Scotland isnae Northern Ireland, an Belfast isnae Embra
The stooshie cairryin owre fae yesterday has seen mony fowk, oor ain First Minister includit, come oot an say that, gin Northern Ireland can mibbie stey in some sortae wey relatit tae the EU efter Brexit, it maun be the same fir Scotland.
I’m wi her in priniciple. But Scotland isnae Northern Ireland, an Belfast isnae Embra.
There’s a gey guid reason that Northern Ireland cannae be dunted aboot like the rest o the nations in these isles: It’s a tinderbox, wi a lang history o murder an reprisal. Fowk hae been shot in the heid fir maitters mair trivial than a hard border wi the republic. Mak nae mistake a mishandled Brexit may lead tae cultural an economic ruin fir Scotland, but in Northern Ireland it could see a return tae violence.
Constitutional maitters hae aye been central tae baith Irish nationalist an Unionist populations owre the sheugh. When the Irish Free State wis born in the 1920s, the protestant north rushed tae demarcate itsel aff fae the rest o the island, makkin itsel a partitioned corner loyal tae yet awfy suspicious o the mither state o Britain. Ilka generation o republican Irish hae seen some sortae rebellion that ettles tae cowp this ‘illigitimate’ ‘imperial’ ‘capitalist’ statelet in the north.
Mony hae ettled tae ging doon a peacefu gait. Cathal Goulding, wha lead the IRA in the 1960s, rin doon the military side o the movement, wi a preference fir peacefu approaches sic an trade unionist an education tae achieve non-sectarian class-consciousness. He wis dingied by the republican movement as the Provisionals wrocht a new bloody confrontation wi the Brits insteid.
Prime Minister Edward Heath, wha’d got hissel insnarlt in the unco muir o Irish politics in the early seeventies, ettled tae big a pooer-sharin executive in the North that wid gie aa pairties a consulting role in the rinnin o the state. Owre twa years o canny negotiations, a complex solution wis fashioned. Kent as the Sunningdale Agreement, Britain wid retain pooer in Northern Ireland, but ilka side o society wid hae their voice heard. A Cooncil o Ireland, makkit up o representatives fae the Republic, fae the North an fae Britain, wid get thegither an wark tae big up a fairer solution fir aabdy.
Unionists o mony shades couldnae thole sic a notion. Hardline nationalists, feart that sic an agreement wid lead tae a partitioned Ireland fir ever mair, rebelled. The hail thing returned tae chaos an the north saw mony o its worst years soon efter.
The Peace Process itsel is fresh enough in maist o oor memories that I neednae ging owre that grun. Its fair tae say that the process took cool heids aa roon, support an guidance fae America, a leader (Blair) desperate tae mak a nemme fir hissel as a peacemaker an statesman, as weel as a wheen ither factors.
This is a lang wey tae say that Peace isnae just summit ye can tak fir granted in Ireland. A tweet fae Ruth Davidson gied it big licks aboot how we maun aa be thirled tae the same Brexit (nae maitter appairently whit the cost tae life, property an peace) shaws how ignorant mony fowk are aboot whit they are dealin wi.
Warkin tae get a separate deal fir Northern Ireland wis mibbie the first sensible hing that’s cam oot aboot Brexit so far. Houaniver, by dancin tae the tunbe o the DUP, May has made ae muckle error. Peace in Northern Ireland has neer yet been achieved nor maintained by Britain takkin tent o ainly ae side o the divide. Gin Britain shaws itsel tae repone tae the DUP but no the concerns o the nationalist population then ye hae a problem oan yir hauns.
“Regulatory alignment” atween baith the states in Ireland wid hae been sensible. Northern Ireland is ane o the maist skint airts in Britain. It needs the immigrants fae the EU tae affset its emigration. Northern Ireland votit against Brexit. Seekin oot a compromise is essential, as naebody wants tae see a return tae violence, nae maitter how lang negotiations need tae ging oan fir.
I would encourage Scots fowk tae hink twice afore sayin “whits guid fir them is guid fir us!”
We need tae jouk oot the road afore the Brexit train hits us. Nae doot. But kiddin oan that we’re the same as Northern Ireland wilnae help.
We’re angry, aye. But we arnae awa tae bung a petrol bomb at a polis. So let’s look fir anither wye oot.