I recently asked a Fianna Fail campaigner I met in Dublin recently what he thought of Micheal Martin’s plans to organise in Northern Ireland. “Ah”, he said, “it’s great idea, but most of us would like to see Fianna Fail organised in Dublin and Donegal before that happens.”
As Miyamoto Musashi notes of strategy, “it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” It’s not something politics has done well on the whole, particularly when it comes to straddling real world borders.
In today’s Irish Times, Peter Geoghegan takes the time to look at how relations might change between Scotland and Ireland through the long frame of history.
He digs out two details worth noting…
Northern Ireland, with its strong links to Scotland, has provided inspiration for Scottish nationalists, too. The Belfast Agreement demonstrated to many in the SNP’s upper echelons that moderation and pragmatism could produce seismic change.
Raasay-born poet Sorley MacLean envisaged Gaelic Scotland and Ireland as part of a single cultural continuity. The twin Gaelic cultures drifted apart for many years, but are arguably closer now than at any time since the 1940s. Perhaps the time has come for Dublin and Edinburgh to learn from this rapprochement.
That first point is well made. The second is a nice idea, and I think that Dublin should find ways to invest more directly in its bilateral relations with Scotland as matter of policy rather than statement. But Malcolm Redfellow hints at one of the deeper reasons why Scotland and Ireland moved away from ancient ties of culture and kinship even before road overtook sea as the primary highway for trade, ie the long rise of the modern state and law.
Repairing and strengthening the still fragile (though far from non existent) political bridge between north and south is likely to be a much more pressing task. But, as that Vincent Browne discussion this week revealed the important is often the victim of the urgent in voters lives.
My suspicion is that the IndyRef referendum will change many things, but perhaps given the pull of capital and London in particular the major effects of any realignment will be felt on John Bull’s bigger island long before it hits Ireland.