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.
Brexit was always making this more likely, and it makes perfect sense for dissidents to strike first. They have the most to lose from the collapse of the GFA. So, this was exactly what happened. Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams called for resistance to Brexit – political resistance, but the interpretation of that call by dissidents, keen to usurp the position of Sinn Féin and get the ball rolling on a fresh Intifada that can be escalated with the right encouragement from the British security forces, was of course going to be armed resistance.
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.
More Scots than ever are of the opinion that, so long as Scotland is a member of the British union state, pro-secessionist parties should follow a policy of abstentionism – having our elected MPs refuse to take up their seats in the House of Commons, until we have secured our independence. Yesterday on the blog I made my own position on the Westminster question clear; writing that “we cannot – as a nation – hope for democracy at Westminster.”
If this is what counts for democracy in London, and if this is how Scotland is to be treated – as a subject to the will of England, then “taking back control” refers to Holyrood as much as it does to Brussels. Without any real prospect of a reasonable trade agreement with the EU after Brexit, and friends abroad as reliable as Trump’s “America First,” London’s economic future is completely dependent on its access to our resources. Britain’s departure from the EU is therefore inextricably linked to its war against the Scottish government and the independence movement.
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.