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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Let's ditch England

As I wandered around the sunny squares of Glasgow today, I couldn't help but recall that once upon a time Belfast sort of looked like this, before it all got blown up.

As I wandered the redbrick Victorian squares and terraces, I remembered that Belfast has much in common with this town, just as Dublin and Edinburgh architecturally are so reminiscent of each other.

Outside the Buchanan galleries, laden with bottles of whisky, I overheard a lost Japanese tourist ask two smoking old dears how to get to the Holiday Inn.

'Sure we wouldn't know,' they told him apologetically. 'We're not from this part of the world at all.'

After I pointed the Japanese lad in the right direction, I corrected the two old ladies.

'You're from Ards or Bangor, I'm guessing' I said to their astonishment. 'To my mind, that's definitely this part of the world.'

Sure enough, they were indeed from North Down. Their accents - effectively lowland Scots with an Irish lilt - gave that away. It's one I'm fairly familiar with.

And that got me thinking about the sphere of influence that goes back all the way through the medieval kingdom of Dalriada to the Red Branch cycle of mythology and Cuchullain's time with Scatha the Witch on Skye.

The same sphere of influence that the descendants of the Scottish planters of the Hamilton-Montgomery plantation of 1609 now wish to parlay into a quasi-nationhood - the so-called Ulster-Scots.

But the links go further and deeper than the ongoing and divisive effects of that particular plantation. The Scotii were in origin Irish themselves.

A deep shared culture, encompassing forms of the Gaelic languages, whisk(e)y distillation, croft farming, and continual cross-pollenisation of people and culture has created a bond between the two nations that is perennially sublimated by the fact that both remain culturally and politically dominated by England.

Just as the riches of Ireland - its great forests, its manpower, its food - were denuded for English benefit, so have the Scots suffered greatly through that unbalanced power relationship with their southern neighbour.

The highland clearances are no less a holocaust than the repeated attempts at Irish genocide concocted in London in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. And the daylight robbery of their massive North Sea oil reserves parallels the lengthy theft of Irish resources for English gain during the past umpteen centuries.

It's self-evident to all but the Tory rump of the UUP that partitioning Ireland hasn't worked and never will. Even the self-denying Ulster nationalists within the DUP are coming to a slow realisation that their economic future and well-being is utterly and inextricably tied up with that of the rest of the island.

The question remains how to square the circle - how to encompass the stern and implacable opposition to the perceived 'Rome rule' of a unified Ireland that unionists espouse with the undeniable reality of their Irishness?

Perhaps the answer is a union of a different sort. Scots and Irish, Ulsterman and Highlander, Aberdonian and Corkonian can all agree on one simple fact - England never did you a single favour, but used you to their own benefit.

Maybe the answer is to ditch the English. Would the unionists accept a different type of union - one with our historical brother Scotland rather than the isle of Britain as a whole?

Those who espouse Irish unification always point to the fact that unionists would be kingmakers in Dail Eireann - driving coalitions from the minority position as the PDs did for the past decade.

But this is not sufficient for our unionist brethren.

So why not ditch the English?

We could have a union of over 11 million people, with stunning natural resources, and benefit from the boosted economy of scales that would provide. A true Celtic homeland, one made up of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter in even enough numbers to threaten no one.

The poor lost hybrid souls of Ulster would have both their parents back together, married for the first time without a third abusive and dominant partner involved in the relationship.

The Scots of Irish descent could finally feel truly at home in their homeland, no longer sickened by football thugs telling them to 'go home, the famine's over.'

The Scots do not benefit from their association with England under the British banner. They never did. Many, likely a majority, would support independence from London and the English yoke.

The English will always be with us. We are both, Scotland and Ireland, firmly within London's sphere of influence. But England's greatest fear has always been a coherent and strong rival culture located on its Celtic fringe.

Why not have a new unionism - a marriage of Scotland and Ireland - and find out just what it was that has been frightening England down through the many centuries?

We asked the Japanese tourist what he thought.

'If you say you are from Ireland, then you are Irish,' he answered slowly. 'But you sound like the Scots do to me. You look like them too.'

Even outsiders see the family resemblance, it seems.


Sweary said...

I got all misty-eyed there, and I'm from the feckin' republic. Nicely written, Skinner.

Although ... "Looking like a Scot". What would that entail, out of curiosity? Kilts? Red sideburns?

Jesus, that's Groundskeeper Willie. Sorry.

JC Skinner said...

I think we can forego the tartan dresses. In fairness, plenty of Irish people already have red sideburns. Some of the men, too.

truthisfree said...

That was well written, Would you really inflict Cowen and co. on Scotland?

JC Skinner said...

I'd inflict Scottish standards of ethics and probity on Cowen and co!

Rua, said...

Sounds great, but I can't see it happening any time soon. Unfortunately.

pagasp said...

Good read JC, you make some good points but I can't see much chance of them becoming reality.

Would the English be gutted or would they throw a massive celebration?