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…