This is a day of huge political significance as Scotland goes to the polls, a day which may well bring the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to an end.
Whatever the result, this binding exercise in national self-determination is in itself an outright triumph for those who have brought Scotland to this crucial juncture. Far from the constitutional paralysis offered by the naysayers in the six-counties of Northern Ireland, our Celtic Cousins have been enjoying the political equivalent of the Aurora Borealis which has been so accurately and eloquently described as “a two year festival of democracy.”
Informed international political opinion agrees that this represents “The Canary in the Coalmine.” A yes vote, in the face of the might of the Westminster axis, will send deeply felt tremors throughout the embedded political elites of Europe, re-energizing the Catalans, the Basque people and the Flemish speaking areas of Belgium. Even a narrow vote in favor of the status quo ensures that “all is changed utterly.”
In promising and delivering such an opportunity to the Scottish electorate, in determining the historically significant date on which the vote is to be held, in shaping the response for Scottish independence in the affirmative and in extending the franchise to everyone over sixteen, the Scottish people have acted as an independent state in embryo. Nothing can or ever will be the same again, and the old British Constitutional order is torn asunder.
Yet many in Ireland are strangely muted on this issue and content to remain “mere spectators.” Not for them the courage or conviction of the James Connollys of this world who fought across national boundaries in the cause of freedom, justice and the rights of man.
Internationalism, an integral cornerstone of Irish Republicanism clearly evidenced in the 1916 Proclamation, has for some become an uncomfortable fact of political life.
Today also marks the one hundredth anniversary of Britain’s betrayal of the Redmondites, who having misplaced their trust in the Westminster Parliament to deliver Home Rule for all of Ireland were “rewarded for their loyalty” on the September 18, 1914 with not one but two pieces of legislation; one delivering Home Rule and the other suspending it indefinitely “Until the War Ends.” Perfidious Albion in all its true glory, a betrayal sealed with the blood of thousands of young Irishmen in the slaughter of WW1 with redemption delivered only by the willingness of the men and women of the Easter Rising to “sacrifice themselves for the common good” of the Irish nation.
The subsequent overwhelming democratic endorsement of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic by an overwhelming majority of all the Irish people was predicated on Sinn Féin’s 1918 election manifesto, which proclaimed that “..the right of a nation to sovereign independence rests upon immutable natural law and cannot be made the subject of a compromise.” It excoriated those who “..in a supreme crisis for the nation, attempted to sell her birthright for the vague promises of English Ministers, and who showed their incompetence by failing to have even these promises fulfilled.”
Almost a century later those who participate in what Connolly described as British “Ruling by Fooling” continue to vest Ireland’s right to self-determination under the subjective control of a single British Minister whose “vague promises” cannot be held to any account.
Others choose to challenge this affront to democracy. The James Connolly Society, Scotland, has been in the vanguard of the campaign for the freedom of small nations. Humbled that they are now a formally affiliated member of the 1916 Societies, we are immensely proud of the part, however small, that those of us on this side of the Straits of Moyle have, through them, played in helping the people of Scotland in their efforts to achieve the first step to complete political independence.
We are supremely confident that our Scottish comrades will not be found wanting when Ireland’s time, through a One Ireland-One Vote single referendum on Irish unity, presents itself allowing our beloved country the opportunity to finally “..take her place among the nations of the world.”
* Plunkett Nugent is a Barrister at Law and member of The P.H. Pearse Society Galbally/Cappagh, County Tyrone.