Can the “Catalan Way” become a strategy for Nationalists in Northern Ireland?

A lot of eyes in Ireland and Britain will be focused on Catalonia in the upcoming weeks. The vote taking place on October 1st will be an acid test for the integrity of Spain and the aspirations of independence for a number of regions across the European Union.

The referendum was first called for in June 2017 and was formally approved by the Catalan Parliament on the 6th of September. Almost immediately, the Spanish Constitutional Court claimed the referendum was non-binding, stating the Spanish Constitution does not allow Spanish Regions to hold Independence votes.

This should then be a straightforward matter. If the vote is null and void, it doesn’t make sense for it to take place. In 2014, in Catalonia’s last bid for Independence, the Catalan government basically accepting a similar ruling by the Court and then used the ensuing vote for publicity and consensus building.

The Catalans seem a lot more bullish this time around. There is a determination to hold a legitimate referendum, which they will not accept as illegal, and then act on the results after. The interesting aspect for North Ireland will be the aftermath of a successful vote.

It is not entirely clear what will happen in this case. It seems almost impossible for Catalonia to gain independence without the explicit approval of Spain. They would certainly not be able to join the European Union, as every European Union member has a veto, through the Council of the EU.

If the vote allows the Catalans to gain additional leverage in future negotiations or indirectly lead to future approval for a future referendum by the Spanish Government, it may be soon as a very useful tool by Nationalists in Northern Ireland in future years.

This type of positioning and posturing is excellent PR for a cause and nothing gets the masses engaged like an Independence vote, as we saw in Scotland in the run up to their Independence bid.

There is almost certainly not a majority in Northern Ireland who would vote for unification with the Republic in a legal referendum which meets the requirements of the Good Friday Agreement today. There are probably though a few local councils where a Yes vote would be successful today, especially when the result of voting Yes is more symbolic than anything else. Even a Northern Ireland wide vote would be a lot closer in this scenario. There is nothing like telling people they can’t vote on something, that will make them want to.

I think the key point is that a successful Independence bid for Catalonia is very unlikely to come about from the upcoming referendum. However, if an illegal referendum is viewed in the future as the first step in Catalonia’s successful bid for independence, will this then be a precedent for Nationalists in Northern Ireland and further afield?

If there is clear evidence in the future that a majority want Northern Ireland to unify with the Republican of Ireland, will the leaders of the Nationalist parties really wait for the tacit approval of the British Government or will we be hearing a lot more about the “Catalan way”.

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  • Skibo

    Republicans accepted the will of the people of Ireland. Unionists rejected the democratic will of the Irish people and demanded a sectarian created region to give them a false majority.
    Should Unionism not recognise that?

  • Skibo

    I hope that rather than what happened for the Brexit vote where everyone had their own impression as to what Brexit means, we will have, as concrete as possible, proposals for what a reunified Ireland would look like, along with a time scale.
    I believe the UK will not just walk away but be part of a phased withdrawal of financial support.
    The right to British citizenship to the residents of the North are already enshrined in the GFA, even after constitutional change.
    The most important issue will be the phrasing of the referendum itself.
    The options will have to acknowledge that reunification would include rejoining the EU with a return to that financial package.
    I believe the EU would support the cost to some extent.
    It will always be a feather in the cap of whoever finally resolves the Irish question.

  • Skibo

    Meme, strange noun for the dividing of a country.
    There was no head count required to form Ireland. It was a Kingdom of 32 counties prior to partition.
    I have no problem with democracy. I just notice that Unionism seem to believe that democracy was founded in 1922.
    Commonsense did not prevail with partition. It did not ward off a needless civil war. It caused one in the 26 counties. Within a short period in the north over 450 people were murdered. two thirds were catholic while they only made up a third of the population.
    18 people lost their lives during the Border Campaign 1956 to 62, 12 were IRA men.
    Over 3500 people lost their lives during the period known as the Troubles.
    All these lives can be directly connected with partition. Did it ward of a senseless loss of life, hardly. It merely prolonged it over a longer period.

  • james

    “There was no head count required to form Ireland. It was a Kingdom of 32 counties prior to partition.”

    Uhmm…Ireland seems to have been, in essence, a UK region prior to partition.

    “It did not ward off a needless civil war. It caused one in the 26 counties.”

    The civil war in Ireland was largely over the fact that some people didn’t want to live with what Michael Collins had negotiated and agreed.

    There would have been a much longer and more bloody conflict if Ireland had tried to annex Northern Ireland.

  • William Kinmont

    Agree with your principles. One factor will be the EU which will potentialy have evolved into a very different animal by whatever point we get to a referendom. It may be more of a vote to join federal EU than any sort of Irish state.

  • Mark Mitchell

    Why are you so afraid of an Irish state so much? Do you see green monsters under your bed.?

  • William Kinmont

    A want an Irish state not a sf state am wondering how and what it may be like. It will contain a significant number of Unionists and to be successful need to accomidate them. Neither the green or.Orange monsters seem to realise this.

  • Mark Mitchell

    If your expecting unionists to be accomodated further after the acting up and spitefulness I’m sorry your chance of concessions has passed.

  • William Kinmont

    I think that is why we should start a debate on what a UI is now Unionists may see lots they like and republicans have to accept alot of concessions to their idealism of what a UI is. Conflating a UI with Brits out attitide is neither helpful or remotely realustic.

  • William Kinmont

    I think this is why a debate now on what a UI might look like should start now. It wouldn’t necessarily be a republican Utopia , Unionists may find it closer to their idea of what British means to them than Britain itself is. A United Ireland would not be Ireland now with the green turned up to 11. It will be Ireland with that bit more of a British tinge.

  • Sprite

    Ulster Scots are Celts. They’re either descendents of the Scots who left Ulster to beat up the Picts or they’re descendents of the Picts. Either way they’re Celts.

  • Skibo

    William, unlike the UK, any new EU treaty increasing control by the centre has to be passed by the people in a referendum. I do not see the Irish accepting the level of federalism that some within the EU profess. We hold our neutrality very highly for one thing.

  • Skibo

    Uhmm that would have been the Kingdom of Ireland you refer to. An country linked to others by political union unless you are stating that neither Scotland and Wales are countries.
    Partition and the demand to swear allegiance to the King were the main instigators of the civil war. Whether more would have died in the long run would be hard to qualify by either you or me.
    What I believe though is we as residents of the six counties would be in a much better economy now that what we currently are in.

  • Skibo

    William, what is this British tinge you mention? Is it anything different to what Ireland has at the moment?
    The only thing where I think the South falls on is the level of free NHS but that is something I think we can resolve.