couple of phone conversations with him. He was gregarious and friendly, saying that he would be delighted to meet with me and put me in contact with a number of his “brethren” who’d be on the parade on the day. He put me in touch with his “Worshipful Brother,” Darryl Hewitt, the District Master of Portadown LOL number one lodge. It all felt a little like an encounter with the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan, but I was prepared to admit that this perception was coloured by the prejudice I was bringing to the situation, and, besides, it was difficult not to like these guys. They didn’t come across as aggressive or antagonistic, and they knew my name was McCann – a local County Armagh Catholic name.

An hour or so before the parade set off from the Brownstown Road for its procession through a Portadown decked in red, white, and blue bunting – complete with a statue of Edward Saunderson MP draped in a massive orange sash – I sauntered up the Garvaghy Road and out to the Drumcree parish church; sites of serious and often violent standoffs between the loyalist and nationalist communities in the past. There are few places as breathtakingly beautiful as this on the whole island of Ireland, or even in Scotland for that matter. Gravelled little roads winding over low hills and cutting through luscious barley and wheat, all green and brown and yellow as far as the eye can see; a scene that cries out the contradiction of the conflict – terrible ugliness and heavenly beauty.


A peaceful Drumcree parish church on the 12th of July.

Up in the graveyard of the Drumcree church my attention was drawn to a number of graves bearing my own – “Irish Catholic” – family name, an indication that the human story in this corner of Ireland wasn’t always a tale of divisiveness and enmity. One of my relatives would appear to have “turned” – a love story perhaps, crossing the gulf of ancient hatred. Up on this hill; at a church that has become itself a symbol of Protestantism with an Ulster capital pee, there were people with Catholic and Protestant names resting in peace together.


One of a number of McCann graves in the graveyard of Drumcree parish church.

Later, at the start of the parade on the Brownstown Road, I met with Darryl Hewitt, the District Master. He is exactly what I didn’t expect. He couldn’t have been more welcoming. He openly admitted that there would be things we’d never agree on, and I couldn’t fault him on that conclusion, but he was willing to answer my questions without the least hint of antagonism. We had a few things in common, we both had friends in common, and he sounded sincere when he spoke of moving the Orange Order beyond the old and “outdated” anti-Catholic rules.

Yeah, there were a few things that stuck in my craw. On a lamppost at the top of the street there were loyalist and Apartheid South African flags flying together. According to Jim – an Orangeman who had travelled over from Kilwinning – this was only a hangover from a time of conflict that shaped the community. Yes, there was an answer for everything, and some traditions are best jettisoned, but none of it came across as practiced. These guys were relaxed and seemed, to me at least, to be telling their story – and that is, after all, what I came to hear. I didn’t find a single fan of a united Ireland, Scottish or Welsh independence, and the mention of Nicola Sturgeon was met with a few choice words. This was not easy to listen to, but this wasn’t my story.


Divisive flags still flying over loyalist Portadown.

Portadown’s Orangemen now no longer march from the Drumcree church and so the insistence on parading down the nationalist Garvaghy Road has ended. This parade made its way down “Protestant streets” – a reminder of the social segregation of Northern Ireland today – where unionist and loyalist flags were waving in the breeze. The music was tempered and the whole parade was free of the loud and openly sectarian lyrics of the recent Orange parade in Glasgow. All of this gave the impression of it being a community event for the community it belonged to, and leaving Portadown for Belfast I have to admit to being confused. I knew it would be disingenuous to report on this entirely in a negative light, because it simply wasn’t all negative.

On reaching Belfast, however, things were different. The main march had come to an end, bystanders draped in British flags had been drinking all day, and things were getting tense. One teenage girl – who couldn’t have been born when the Good Friday Agreement was signed – was staggering off with her boyfriend singing: “No, no Pope of Rome, no chapels to sadden my eyes, no nuns and no priests, no rosary beads, every day is the 12th of July.” The memory and the want for ethnic cleansing were still there. The parade had liberated her to sing these nasty lyrics, but there was no counter protest and no sectarian violence. One lad did break a bottle and threaten another teen with it, but they were both drunken loyalists. All told, it was a day of contradictions and not all exactly what I had expected.


Standoff at Drumcree

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British ‘Smart Warfare’ and the Invention of Irexit

By Jason Michael

Ireland has become one of Brexit Britain’s last viable bargaining chips, and so Theresa May has started the ball rolling on an Irish media manipulation strategy by which she hopes to bully Ireland to Britain’s side against the EU.

Our neighbours in Ireland are wakening up bemused at the news that “Irexit” – a Brexit-like Irish exit from the European Union – has become a thing. “Irish diplomat” Ray Bassett has published a 41 page policy document, After Brexit, Will Ireland be Next to Exit, outlining the “necessity” of an Irish departure from the EU in the wake of Brexit. There are, however, a number of problems with this piece of Irish policy advice; beside the fact that it is neither Irish nor policy. Ray Bassett is not an Irish diplomat. He is a former Irish diplomat – previously holding the posts of Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, and his report was written for a UK right-leaning think tank Policy Exchange. During an interview with the BBC on the subject of his invented Irexit he quoted a poll conducted by the Sunday Business Post suggesting most Irish people would be in favour of leaving the EU, but failed to mention he writes for the paper.

Smell a rat? Well you should. Policy Exchange is not a neutral actor, employing experts to imagine possible solutions to political and economic problems. Think tanks are state political tools charged with the task of devising ways and means of implementing political policies. Policy Exchange is a British Conservative think tank, therefore currently acting on behalf of the UK’s Brexiteer government, founded by Nick Boles, Michael Gove, and Privy Council member Francis Maud, and presently under the directorship of Dean Godson; all influential members of the British Conservative Party. Policy Exchange has an agenda, and right now that agenda is Brexit.

Without there being the slightest appetite in the Republic of Ireland for an exit from the EU – with most Irish people agreeing with their Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and their former Taoiseach Enda Kenny that “the foundation of Ireland’s prosperity and the bedrock of its modern society was membership of the European Union” – it can only be surmised that the deployment of Policy Exchange in the creation of an Irexit is a British flanking manoeuvre designed to destabilise the European side of the Article 50 negotiations now underway in Brussels. Why not? Removing the question of the Irish border from the table would be very much in Britain’s interests; maintaining the open border policy between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland while freeing itself to bail on the rest of the talks.

Carole Cadwalladr, the Guardian and Observer journalist who broke the story on the US dark money connection with the UK Leave campaign, tweeted: “Thinktank pays obscure retired civil servant. BBC reports it as ‘news;’” connecting the dots between dark interests and big money in the US and the UK’s strategy to break the unity of the EU.

Naturally there are a couple of questions we have to ask; who is funding Policy Exchange and why exactly is a British policy influencer trying to sway political and public opinion in Ireland? Funding is a mystery. We simply do not know where Policy Exchange gets its money. The Open Society Foundation’s think tank Transparify, in a 2016 report How Transparent are Think Tanks about Who Funds Them, rated Policy Exchange as “highly opaque,” stating that it was one of a “handful of think tanks that refuse to reveal even the identities of [its] donors.” On the Who Funds You website Policy Exchange is listed in the “E” category, the lowest category it gives for funding transparency. We do not need to be convinced that it is no good thing that the most influential pro-government policy nudging organisation is funded by completely unknown third party backers, and it is certainly not in the interests of Ireland that such a tool is being put to work against it.

When The Times of London columnist Melanie Phillips enters the debate suggesting that Bassett’s Irexit would be beneficial for the Irish economy and solve the Irish-Northern Irish border question we know that this scheme bears the paw prints of the right-wing British establishment. As an outrider for the establishment, let’s remember, it was Phillips who claimed in March this year that Ireland “has a tenuous claim to nationhood;” seeing the Irish as a mere subgenus of the culturally superior British. When Phillips says that anything is good for Ireland what she really means is that what Ireland does should be good for Britain.

Britain is doing what it has always done in Ireland; using it as a means to its own ends, no matter the cost this has for Ireland and the Irish people. Theresa May’s negotiating team in Belgium is in desperate trouble. It has been backed into a corner over a trade deal – an agreement that will be the making or breaking of post-Brexit Britain, knowing that any possibility of a deal now relies on the nature of the outcome of the Article 50 talks. Initially the UK plan was to sink the negotiations at the earliest opportunity and walk away from the table without picking up the £100bn bill it owes. After being reminded by Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, that the bloc was “not a golf club,” Westminster has been forced to rethink.

Now the British plan is more aggressive. Other reminders were given that if Britain attempted to change the laws regulating the status of EU citizens residing in the UK before the completion of the process it would be in breach of European law. That bargaining chip neutralised, May has turned to fisheries and undermining the EU in Ireland; the only member state over which the UK still has some influence. By insisting that Britain will take back its 12 mile coastal boundaries May is now hinting at a hard-edged economic war against the EU, a move that will have serious implications for “friends and allies” France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Ireland, the most geographically vulnerable state in any post-Brexit scenario, is overwhelmingly on the side of the EU, and this has been expressed repeatedly – even in the depths of its recent economic crisis. Theresa May has done everything in her power to harry the Irish to Britain’s side; undermining the Good Friday Agreement in the North – making a return to the violence of the Troubles a realistic outcome for a non-compliant Ireland, and threatening its €533m fisheries industry. All that is needed, she is guessing, is a little persuasion. Enter Ray Bassett and Policy Exchange.


With a little help from an outside state any fringe campaign can become a movement.

Ireland is perhaps the only EU member state as preoccupied with Brexit as Britain itself. Much of the Irish economy is highly dependent on trade with the United Kingdom and so the Irish government is busy looking for solutions to the increasingly likely worst case scenario. Anyone looking for ideas in a desperate situation will listen to ideas, and the British government is now supplying them in a Dublin accent. This Lord Haw-Hawesque approach is right out of the pages of Britain’s “smart warfare” playbook – the psych tactics it developed for use against the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Present a seemingly rational case in an indigenous voice and soon the subjects will begin to think of these ideas as their own.

The intention of presenting this Irish idea on the BBC as news is to spark public debate in Ireland, hoping it will grow into a Brexit-like popular movement in the Republic. Ireland knows EU membership is in its best interests, but the BBC is a powerful influencer – even in Ireland – and public opinion, as the Leave campaign learned, is fickle and easily manipulated. Our neighbours in Ireland should be mindful of the game that is now being played with them, but something tells me – given that Ireland has always been hurt when it becomes the focus of London’s attention – that few in Ireland will fall for this devious ploy.


Irish MEP rejects UKIP’s call for an #Irexit

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Britain is Telling Lies about Ulster

By Jason Michael

We are being led to believe that an otherwise innocent and somewhat naïve British state is doing a deal with the devil that is the Ulster loyalist DUP. The truth is that this is a whitewash of Britain’s role in Ireland. It is another lie.

England is in uproar over Theresa May’s decision to formalise a confidence and supply agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, a political arrangement being presented to the British public as the Westminster government jumping into bed with terrorists. Nothing could further from the truth. There is no doubt, as state and police records verify, the DUP has a long history of association with Ulster loyalist paramilitary murder squads in Northern Ireland, but the narrative now being manufactured by the British establishment media would have us believe – quite wrongly – that the London government is entirely innocent of loyalist violence in Ireland.

It is difficult to believe now that, after over five decades of brutal violence and an uneasy peace, in early 1966 Northern Ireland had the lowest crime rate in the United Kingdom. It was a province at peace. It was governed by a supremacist Protestant unionist majority and the minority Catholic nationalist population was denied basic civil rights, but notwithstanding the obvious injustice and inequality Northern Ireland was not marked by unrest or violence.


UVF Mural, Belfast – “We’re Up to our knees in Fenian blood…”

In 1966 all of this began to change. It was the 50th anniversary year of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, an event that led ultimately, through a war of independence and a bitter civil war, to the foundation of the Irish Free State – the later 26 county Republic of Ireland – and the partition of Ireland between the Free State and the 6 counties of British occupied Northern Ireland. Loyalists in the north in 1966 began to feel uneasy over the growth of the nationalist civil rights movement, seeing in it the hidden hand of a largely dormant IRA. Those accustomed to privilege, of course, see equality as oppression. As “defenders of Ulster” the Ulster Volunteer Force – founded in 1913 to stave off the rising tide of republicanism – started to take matters into its own hands.

Peter Ward was the first victim of the Troubles. A young barman out with his friends enjoying a pint, he was followed out onto the streets of Belfast and shot dead because he was from the Falls Road; an area of the city that identified him to his UVF murderers as a Catholic. As the trouble escalated over the next five years the British government quickly picked sides; as the nationalists’ political aspirations were perceived to be either the creation of a united Ireland or to challenge the unionist dominance of Northern Ireland they were identified as the enemy.

Then on 4 December 1971 the UVF detonated a bomb in a pub, killing 15 innocent people – including the owner’s wife and young daughter. Following a brief inquiry into the bombing the RUC and the British security services concluded that this was the result of a premature explosion of an IRA device awaiting delivery to its intended target. A later independent review found this to be a fabrication, exposing for the first time the reality of active collusion between the British Army and loyalist paramilitaries in the premeditated targeting and murder of innocent nationalists.

Behind all of this, whipping up the anti-Catholic sectarianism that led to the violence, were two men in particular; a young Presbyterian churchman Ian Paisley (later Lord Bannside) – the leader of the paramilitary Ulster Protestant Volunteers terrorist organisation – and Bill Craig, the leader of Vanguard – a hard-line sectarian loyalist umbrella organisation preaching that it was its “job to liquidate the [nationalist] enemy.” The Ulster Unionist First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble (later Baron Trimble), was a follower of Craig and a fellow Vanguardist.


Derry, 1972 – Britain’s war against “innocent (David Cameron)” people.

Theresa May is now inviting the DUP – the political wing of Ian Paisley’s UPV murder squad – into the heart of government, into the heart of the Brexit negotiations – the most important diplomatic repositioning of the United Kingdom in our generation. The BBC and the rest of the British establishment media are instructing us to be shocked. How can Britain – as though its hands are clean – do business with these murdering thugs?

There is a perfectly good reason Northern Ireland is ignored by the British media, why it is only now the British public is being informed of the DUP’s existence – only Northern Ireland’s biggest political party; and the reason is that Britain has always been doing business with them and that business has always been dirty. It was the British government’s cover up of the British Army’s massacre of nationalist civil rights protesters – shown by the 2010 Saville Inquiry to be peaceful and unarmed – that led to the United States’ intervention to dissuade the Irish Republic from sending its own troops into Northern Ireland to protect British citizens from what it and the rest of the world saw as part the an ongoing genocide of Northern Ireland’s nationalist population by the British state.

Britain’s decision to include the DUP – its longstanding friends and confederates – in the government of the United Kingdom is far from a new political departure for Westminster into the murky world of terrorism and criminality. Theresa May is merely bringing into the open a long tradition of friendship and collaboration that has always existed between Britain as a violent and oppressive force in Ireland and its frontline political-paramilitary defenders of the Union in Northern Ireland, and it is time the record on this score was set straight.


Taoiseach Jack Lynch responds to Britain’s crimes in the North, 1969.

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Meeting with an IRA Volunteer and Republican Prisoner

By Jason Michael

Hoping to put together an article on the likely activity of the British secret services in Scotland I went to speak with a man who had first-hand experience of the work of Britain’s shady operations. This was coffee with the IRA.

Other than Scholars Townhouse, a favourite getaway of mine these past few years, Drogheda is unknown territory to me. Pretty much everything north of Balbriggan is. So the Brown House Bakery was something of a new discovery. Sitting on a line of fairly nondescript local shops off the Dublin Road, the Bakery seems a tad out of place; an upmarket café and cakery in what has all the appearance of a Celtic Tiger housing development. Carrie tells me the place sprang up during the recession; “an inexpensive little treat when people have had to give up on bigger things.”

The coffee was alright, but, then, I’m no connoisseur. The carrot cake, on the other hand, was exquisite, but I felt unable to express this to the company I was in. How does one have a Rajesh Koothrappali moment over dainties when you are interviewing a former member of the IRA, a man who from the age of 14 was engaged in an armed insurgency against the British Army on the streets of Belfast, and who had spent 18 years locked-up in the infamous H-Block for murder? Well – I thought to myself – be cool. Mirror the body language, maintain eye contact, and don’t – whatever you do – go soft over the delicious pastries.

Anthony McIntyre was not at all what I had expected. He had generously agreed to an interview for a piece I am writing for iScot on British deep state activity in Ireland during the Troubles. I’m attempting to construct a picture of what these security and spook agencies are likely to be doing in Scotland in light of the growth of the independence movement – so make sure to pick up a copy.


Former IRA Volunteer and Republican Prisoner Anthony McIntyre

He’s sporting a hefty greying beard, oddly squared in shape; more at home I thought in a monastic setting like Glenstal Abbey. Proper Benedictine altogether. Denims are a given. Everyone wears jeans. Open loose shirt, exposing a t-shirt underneath, and a rubber AC-DC wristband. I’d imagined it different, maybe more Patriot Games with the tweed and the hint of Bostonian Irish-American trad music. Check me with my stereotypes.

This was real life, and I was being taken on a narrated journey through a past I could only relate to through fiction and on a tour of the lived retirement – if retirement is what you call it – of two people for whom ordinary is utterly bizarre. It’s Carrie who opens up the discussion. She’s an American of about my age with a healthy and impressive distrust of the state – every state. Now and again she finds queer looking electronic devises around her home, her mobile “clicks” during certain conversations, and her family in the States are aware that her calls are being “rerouted.” When it becomes obvious – or at least obvious to them – that the house has been bugged she calls the Gards. The Gardaí drop in and give the gaff the once over, but everyone in the know knows they just use it as an opportunity to plant some stuff of their own.

Here’s the thing – everyone is listening in on them; the Gards, Special Branch, MI5 and GCHQ – or both, and the IRA. Anthony’s a Provo, well, a former Provisional Irish Republican Army Volunteer; not a dissident, but a dissenter. We didn’t get into it. We could have been there all day, but since Good Friday he has had disagreements with Sinn Féin and many of those from his ranks who went into politics. I haven’t seen it, but I assume his relationship status on Facebook reads, “It’s complicated.”

Carrie, who, as the discussion developed, began to emerge as some sort of manager-cum-special envoy. She represents him in the Belfast court as the PSNI continues to seek access to the Boston College tapes, an oral history of the Troubles kept for safe keeping by the college in Massachusetts. I can’t go into any more details on their contents. On the record Anthony would neither confirm nor deny if these records amounted to a “little black book of activities.” In fairness, I think there’s too much at stake – like the entire peace process – if the people who want them think they are as important as they may or may not be.

Anthony McIntyre, when he begins to talk, is way too calm for a man who has dodged a few bullets and at least one bombing. He can’t go to Belfast for fear of another stretch in somewhere like Long Kesh. He can’t even take a beach holiday on the Costas because of a European Arrest Warrant. You could say that, while he’s technically a free man, he is living under state arrest.

We slip back to the 70s, to the details of the war; the logistics and complexities of moving munitions and explosives, the rooting out and recruitment of spies, agents, and assets, and avoiding the RUC and the “Brits” at the time of Britain’s shoot-to-kill policy. “It wasn’t torture,” he explains, “they never tortured you when they arrested you. They just gave you a good hiding and kept you in stress positions until you can’t take any more.” I began to think that torture has a bit of a sliding definition.

What I wasn’t prepared for was his take on the Troubles. It was all related to the differences he has now with Sinn Féin, but he was firm on the point that the IRA too had committed war crimes. I was disarmed and taken aback. During the 80s and 90s the BBC had us convinced the IRA was a terrorist organisation of mindless, heartless thugs and murderers. No doubt this is a truth for many who were on the receiving end, as it is for those who suffered at the hands of loyalists, the security services, and the army – but here was an IRA man acknowledging the totality of the conflict. It was a war, it was a dirty war, and things happened that shouldn’t’ve.

The full vista of his account, of which I hope to be writing more in next month’s iScot, is a vision of violent, organised chaos. On the surface there was the war; soldiers, police, paramilitaries, and the IRA all playing a lethal game of cat and mouse in the six counties. But under the surface was another unreal reality of intelligence and counter-intelligence gathering, infiltrations, agents, recruited agents, double agents, informants, and “girls who’d tickle their balls to get them to talk in bed.” Every faction was at it, and even your most trusted friends could be “turned” if they were not already. Sure, even the Russians were in on it – organising trips for volunteers to Moscow to chat with the KGB.

It was a lengthy interview over a few coffees, a few smokes, and some more carrot cake. I found out everything I wanted to know, and found, when I left, that I wanted to ask more. Each answer snowballed into more questions, and, aye, I was aware there might have been things that if I had been told someone may have had to deal with me, but – and honestly – it was an eye opener. As the journo, it wasn’t my place to judge, but heading home I took another IRA and another Troubles away with me. Carrie and Anthony had, in a couple of hours, become ordinary. These were peoples’ neighbours and friends. No balaclavas or AR-18 rifles. There was certainly a whole load of the past, sure, but Fika with the IRA ended up being strangely jovial, even a bit of craic. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it definitely wasn’t what I expected.


Anthony McIntyre on the Arrest of Gerry Adams

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What the Union Loathes and Fears

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.


Unionists can’t think of Ireland without popping a haemorrhoid over “republicanism.”

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

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