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Divergent tone… January 26, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Anyone catch Colum Eastwood’s piece in the IT yesterday? In it he discussed the legacy of Seamus Mallon and asked rhetorically what Mallon would have made of the events of the last twelve months – particularly ‘diverging strategies’ in the face of the pandemic. Reading that it seems to me he is talking about the North, but of course he could equally be talking about the island as a whole. In any case Eastwood pivots from that to…

Seamus’s lasting legacy is, as he so aptly expressed in the final lines of his book, that we rest in the shade of trees planted by his generation. It is beyond time that we began sowing the seeds of a new Ireland for future generations.

And he writes:

Over the course of the last number of months we have been conducting hours of quiet conversations with people across this island from a range of backgrounds. In the months ahead we will hold hundreds more conversations with every community, sector and generation We are listening to their concerns, working to address their fears, but most of all seeking to build a consensus about how we can shape a new society and a new country that meets the aspirations of all our people.

And then he writes the following which is quite fascinating really given all else that has been said in recent days (not least Arlene Foster’s argument against a border poll).

I sincerely believe that the UK is coming to an end. And I don’t say that to be triumphalist, it is simply the conclusion of the last decade of British government policy that has stripped away public services, removed opportunity and aspiration from the vocabulary of too many communities and left us on the edge of Europe.I believe that a new future is not only possible but that it is increasingly viewed as the best possible outcome for more and more of the people we’re speaking to.

I don’t disagree at all. But has anyone told M. Martin and the Shared Island Unit for surely this is a radical departure from the ROI government’s newly minted line of living together and see what happens as expressed by the IT last October:

But the Taoiseach’s speech yesterday in tandem with an interview he gave to The Irish Times last month signal that, for him, increasing synergies and co-operation – while learning to share the island of Ireland with a separate sovereign entity in the Northis the end game rather than a means to an end. In his view, a united Ireland is still in there, but it’s a component rather than a priority.

That, is surely quite some way off what Eastwood is saying?

Comments»

1. sonofstan - January 26, 2021

Like with Hemingway’s line about bankruptcy, I expect the end of the UK will come in two ways: gradually and then very quickly.

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Colm B - January 26, 2021

The only question is, which wheel comes off first, NI or Scotland? I’m still betting it will be Scotland but it’s not going to be easy. If you look at the history of any independence struggle you see that long after the writing on the wall is clear, the metropolitan power fails to accept the glaring inevitability and resists it, sometimes violently as in Catalonia. But then, sometimes quite suddenly, reality forces acceptance and they turn to divorce proceedings.
We are still in the first phase in Scotland, and I fear that the Tory gov will try anything (with the help of their obnoxious little helper “Sir” Keir Starker and his obnoxious little helper Anas “minimum wage” Sarwar), including state violence, to stop independence but equally, I think at some stage they’ll cut their losses and accept that the party’s over.
How all that will interact with what happens across the water is hard to tell but hopefully there will be a positive synergy between the birth of an independent Scotland and the peaceful reunification of Ireland.

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Colm B - January 26, 2021

Which is to say, all that well summarised in one sentence by SOS!

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

“including state violence”

I wonder – it was possible in Ireland because we’re seen as a colony to be managed, but I suspect troops on the streets of Edinburgh would look much different from down here. But maybe not.

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alanmyler - January 26, 2021

It seems unthinkable that the army could be used in Scotland. But, I was listening to the Blindboy podcast (always worth a listen) about his “hot take” on the use of Kitson’s anti-insurgency methods previously developed in Kenya and applied to NI in the early 70s, the use of covert military operations to escalate inter-communal tensions, so perhaps nothing is unthinkable when the motivations are serious enough.

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

Weird, I’ve just been reading about Kitson elsewhere – and exactly that.

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terrymdunne - January 26, 2021

I don’t think the situations in the north of Ireland, Scotland or Catalonia are really at all analogous. Catalonia is the richest and most developed historic region of Spain (beaten slightly into second place in the rankings of contemporary regional boundaries only by cutting out the bit of Castile that Madrid is in) and it has the second biggest city in Spain. Moreover, whereas Scotland is pretty singular as being home to a popular seperatist movement in Britain Spain on the other hand has several well developed regional movements and seperatisms. Also Scotland has stable recognised borders – there is no existing claim on Antrim, Down or Northumbria – I maybe wrong but isn’t there a wider Catalan nationalist claim on the Baleric islands and Valencia? There is also a Spanish national identity and there really isn’t a comparable British one – like does Scottish seperatism really cause much excitement among the electorate south of the border? Seperatism is a threat to the Spanish state in a way it just isn’t to the British state. Maybe one day it will be the English state – but so what – in practical terms most of it is in England anyways. Basically compare Castile with England.

Likewise the north of Ireland doesn’t give us an analogy – what was the British government ever going to do other than put troops on the streets – was there a practicable policy alternative open to them? Would an Ulster laager have been stable or would sectarian violence have spread from there – maybe to Scotland – maybe they would have had to have troops in Scotland!

There were of course troops on Scottish streets for the 40-hour week strike in 1919 and there are pretty militarised police forces in most countries including in the metropolitan global North – also the use of military forces in a policing role e.g. the National Guard in the U.S..

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WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2021

All very fair points, but in a way it’s not that the various centrifugal forces – Scottish independence, unification of Ireland – are in and of themselves similar so much as they’re all coming to a head within a remarkably narrow historical period and that this poses additional stresses to the British state and its coherence. I think you’re right, an English state (presumably with Wales) would be absolutely a coherent state and one that would be entirely viable (it functionally is anyhow). That said to move from British to English would have psychological implications and while those can be nebulous they’re not without some political power of their own.

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

“I think you’re right, an English state (presumably with Wales) would be absolutely a coherent state and one that would be entirely viable”

I’m not sure about that: we were joking about Yorkshire/ Northern separatism recently, but resentment of London/ the SE is real up here. I can’t see England breaking up, but ‘absolutely coherent’?

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WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2021

Well that’s a fair point too, but I find it difficult to believe that North/South separatism has sufficient weight at this point or in the near to medium term to actually effect change. Or could it be harnessed further down the line do you think?

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

@WbS – I don’t know: you’re right, the break up of England is hard to imagine, but it can often feel like a pretty fractured place already, even if not ripe from regional UDIs

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benmadigan - January 26, 2021

It all boils down to a war for territory, doesn’t it?Will Ireland and Scotland finally be able to govern their own lands and seas?

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2. banjoagbeanjoe - January 26, 2021

Heard a report on the BBC about a recent opinion poll in the North. From memory, 51% of those polled are in favour of holding a Border Poll now. And if it was held now, 47% would vote for the status quo and 42% for a UI. That’s close enough isn’t it?

So much to say on all this. One point though: The Scottish and Irish situations are completely different aren’t they? There aren’t two peoples in Scotland the way there are in NI. There is a real risk of violent inter-communal conflict in the north, there isn’t in Scotland.
So, anyway, leave it to the Scottish and the English to sort out that.
But sorting out NI/UI and all that will be far more complex and will involve far more players. And again one more point on that: I’d be confident that any Irish government would be willing to put in the hard yards and hard years of discussion and exploration and negotiation needed to come to some kind of agreement (similar to the years of work that went into the GFA) but I’d worry that a UK government mightn’t be bothered. Certainly a Tory government like the one that’s there at the moment wouldn’t be arsed putting in any effort. You’d hope that there’ll be a government there that could be arsed by the time the hard work has to be done.

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

” Certainly a Tory government like the one that’s there at the moment wouldn’t be arsed putting in any effort”

Bit of a tradition – draw a quick line on the map and leave it for the natives to sort out: India, Cyprus, Palestine…

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Colm B - January 26, 2021

But it’s not a question of the Scottish and the English or the two situations being different, they obviously are, but the fact that both are part of the UK and what happens in one definitely will have an impact on the other.
So for example if Scotland does become independent in the next few years that will weaken the UK immensely and therefore have an impact on the situation in NI

Also the strong traditional links between the unionist community in NI and and Scotland will also surely come in to play, though how exactly is anyone’s guess.

Just like the situation in the various Soviet Republics at the end of the Soviet era was very different but what happened in one impacted on what happened in the others. Empires, or their legacy states, fall to bits rather than collapsing in one clean break.

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WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2021

I’d agree entirely, this all works in unpredictable ways but the outcomes are clear (by the by though it is true Scotland isn’t the same as the North it is much closer to the trajectory of an independent Irish polity hence its identification to some degree with same since Ireland in part managed to step away from the Union, so the current reconfiguration of the UK means the constituent elements are moving on different trajectories but the path is more or less similar in so far as it is away from Britain/England).

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benmadigan - January 26, 2021

” away from England as Britain” – Fixed that for you!

“British” is a sort of 2nd rate citizenship for the non-English living in this North Atlantic Archipelago. One of the key elements in the Scottish and Irish national movements, and indeed Welsh too, was/is a refusal to have local culture, history and languages replaced by an imposed faux “Englishness”

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

‘British’ is often the preferred option for non-white people in England. Black British or British Asian is much more usual than Black English etc.

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3. Francis Donohoe (@FDonohoe) - January 26, 2021

I think a border poll is a divisive and self-defeating approach dedicated by short term political goals (i.e. support from nationalists) rather than social ones. A progressive approach in my view is Scotland first, NI after. The move to Scottish independence has been a largely definite end since 1979, it may take twists and turns yet but I’d say there is an 80% probability of Scottish independence within the next decade, it is just the way blocs, in a Gramscian sense, have developed in Scottish society over my lifetime. Once Scotland is independent there will be a serious crisis of politics and identity for a large segment of northern unionists – maybe they will think (if we haven’t had to long dominated with a border poll debate which is really a call for a head count of them uns’ and those uns’) it’s time for a UI, maybe they will think it’s time to have a new relationship with Scotland, maybe (and I think this is not likely) they will suddenly discover a great affinity to England and Wales. I think we could see a united Ireland with close ties for the NE to Scotland.

There was an issue of ‘two peoples’ in Scotland for a while, Catholics in the central belt were anti-independence which was seen as a largely North East Presbyterian project, with much credence if you look at its early period. That is completely gone now with surveys showing that a majority of once bedrock Labour supporting central belt Catholics vote SNP. The shit heads who battered young people in George’s Square in 2014 are really a fringe issue, which will be a policing rather than major political problem.

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4. Francis Donohoe (@FDonohoe) - January 26, 2021

I also fully expect Kitsonian tactics of a largely political nature to be used in Scotland. The SNP has had trouble from MI5 throughout its history, I can see an SNLA rearing its head as a creation of Brit intelligence or less covert Loyalist issues, I don’t think they can change the outcome but in the depths of Brit intelligence there is underlying craziness which I think will get some outlet in defence of the end of the UK.

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banjoagbeanjoe - January 26, 2021

For sure the Brit/English deep state will have the SNP in its crosshairs from now on. The Guardian played its part in doing for Jez and is now being used to stir up stories of splits in SNP ranks. Expect lots and lots more of all kinds of stuff like that as the pressure builds.

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sonofstan - January 26, 2021

“The Guardian played its part in doing for Jez and is now being used to stir up stories of splits in SNP ranks”

For sure.

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benmadigan - January 26, 2021

Re splits in the SNP. I am not entirely sure at current state of play exactly how much Nicola Sturgeon et al., contributed towards trying to imprison an innocent former FM and head of party.
Solicitor Advocate Gordon Dangerfield believes there is more than enough evidence and contradictory testimony to implicate Sturgeon in the conspiracy against Salmond.

https://sputniknews.com/podcasts-tommy-talks/202101211081827199-a-political-witch-hunt/

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Colm B - January 26, 2021

To be sure the British ruling class will do everything it can to prevent Scottish independence but, hopefully, the price of holding on will begin to outweigh the costs of letting go. Even then, there’s always the danger of rogue elements, especially in the security apparatus, refusing to accept that the game is up.

Though it was a hugely different scenario, I think there are some useful parallels with the French ruling classes handling of Algeria. Absolute determination to hold on at any cost, then a realisation that that was untenable, leading to an eventual acceptance that reality had to be faced, losses cut etc. but a rump in the military etc unable to accept that reality. Obviously the setting and nature of the struggle is totally different but the trajectory of ruling class responses might be instructive.

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Francis Donohoe (@FDonohoe) - January 26, 2021

To the best of my knowledge some of Salmond’s behaviour would not meet the ‘me too’ litmus test, although the ‘knowledge’ would just be based on chatter from some that would know a bit – that said he has long been a target of those in the British State most focused on stopping independence. Jim Sillars would seem to have been the other main target down the years, I don’t know what Sturgeon’s role may have been but I think it could have done with what to be far from the rumours and also throwing off any tag of being Alex’s ‘wee lassie’.

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5. benmadigan - January 26, 2021

“Absolute determination to hold on at any cost, then a realisation that that was untenable, leading to an eventual acceptance that reality had to be faced, losses cut etc”
That could apply equally well to England’s response to demands for independence from many of its colonies e.g. ireland, india, kenya

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6. Pangurbán - January 26, 2021

It makes sense to ease off on the border poll thing until things in Scotland become clearer.

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7. tomasoflatharta - January 26, 2021

That is very interesting information taken from Colum Eastwood’s article.

Brexit is petrol ⛽️ poured on flammable fuel in Scotland – after the May 2021 Holyrood election the parliament in Edinburgh is likely to hold a referendum on Scexit – a break-up of the United Kingdom state is on the cards in the 2020’s.

The fight may become very ugly.

There are historic parallels with the departure of Ireland 🇮🇪 from the British State, triggered by the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. External events on the European continent offered Irish separatists the chance to strike telling blows for Irish Independence – and against World War 1. England’s difficulty became Ireland’s opportunity. In today’s Scottish case, the “settled will” is already anti-Brexit and pro-EU.

If Brussels says Yes to Edinburgh, Boris Brexit of London is in big trouble.

“Nicola Sturgeon has said she will hold an advisory referendum on independence if her Scottish National party wins a majority in May’s Holyrood elections, regardless of whether Westminster consents to the move.

Her party is setting out an 11-point roadmap for taking forward another vote, which was to be presented to members of the SNP’s national assembly on Sunday.

Scotland’s first minister told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning: “I want to have a legal referendum, that’s what I’m going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May and if they give me that authority that’s what I intend to do: to have a legal referendum to give people the right to choose. That’s democracy. It’s not about what I want or what Boris Johnson wants.”

Signalling a new approach, which moves beyond the current impasse of Johnson’s repeated refusal to countenance a second vote, the roadmap states that if the SNP takes office after May, it will request from the UK government a section 30 order, which under the Scotland Act 1998 allows Holyrood to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster.” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/24/scotland-independence-referendum-nicola-sturgeon-snp-wins-may-?fbclid=IwAR2gEITBXuiMIy84YAbzaUqlqClE7pMlmUNJ6oCd1ZBG6LSOj_J6V61qvvk

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