Why is Irish nationalism neutral on Scottish independence?

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Martin Mansergh is a splendid relic of an old Anglo-Irish tradition, a Tipperary landlord, one of a very rare breed of Fianna Fail intellectuals, an adviser on the North to successive Fianna Fail Taoisigh, a minster who never quite fulfilled his promise possibly due to his background, a historian and son of Nicholas, one of the most eminent historians of the Commonwealth and Ireland.  In the Irish Times he seeks to sooth nerves being ruffled in the department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and elsewhere at the prospect of Scottish independence  and its possible effect on Northern stability.

He draws a contrast between Scotland today with the Sinn Fein demand before mid-1921.

What Scottish nationalism is looking for, by retaining Queen Elizabeth as head of state, is dominion status, very different from militant Irish republican separatism. That ought to lead to an amicable relationship between Edinburgh and London from the start.

And of course it was dominion status that was narrowly accepted, precipitating the split over the Treaty and the civil war and notably failing to create a good relationship  with Britain. 3000 odd dead had just a little to do with it. It may be hard for people to appreciate the difference between republican separatism and dominion status when for example they look at Canada or Australia today. But for  many in the south  the difference seemed very clear in 1921, because of Ireland’s s closeness to Britain at the zenith of Empire. Alex Salmond is certainly a very different creature from Eamonn de Valera. Manergh sees very  little problem for  northern Unionists.

First Minister Peter Robinson has made it clear that if Scotland voted Yes, Northern Ireland would remain in the UK with England and Wales. While it might lead to some rethinking of Ulster-Scots as a pillar of unionist identity, it is unlikely republicanism would gain new traction, despite any initial flurry of excitement.

There’s little doubt though that Scottish independence would strike a blow at unionist self-confidence and give Sinn Fein a wonderful chance to wind them up over a crumbling union etc. etc. Masergh admits this is a temptation, even though it should be resisted.

Nationalist Ireland has until now maintained strict neutrality across the political spectrum, surprising though this might seem. Official Ireland has little enthusiasm for Scottish independence, attaching much more importance to the cordiality of British-Irish relations and the stability of the peace process; it also perhaps fears increased investment competition. In the light of our history, though, it would be incongruous to openly favour the status quo. To advocate publicly Scottish independence, on the other hand, could quite possibly damage that cause and create serious distrust in relations. In any case, the principled position is that it is for the Scottish people to decide.

That’s kind of you Martin!

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  • Morpheus

    “Why is Irish nationalism neutral on Scottish independence?”

    Because “it is for the Scottish people to decide.”

    Case closed.

  • Jon Hope

    “First Minister Peter Robinson has made it clear that if Scotland voted Yes, Northern Ireland would remain in the UK with England and Wales.”

    It’s hard not to wonder how long this would really last.

  • Morpheus

    That’s kind of him but it’s not the spineless Peter Robinson’s call, the people of Northern Ireland will decide not him.

  • Zeno

    Why is Irish nationalism neutral on Scottish independence?
    I think it creates the problem for Republicans who have been using the argument that Ireland is such a small Island that it should be United. To support the break up of a small Island like the UK would be a contradiction.

  • Guest

    That’s an intense simplification.

    Over 60 million people live on the island of Britain. There’s nothing small about it. In fact, it’s the fifth largest population in Europe, out of a total of 59 states.

    One of the main arguments behind Scottish Independence, that smaller nations (within a similar geographic location) have vastly higher living standards than Scotland does within the union, is completely congruent with the concept of an island of 6 million people being a politically independent nation state also.

  • Grandimarkey

    That was myself above. Struggling with this new format.

  • Roy Walsh

    I know Martin, fairly well and, unlike some, am in no way neutral on the drive for independence of our nearest neighbour from, our other near neighbour.
    Indeed, I would suggest that several members of his political party would be very much in favour of the re-independence of Scotland, after all, this is an essence of Republicanism., some of our greatest Republican forebears here in Ireland were born in Scotland or had Scots roots.
    Come Sept. 1st I shall be in Glasgow, with an SNP friend campaigning for the freedom of Scots to decide their own destiny, without English interference and, to decide how to spend the wealth they gain from their own oil fields.
    By the way Brian, and fair does for putting this out there, there’s only one ‘n’ in Dev’s Christian name.

  • Zeno

    The argument I’ve heard related to geographical size. There was no mention of population. London and the South East has much higher standards of living than the other regions including Wales and Scotland and I’d venture that Dublin has much higher standards than Donegal or other parts, so I don’t see that the distributional of wealth problem will be solved by Scotland leaving. In the sense that the main economic hubs in Scotland will continue to have better standards of living than the poorer parts.

  • Superfluous

    The No campaign are utterly embarrassed by associations with the Orange Order. I imagine Republicans are self concious enough to understand that a public backing of the Yes campaign could be counter-productive.

  • kensei

    I don’t think they are. I’m fully in favour of Scotland getting a Yes vote, and I can’t think of anyone from a Republican background that disagrees. The picture might be more clouded at an elite level, but I think everyone understands that (1) it’s not our choice (2) getting involved would be extremely counter productive, especially given the chastening half decade for the Republic.

    A yes win (still pretty unlikely at this point) would be a fairly hefty blow to Northern Unionism given how much the Scottish links have been pushed. It’d definitely be a plus for republicanism in terms of potentially opening doors to new thinking. But I still can’t see it this time round – maybe in 20 years. A close vote might also help us in terms of moving towards federalism or getting new powers.

    I’m most concerned aout England taking us out of the EU at present.

  • barnshee

    “Come Sept. 1st I shall be in Glasgow, with an SNP friend campaigning for the freedom of Scots to decide their own destiny, without English interference and, to decide how to spend the wealth they gain from their own oil fields.”

    There is no such animal as Scottish oil –Its all owned by Shell Esso types— it can come on shore anywhere Whistling in the dark to keep spirits up won’t wear. Salmon will lose 60-40 if not 70-30. (England would be glad to see the back of Scotland and NI)

  • Roy Walsh

    The shelf, under which the product is located would be, were Scots to vote Yes, located in Scotland, a bit like Irish gas, owned now by Shell but is off our West coast.
    Agreed, I think the English would like to be rid of the six counties and, when he Revenue runs out off the Scots East coast, there too.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Come Sept. 1st I shall be in Glasgow, with an SNP friend campaigning for the freedom of Scots to decide their own destiny, without English interference and, to decide how to spend the wealth they gain from their own oil fields. ”

    Umm, surely by the very merit of voting for the possibility of independence it means that they are already ‘free’?

    And given the large line of Scottish ministers that have tramped the corridors of Whitehall, would it not be fairer for the English people to say that if a ‘yes’ vote is successful then the English will be free to “to decide their own destiny, without Scottish interference and, to decide how to spend the wealth they gain from their own oil & gas fields. ”
    The ‘freedom’ angle is cringeworthy.
    If they want to leave, they can leave.
    They can do what they want.
    How’s that anything but freedom?
    Longshanks is long dead.

  • Roy Walsh

    The ‘freedom’ comes when they achieve their independence, so as yet they’re not free to decide what to do themselves.
    The ‘they can do what they want’ I’d disagree with as, look at the coverage of how great UK is for Scotland in the media, the Commonwealth Games being hosted there, Billy, Rod, Chris and other Scots coming out supporting the union, pushed to a sickening extent by the ‘impartial’ BBC, so it strikes me all effort is being made to undermine the potential for independence.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    But they’re free to achieve their independence, how’s that not freedom?
    As for the biased media, well, that’s hardly the yoke of tyranny is it?
    If they wish to use the door, they are free to do so.
    People may not want them to leave but that is hardly the same as depriving them of freedom.
    Also, given Scotland’s massive contribution to the armed forces (as of ’98 I believe one third of the army was Scottish whilst only forming one tenth of the population) it’s a bit insulting to those servicemen to suggest that they propped up an institution that deprived Scotland of freedom.
    I think the ‘freedom’ angle has been as misappropriated in this case as have the words ‘civil rights’ by culture kamp Twaddell.
    When I lived in Scotland, for the vast majority of that period any ‘interference from London’ was usually at the behest of Blair, Brown, Cook, Darling etc etc i.e. Scots.
    The freedom angle is the weakest argument from yes campaign’s point of view, though I accept it’s the easiest to plug and if combined with enough Bannockburn and William Wallace merchandise it’ll probably be the most effective i.e. appealing to the heart as opposed to the brain.
    In a word ‘nationalism’.

  • Gizzard Puke

    Scotland has it’s own Parliament, education system and judiciary. England funds the place to the tune of billions. Scottish politicians ruled in England for years from ’97 onward Blair and his awful regime. We English are the ones who should feel aggrieved!

  • Keith Ruffles

    “I’m fully in favour of Scotland getting a Yes vote, and I can’t think of anyone from a Republican background that disagrees.”

    Republicans being pro-partitionist? Who would have thought it?

    Still, I would have thought that from a Nationalist/Republican perspective the precedent of a culturally distinct northern part of an island exercising the democratic wish to secede from the rest of it – without the need for the rest of the island’s population to agree – might make for an uncomfortable narrative. But I guess hatred of England/the Union (delete as appropriate) trumps all else.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “I would have thought that from a Nationalist/Republican perspective the precedent of a culturally distinct northern part of an island exercising the democratic wish to secede from the rest of it – without the need for the rest of the island’s population to agree – might make for an uncomfortable narrative”
    Good point.
    That reminds of the flabbergast that comes over me when I see republican solidarity with Basque country, Catalonia etc:
    “These groups of people are allowed to go their own way politically, this group of people isn’t.
    Why?
    Because we’re good at loopholes…”

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Are nationalists and Republicans just (if not indifferent) smart enough to realise that throwing their lot in behind the yes campaign could perhaps damage it?
    If the Scottish saltire was to be tainted with the tri-colour and the memory of Scottish boys being send home in body bags, well, that would certainly swing a few people.
    The Orange Order on the other hand have not grasped this concept and I’d be surprised if there are many movers and shakers in the ‘No’ camp who are pleased about the OO’s official thumbs up.
    Also, if the Scots did go their own way would that mean a reduction in the number of saltires plastered to lamp posts?

  • mickfealty

    Two thoughts on Brian’s top line question:

    1, an intervention by Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail or even the Irish government could prove very negative on the vote itself.. so whatever you say, say nothing is not a bad rule of thumb.

    2, the unintended consequence of an independence vote might be to impell rUK to exit the EU, which might not be that great from Irish Republican point of view.

    I think there’s a head and heart split going on here. Most IR’s must be instinctively in favour of an independent Scotland, but the backwash is not likely to be singularly positive as some propagandists would like the rest of us to think.

    I think the effect on northern Protestants will not see much change in the short term, for instance.. Scotland isn’t going away (Indy, or no), and any difficulties they subsequently hit will be used to persuade for staying in the union.

  • kensei

    It’s a more complicated narrative than just “Scotland is the Northern bit of Britain”. Scotland has an entity has existed as a very long time, and even present borders have been fixed for quite some time. There would be much less sympathy for just roping off a bit of it to fix the result.

    It’s nothing to do with hate or otherwise of the Union, either. If you believe your country is better off as an independent entity, making it’s own decisions, then you are pretty likely to believe that other, similar countries would be better off. Why wouldn’t you?

  • Ulidian Realist

    Aye, how dare the orange order take part in the discussion on the future of their own country! How dare they stand up for their right to breathe and express a preference just because they live amongst neigbours who would be happy to wipe them off the face of the earth and are agitated that this is not the case. Because we just cannot have such agitation… they should be shipped off to a reeducation camp in the antipodes where you can give them in a lesson on how not to stand up for anything other than acting smug and boasting in a self-congratulatory manner about how much more self-flagellation you can do than your neighbour, and how one must never ever disagree with the new enforced and mandatory religion of “liberal progressive” multikult suicide.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Taking part in a discussion is one thing, actively sabotaging it by one’s presence is another.

    I constantly lament SF’s use of the Irish language because by associating themselves with it they make it off-putting to many Protestants and unionists.

    The same principle applies to the OO parades. By sticking their oar in they’ll help sway some undecided voters. Especially if said undecided voter stumbles across the parade and receives a buckfast bottle to the back of the head for looking too ‘taigy’.

    “How dare they stand up for their right to breathe and express a preference just because they live amongst neigbours who would be happy to wipe them off the face of the earth and are agitated that this is not the case.

    I don’t know what this means

    ” Because we just cannot have such agitation”

    Right

    ” they should be shipped off to a reeducation camp in the antipodes where you can give them in a lesson on how not to stand up for anything other than acting smug and boasting in a self-congratulatory manner about how much more self-flagellation you can do than your neighbour

    I pick a fight with both sides when I believe that they are making life in NI unnecessarily difficult.

    That includes rounding on ‘my own’.

    I don’t just pick a side and follow it like a lemming over a cliff.

    If the OO and unionism does something stupid, then they deserve to be called out on it.

    I apply the same principle to nationalism: http://loyalistsagainstdemocracy.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/what-nationalism-doesnt-get-or-maybe.html

    Instead of applying Daily Mail-esque labels just tell me where I’m wrong. If you have a logical point then I’ll have difficulty refuting it.

  • AMS2013

    Nevermind that.
    The British State is opposed to “Russians” living in Ukraine ( Planters, perhaps? ) to gerrymander a State in East Ukraine. Hypocrisy???
    And How about all those Israeli flags that Unionists love so much?
    Do Unionists ever wonder what would happen to the border if they Free State or “Eire” took a page from the Israeli playbook???
    I’ll give you a clue there would be Irish Settlements in Tigers Bay and Larne.
    The mind boggles..Eh???

  • AMS2013

    “Because we’re good at loopholes..”
    Yeah almost as good as the British State who are OPPOSED to A gerrymander of Ukrainian dwelling Russian “loyalists” to Gerrymander East Ukraine.

    Don’t you agree?
    And how do Unionists feel about the whole Ukrainian thing?
    Do, they support the right of small Nations to be Free Or do they support the Russian Rebels?
    Or in other words, Whose flag goes on the Bonfire?

  • AMS2013

    The reverse would be more true..Why are the British parties so keen to avoid a partition of their island but so keen to prescribe it for Ireland.

  • Zeno

    Are they really that keen?

    The Downing Street Agreement said……….

    The British government had no “selfish strategic or economic” interest in Northern Ireland. This statement would lead, eventually, to the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act 1920.

    The British government would uphold the right of the people of Northern Ireland to decide between the Union with Great Britain or a united Ireland.

    The people of the island of Ireland, North and South, had the exclusive right to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent.

    It’s a bit of a myth to suggest that GB is responsible for Ireland still not being united or that they are trying their best to hold on to NI. There are many reasons for that, but the British Government can not be accused of standing in the way.

  • AMS2013

    The Brits created the RUC ,B Specials, the UDR armed other Unionist paramilitaries..So No I don’t think it’s a myth at all.

  • Annie AuldIrn

    Of course it’s easy to have no “selfish strategic or economic” interest in a backwater when it becomes a drain on your exchequer and no longer has any military value. Would there be a rethink of the stated position if, for example, someone found a major deposit of “black gold” under Lough Neagh, or even a major seam of real gold in them thar (Sperrin) hills?

    The Downing Street Agreement may have been a true reflection of the Westminster government position in 1993. It’s a shame the preceding administrations, going back some 7 centuries, couldn’t have held such enlightened views.

  • Zeno

    Hold up there. The question from AMS2O13 WAS………..
    “Why are the British parties so keen to avoid a partition of their island but so keen to prescribe it for Ireland.?”

    That is how the Downing St Agreement came to be quoted by me. The first invasion incidentally was by invitation………..

    It’s a shame the preceding administrations, going back some 7 centuries, couldn’t have held such enlightened views.”

    The English themselves were conquered by the Normans after 1066 and it was them (The Normans) who invaded and conquered Ireland.

  • Zeno

    None of that would have needed to have happened if there had not been a constant threat to the State from the IRA.

  • Annie AuldIrn

    And your point is??

  • Zeno

    The point is AMS 2013 was putting forward an argument that the British are preventing a United Ireland when they are clearly not.

  • Annie AuldIrn

    OK, I understand your point about the stated position of the British government as part of the Downing Street agreement. But I don’t understand how the events in 1066 are relevant.

  • AMS2013

    Of course not.The boogie man exists too.

  • Greig Craig

    Aye right, and nobody works or pays taxes in Scotland. You stupid ill informed arrogant buffoon. Scotland’s GDP is on 99% with that of England and thats without oil revenues. Only London and the S E have a slightly higher GDP, Probably due to the billions siphoned off from the rest of the country and being pumped into its economy. Get your fact right before you make an arse of yourself in an open forum!