Britain didn’t cause the blight. That was the work of an airborne pathogen that worked its way across northern Europe, Britain, and Ireland from 1844 to 1845. The failure of the potato crop was not Britain’s doing, but the Famine was. Since 1801, with the Act of Union of Britain and Ireland, the British government in London had systematically reduced the economy of Ireland and destroyed its native industries in order to reduce competition. Union with England makes countries poorer because union with England has always been to England’s benefit.
Modern austerity – entirely designed by the British government – does not have the workhouse, but in many other respects it is the same. Austerity was implemented to exploit the effects of an economic collapse – again, entirely caused by the British state – to make the poorest pay for the excesses of the wealthy, to further reduce the working class, and to hammer a once mighty population into docility and fear. Austerity, like the workhouse in Ireland and the measures of the London government in Scotland during and after the Clearances, typifies the vindictive...
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.