Scotland and Ireland have much in common. They are countries of about the same size and population with a long history of English domination. When England wobbles, Scotland and Ireland quake. In both Scotland and Ireland, regardless of their social and cultural proximity to England, there is an acute awareness of the badness of Brexit. Both instinctively understand that it threatens the fabric of their society, and both are aware of the extent to which England is working to draw them in to the misery of its awful situation.
We can’t defend the indefensible. The Church in Ireland and all around the world failed children and vulnerable people. There was – and to a great extent remains – a culture of abuse within the structures of the Church. The sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of children in the care of Church authorities was a terrible wrong, but the scandal was far worse; it was the abuse of power on the part of an ecclesiastical hierarchy that protected abusers and covered up their abuse – often shielding them, by the use of canon law among other things, from civil justice.
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.
Tiocfaidh ár lá may well have been the “battle cry of the blanketmen,” but it is also a proclamation of continuity. McDonald’s Sinn Féin is not a new Sinn Féin. It is the same party with the same vision and, while it continues to attract new members, it is largely supported by the same people who supported the party right through the Troubles to the present day. If Mary Lou McDonald wants to be accepted as the new face of Sinn Féin then she has to carry this old guard along with her, and that means reminding them too of the fights of the past.
According to Europe the departure of the UK from the EU will put a hard border between the two parts of Ireland. This will have a profound and devastating effect on the economy of the island, but more pressing than this is the uncomfortable reality that republicans and nationalists in the North will find themselves locked into the British state once again, where Britain has the monopoly on violence – the exact conditions that played a significant part in the ignition of the conflict.
There were toys scattered about the floor, the previous occupant’s belongings unceremoniously packed up into bin bags (of course it has to be bin bags for people who are routinely treated as rubbish), and tins of baby formula in the kitchen presses.
Europe has smacked technology giant Apple with a whopping €13 billion tax bill, but rather than leaping at the money to address domestic issues like the highest level of homelessness since the Famine Ireland is trying to get Apple back to tax free trading.
When the Union has run out of arguments, and it looks like Scotland is about to take the high road, it throws the dice for the last time: The Ulsterisation of Scotland. “Leave this empire,” it says, “and we’ll treat you like we treated the Irish.”