Ireland’s struggle for independence was not a violent struggle. The 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen was not an act of violence, and neither was the 1916 Easter Rising. Following the logic and the sound moral reasoning of Scotland’s Claim of Right, that it is “the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs,” and the United States’ Declaration of Independence – “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”
It comes as no surprise that as editor of The Spectator he published James Michie’s 2004 “satirical poem” describing Scotland as a “ghetto” inhabited by “tartan dwarves” – a “verminous race” – worthy of “extermination” for “polluting [England’s racially superior] stock.” Why should this shock Scottish people? We have been in a union with England for three centuries, we have been dominated by the products of this Anglo-Saxon master race, and as the pencil pushers and administrators of their empire we have long understood the nature of British imperialism.
In the coming weeks the United Kingdom is going to slip chaotically into the deepest political and social crisis it has experienced since the outbreak of the Second World War. The very existence of the British state, given the conditions of an “Apocalypse scenario” Brexit crash out, will be on the line. Civil disorder caused by food shortages and lack of essential medicines will bring matters to a head in England, Scotland, Wales, and those parts of Ireland still under British occupation.
This is the temple before the altar of which another Rebel could intone: “I say to my people’s masters: Beware! Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people who shall take what ye would not give.” And this is, at least in part, the meaning of Wolfe Tone’s grave; that its incompleteness is the promise of completion, that this is not over – that Ireland’s enemy should take heed. Something “is coming.” This grave in Bodenstown is not pretty. Its symbolism and meaning are dark – nightmarishly dark, but they are necessary.
Realpolitik is the business of practical politics, based on the ever-changing conditions of the political weather than on idealised notions and ideas based on ideology. We may have independence as our immediate political goal, but the weather systems in which we must navigate a course to that end are in a constant state of flux – meaning, quite simply, that grand strategies and masterplans seldom, if ever, actually exist. So, we are left to deal with day-to-day contingencies, and, when it comes to the current state of Brexit, those are coming at us thick and fast.
As David Cameron stood in Westminster pretending to apologise for the actions of British soldiers in Derry in 1972 he kept his lips tightly sealed about Ballymurphy. Few, even in Ireland, outside the Republican movement have ever heard of what happened from 9-11 August 1971 in the Belfast housing estate of Ballymurphy. I’ve been to Ballymurphy. My friend, Fr. Paddy McCafferty, is the parish priest at Corpus Christi parish on the estate, and I had never heard of what the British Army did there. The Channel 4 documentary the other night was an eye-opener.
The counter-voice – such as the political voice of the SNP, Sinn Féin, or Plaid Cymru – is the modern equivalent of the pillory or the stocks. This is where the enemy is presented, carefully framed and expertly mitigated, so as to make it serve the purposes of the state. We may hear the voice and see the face of Nicola Sturgeon, for example, but the narrative – the most important element of “the news” – is always that of the British state. No BBC broadcast featuring a counter-voice will leave the audience in any doubt as to dangerous nature of that voice.
As royals of the same royal family that did this to Ireland, it would be different had they come to apologise for the barbarity of British rule on this island and for the part Queen Victoria – “the Famine Queen” – played in the utter ruin of Ireland during the Great Famine, but they didn’t. Harry and Meaghan came – as British royals – to play the part of international celebrities, stars we were all expected to flock to see. They didn’t seem to notice how empty the streets were, how so few people turned out to welcome them.