Current Affairs

Scotland Requires Some Gaelic Solidarity

The Celtic Nations
The Celtic Nations
The Celtic Nations

Until recent weeks the Irish media was relatively quiet on events in Scotland expecting, like most commentators around the globe, for the British Unionist “No” campaign to defeat the SNP-led “Yes” side in the upcoming referendum on independence. That was certainly the given wisdom based upon the confidence of the metropolitan elites in London and the consistent pro-Union majority in the polls. However the dramatic reversal in the Unionist lead with the “Yes” and “No” camps now neck-and-neck has changed all that and suddenly the press in Ireland has discovered that we may soon be not the only independent Celtic nation in the world.

Unfortunately such interest has largely escaped the Irish political classes who continue to maintain a strange silence on the matter of our fellow Gaels finally regaining their freedom. A reluctance to damage the friendly relationships now enjoyed with their British counterparts? Worries over expressions of political support from Dublin being counterproductive in the intensely partisan referendum debate or even fears of facing a rival low-tax economy to the north-east? Who knows? However I am not the only one to notice the anomaly presented by a lack of solidarity from official sources in Ireland for our Scottish cousins (though of course rumors of expressions of private support are another matter altogether…). From John Downing in the Irish Independent:

“ALL Irish governments since 1922 have adopted precisely the same policy on the issue of our fellow Celts on these islands.

They have done and said absolutely nothing. ‘Benign indifference’ was the posh phrase. The links of blood, culture, language, history, climate and whiskey or whisky, (spell it any way you like) were all blithely ignored for a very long time. The policy was one of lamentable ‘we have enough on our plate’.

By 1998 and the Good Friday Agreement, things had improved.

One of the positive and practical spin-offs was the opening of Irish consular offices in Edinburgh and Cardiff at a time when people in both countries voted for a home rule parliament. This was a long overdue move and much appreciated by our Celtic cousins.

Benign indifference was practiced by Eamon Gilmore and more recently Charlie Flanagan in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Neither said much about the impending referendum on Scottish independence bar acknowledging that this was an issue for the people of Scotland.

The over-riding assumption was that the people of Scotland would say No.

And there are huge implications for us here in Ireland. Charlie Flanagan could face his first real challenge as Foreign Affairs Minister.

…the issue of Scotland’s right to join the EU would pose a dilemma for Dublin.

Could Enda Kenny continue to sit on his hands in the face of efforts to obstruct a fellow Celtic nation which had democratically decided to assert its sovereignty?

Talk of the EU brings us neatly to a more tricky question: what would be the economic implications of Scottish independence for Ireland?

Another prospect is the likelihood Scotland would cut company tax rates, currently 20 pc in Britain, closer to Ireland’s 12 pc rate. That could spell real competition for overseas investment. For this, and for many other reasons, the Irish government will hope those latest Scottish surveys are proved wrong.”

Which if true is somewhat shameful. It should of course be pointed out that while successive Irish governments have been reluctant to openly interfere in the political affairs of our Celtic neighbours, up to the 1980s a significant number of nationalists from Scotland, Wales and Brittany were granted political asylum in Ireland, including militant exiles. Additionally the Irish state, especially under the more fraternal administrations of Éamon de Valera, went to considerable expense to support linguistic and cultural projects in the five non-sovereign Celtic nations. Unfortunately those days have passed along with the sense of “Celticness” which once formed such an important part of Irish identity. WorldByStorm looks at some of the attitudes on the Irish Left here and similarly finds little signs of interest. We are a long way away from the era of Celtic congresses in Dublin…

17 comments on “Scotland Requires Some Gaelic Solidarity

  1. john cronin

    The majority of Scots are not “Gaels” but Lowland descendants of Anglo-Saxons from Germany who colonised southern and eastern Scotland from the continent after the fall of the Roman Empire, same as their kinsmen across the border. Nixon, Dixon, Johnstone, Armstrong, Charlton, Elliot, Biggar, Gladstone, Blair, Brown, Leslie, Graham: none of these ever spoke Gaelic: indeed would probably have lynched any Gaelic speaker who came into their domain.


    • I think you miss the point if i can say so kindly. blood ties are probably only a fraction of the plethora of reasons why one nation which has broken free of imperialism ought to, no perhaps even has a responsibility to, support another nation vying for similar independence from the same empire. To be honest it is probably the least defensible reason. 1. Ireland was invaded constantly throughout history. Imagine if the situation were reversed and someone from Scotland argued that as Ireland was invaded by Vikings, it wasn’t Celtic enough to warrant support. Strange argument. Do you seriously think that kinship hasn’t caught up with the twenty-first century global economy and culture? Would you make this argument regarding an individual; well, I know Max is trying to free himself from slavery, but his ancestors are Roman and mine are Sicilian, so therefore I can excuse myself from helping him given the opportunity? 2. Arguments along the lines of ethnic or familial kinship historically led to blood feuds. Whether such claims are made positively or negatively to distinguish specifically along blood ties, it’s a dangerous and slippery claim. Besides, we all have access to the science which proves that on the basis of DNA, no human group is much different from any other. 3. Scotland and Ireland do share quite a similar history of culture and brutal oppression. In both countries the native language has been seriously threatened, not to mention the autonomy of the people, the right to adopt and live by cultural customs not imposed by a conquering nation, the right to self-expression, freedom from dishonor and insult, freedom to govern themselves. There is no separation in kinship that threatens or negates this truth, that Scotland is seeking the independence that Ireland has won for itself, and that the conquering of each nation is not much different as far as ethics and the destructive effects of hegemony playing out over centuries and generations is concerned. my opinion is that anyone hiding behind a kinship excuse to withhold solidarity has bought a fallacy as well as fails to see how such an argument continues to control and disempower the proponent of it. In my opinion there are no excuses, at least I believe there ought not be. Feel free to disagree with that, but if there’s an argument against assisting Scotland it will have to be more sound than a kinship or nonkinship claim. I hope Scotland achieves the freedom its people seek and that those who recognize that oppression and imperialism are always oppression and imperialism regardless of their many varied faces and guises, choose to stand behind them.


      • john cronin

        The Scots spent three hundred years as the most enthusiastic of British imperialists. The idea that they can now re invent themselves as victims is rather foolish.


        • John, just as elements of the Irish who were co-opted by British imperialism – see their efforts in India for example – so too were the Scots. Just because the Scots were sold out by their gentry earlier and apparently reaped some more rewards than Ireland, doesn’t mean that the working-class of the country were any less exploited. It was the Highland Clearances after all, which paved the way for agrarian capitalism and the development of Scotland as a cog in Imperial Westminster’s machine.


  2. ar an sliabh

    Internal traitors and inter-tribe conflict over power and possessions have always been the downfall of the Gaels. To make a bold statement, if it had been purely up to the simple prowess of the old warriors, Scotland would have been occupying England all this time. Gael settlers would be making up most of England were it not for the “Italian-style deals” in the long bygone days. Looks like nothing has changed in all that time.


  3. In what sense will a yes vote mean that Scots will gain their freedom from “imperialism”, or as Seumas put in a previous post, “the as yet unacknowledged horrors of Britain’s imperial past.” In case you hadn’t noticed the British Empire ended some time ago, so how can they be freed from something which no longer exists. Historically, the Scots were willing and enthusiastic participants in the imperial project, holding high office out of all proportion to their numbers –see Professor Tom Devine’s recent book, “Scotland’s Empire : The Origins of the Global Diaspora.” I understand Prof Devine is a recent convert to the Yes side.


    • an lorcánach

      an honourable conversion to the one true path…
      another good read –


    • The old Imperialism may have ended in places like Africa and Asia, but the neo-Imperialism of NATO (in which the UK is a key member) continues to exist. As does the old colonialism, dressed up in different clothes, in the Six-Counties of Ireland, Scotland, Wales etc


      • NATO is the only thing that keeps my country safe from Terrorussia. (at least for now)

        Bush’s idiotic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not NATO wars and NATO member states don’t have to take part in them.


  4. Dara O Rourke

    Gaelic was spoken in Dumfries and Galloway until the early 1800s. On the western side of the Border, though it died out on the east coast much earlier maybe even before the year 1000AD. Old Welsh was spoken there before Gaelic and there are still Welsh placenames. There is an old poem ( 2 poems really) called the ‘flyting of Kennedy and Spence’ wherein these 2 poets insult each other. Kennedy of Carrick (Ayrshire) was a Gaelic speaker, whereas Spence – an east coaster spoke English , well Lallan Scots really. So , no, I’m afraid that argument , so beloved of Edinburgh Tories just wont wash. Btw, I found out about Kennedy and Spence while looking up the word ‘fuck’ on the internet ! Ahem , it was a serious quest, honest.


  5. Dara O Rourke

    Mo leithscéal guys. It was Kennedy and Dunbar in the above poem, not Spence. A senior moment…


  6. The golden rule of international diplomacy is not to interfere in internal affairs of others.
    So the Irish politicians are doing the right thing in this case.
    It’s up to the Scots to decide what they want.


    • Actually I had not thought of that. It’s a really good point. Could they at least express a positive opinion rather than blatantly interfere? Or is the policy that they need to publicly keep silent?


    • Though by all accounts considerable chat is being had in private between Dublin and its London and Edinburgh counterparts.


  7. So where does that leave Wales if Scotland becomes a foreign country which, like Ireland, can no longer interfere in England-and-Welsh affairs? Wales will be left alone to bear the brunt of the British Empire’s final death throes. (The Empire may be 100 years dead in the real world, but in the minds of Our Masters the illusion lives on, otherwise why all the resistance to an independent Scotland).


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