Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
Well, the Scottish leader Alex Salmond came to town for the Irish-British Council summit yesterday and hit all the right notes for an Irish audience (and quiet a few of the wrong ones for a British/English one). I wonder did he read my earlier posting on the “Ireland Scenario”? (not really!)
The Guardian carries some of the details of the event for the folks back home in Blighty:
“Alex Salmond has invited David Cameron and Nick Clegg to visit Scotland to discuss the UK government’s proposal to accelerate the timetable for a referendum on Scottish independence.
But Salmond launched a strong attack on the UK government for what he described as bullying tactics as he appeared to draw a parallel between London’s treatment of Scotland and its historic behaviour towards Ireland.
“I am sure many people in Ireland will remember that sometimes people who are in leadership positions in big countries find it very difficult not to bully small countries,” Salmond told RTE on Friday morning. “What we have seen over the last week is a most extraordinary attempt to bully and intimidate Scotland by Westminster politicians.
“Sometimes Westminster politicians, and Nick Clegg is very much a Westminster politician, find it difficult to let go the strings of power and believe they are still in a position of dictating terms to Scotland. I’m afraid Nick Clegg and his colleagues David Cameron and George Osborne, who is very much in charge of this, are going to find out these days are over.”
Salmond was speaking shortly before the start of the British-Irish Council which is taking place at Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule in Ireland until the 26 counties of the Irish Republic achieved independence in 1922. The castle is a mile from the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, the scene of the Easter Rising against British rule in 1916. It was Britain’s violent response to the rising – the leaders were executed by firing squad – that helped trigger the Irish war of independence.
Salmond’s decision to draw a parallel between Scotland and Ireland, however obliquely, may stir a debate in Scotland, where sectarian divisions are still pronounced.
The first minister was warmly greeted by Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister, when he arrived at Dublin Castle.”
While the majority of the Irish media seemed to enjoy the discomfort of the British delegation amidst expressions of Celtic and Gaelic solidarity, back home the Scotsman newspaper claimed that the First Minister’s comparisons had caused outrage in Ireland and beyond. Really?
“ALEX Salmond has sparked a furious row by comparing his bid for Scottish independence with Ireland’s violent struggle against British rule.
In Ireland, politicians from both sides of the religious divide criticised his remarks, which were made before he met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the yesterday’s British-Irish Council summit.”
“Religious divide”? I presume the Scotsman means the political divide between the two communities on the island of Ireland, Irish and British. But then again those old propaganda lines are much easier to rehash, aren’t they? On the other hand, someone who knows a thing or two about religious fundamentalism does have an opinion to make. Though, be warned, you might be struggling to remember his name.
“Mr Salmond’s comments were criticised by Lord Trimble, the former Ulster Unionist leader who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
Lord Trimble said Mr Salmond had been “playing to the gallery in spades”. He went on: “It is grandstanding on stilts. It is totally divorced from the reality. My understanding is that the government have been trying to get into a conversation with Mr Salmond for the past year, but he has been declining to talk to them.”
As one of the main architects of the Good Friday Agreement – the template for the settlement that has brought today’s peace to Northern Ireland – Lord Trimble took issue with Mr Salmond’s comparison of Scotland with Ireland.”
Wow. David Trimble? Blast from the past, that one. Though hardly, um, current. But wait, there’s more:
“The First Minister also angered politicians on the other side of the political divide.
Seamus Mallon, a former leader of the moderate, mainly nationalist SDLP, suggested Mr Salmond should brush up on his history, saying many Scots were members of the Black and Tans, the notorious British militia that gained a reputation for violence in Ireland after the Great War.
Mr Mallon said: “Scotland was part of the bullying that took place in Ireland. People from Scotland were the cornerstone of the plantation of Ulster. I think Alex is a very able performer, but his knowledge of history is a little weak.
“As recently as 15 years ago, you had Scottish regiments here, enforcing the writ of Britain so, I think I could recommend a good history of Ireland for him.””
Okey-dokey then. Someone woke up granddad, he’s realised its not 1998, and he’s a wee bit grumpy. So that’s the outrage sparked in Ireland by Alex Salmond’s remarks? Would the words, “bottom”, “barrel”, “scraping” have any relevance here?
“AS AN Ulster Scot I know there would be concern in Northern Ireland should Scotland vote to leave the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland is not only geographically close to Scotland but shares more with Scotland than with any other country. When the majority in Ireland voted for independence from the UK there were 220,000 people in County Donegal. After independence thousands emigrated back to the UK – especially to Glasgow and Londonderry. Only 100,000 now remain in Donegal.
Northern Ireland remained within the UK as was the desire of most people in that part of Ireland. Should there ever be a majority in Scotland for independence it should not be binding on all the people of Scotland.
If, say, Strathclyde or the Lowlands prefer to remain in the UK then that decision should be honoured by a partition of Scotland.
(Lord) John Kilclooney
House of Lords
Partition Scotland! Now there’s an idea we’ve been waiting to hear. Come on now, you know it was bound to happen sooner or later. Lord John Kilclooney, or former UUP politician John Taylor to mortal folk like you and me, knows a thing or two about partition. For instance, a “border” never stopped him having a foot in both camps as it were, with business interests across the island of Ireland. Politics and nationality is one thing, but someone has to pay the bills. Right?
Of course this could just be the start, as a report in ForArgyll points out:
“When Scottish independence was no more than the aspiration of a small minority, few, if any, questioned the nationalist claim ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’, made in the fervour of the 1970s.
However, in 2011, with the Scottish Nationalists already in their second successive administration of a devolved Scotland – and with every prospect of at least a third one should the present political arrangements still obtain – serious attention has begun to be paid to which nation really owns what.
As in most relationships, as soon as divorce is on the horizon, even as a possibility, minds turn to the issue of division of assets.
The English Democrats are now claiming that, depending on which territorial convention is applied, either half or a quarter of the North Sea coastal sea bed, with its oil and gas reserves, belongs to England.
They say that the geological test – the same as is applied to try to determine who owns what in the pillaging battleground to come in the Arctic – would see England own one half; where the national land boundary test would give it one quarter.”
Would a partition of Scotland, moving the traditional border forty odd miles further northward, enhance the claims of the “UK” under international law to the southern reaches of the current “British” North Sea oilfields? What about communication links to the last remnants of the British colony in Ireland? Would a remnant UK state be content for its nearest direct route to the North of Ireland to pass through the territory of a “foreign” nation? Under these circumstances a new border stretching from beyond Stranraer to North Berwick, encompassing much of the population of the “Borders”, and placing the Scottish demographic hubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Central Belt strategically close (should the “need” arise), would be a tempting proposition for any far-thinking British state.
And lets not mention the Shetland Islands.
Now what were those Ireland comparisons Alex Salmond was making?