Yesterday, I was happy to stick some cash in the kitty for the Green Brigade boys, who are raising money for the enormous legal expenses still faced by many of their members. The unjust law might be in the bin, but a lot of these guys still have ongoing court cases involving it. Their crime was to express their political views on the Irish situation as it has unfolded for hundreds of years. They did it in song, in banners, in slogans, on the clothes they wore.
And here, in Scotland, that had been made a criminal offence.
This is St Patrick’s Day.
Across the world, that fact is being celebrated.
The video I’ve posted below is one of hundreds that are out there, many of them focused on one corner of the world where the Irish are out on the streets and reminding everyone of how many of them there are, scattered across the globe like seeds caught in the winds.
Those winds were war and famine. Some were running from starvation. Others were running from state sponsored persecution. That tends to be forgotten as we pour scorn on despotic regimes around the world; it wasn’t long ago that we topped that particular league table in a way we’ve never done with child literacy, social mobility, standard of living, educational achievement … we were, at least, once the very best at something.
The Orange Order still celebrates that fact to this day. On our streets. At least once a year, but in reality many, many more times than that.
Yet the Irish don’t get their day. Not here.
Not in Scotland.
But across the world … yeah.
Across the world it’s not a crime to be Irish or express your Irishness.
I already know what some are thinking reading this; that actually what a lot of our guys do is celebrate war and violence, not culture and country.
I’ve asked before; give me the song The Green Brigade and other parts of our support sing that glorifies war and I’ll stop doing this the same day. Give me the song that contains sectarian sentiments – and I don’t mean that long-since retired dirge Roamin’ which I hope never to hear again. It doesn’t get widely sung – and I’ll do the same.
No-one’s ever stepped up to the challenge.
What those guys sing commemorates the sacrifices some made for a united Ireland, a political objective not unlike that of those who voted for an independent Scotland. The difference is that the Irish fought a war and kept on fighting whilst Scotland was sold from under us from within the ranks of our own leaders.
And then we, the people, voted against taking the country back ourselves.
See, I marvel at those in Scottish society who don’t get this.
So for one brief moment, on this special day, let me try to explain what it was.
Most people here have only the perspective of living in Scotland, subjected to the full propaganda effect of unionist newspapers and the state broadcaster, for the better part of their lives. Therefore, trying to understand and conceptualise the Irish struggle has been rendered nearly impossible.
Many of them look at what happened over there as something savage.
It was. War gets a bit like that.
They look upon it as something evil.
It was. War is evil, and it always has been.
But so too is the state applying sectarian policies and denying basic rights to some of its own citizens. And when the state does that and when talking doesn’t work because nobody wants to hear your voice … well, you’re all out of options but one.
The Irish, and particularly in the north … they tried other avenues.
You’re bonkers if you don’t believe that.
You think they’d rather have had war than peace? Security and prosperity than violence and uncertainty?
They were dealing with people who simply didn’t want to hear it …
Those who label the IRA a “sectarian organisation” fail to mention that as it was the Catholic community that suffered the greatest persecution that it was only natural that the majority of recruits came from its ranks. As the Loyalist paramilitaries were sectarian death-squads it’s only natural that when they were targeted by Republicans people could levy the accusation that it was nothing more than religiously motivated tit-for-tat.
And it’s cobblers.
The war was about Irish self determination and reunification.
It’s not complicated, although a lot of people have gone out of their way to try and complicate it.
Furthermore, there was no “political solution” available in gerrymandered districts where an entire Catholic household got the same number of votes as a local Protestant businessman.
The whole thing was bent and corrupt, and this wasn’t 100 years ago … it was the 70’s.
I was born in 1976.
In the North, during the 1970’s, the civil rights movement exploded.
And what happened to them? Bloody Sunday did, and those who would have you believe that this was a single, aberrant incident … say one word to them; Ballymurphy. Tell them to go and look it up if they’ve never heard it before.
The British state wasn’t just discriminating against the Nationalist community. It was jailing people without trial. It was torturing people. And when none of that broke those communities it took to murdering them as well. The organ of the state which exists to protect its population was turned loose against those the British state claimed were part of that population … and it started gunning them down in the streets.
I think what grates a lot of our chattering classes – and I say this with the full knowledge that it will spark outrage amongst some of them – is that Scotland has so often gone down without a fight. The Scottish middle class has always been content with its assimilation into Britishness; the Irish refused to accept any of it.
They weren’t bought off, and nobody could scare them.
I think it bugs a lot of these people that we were content to play the sucker whilst the Irish fought for their country every inch of the way.
Britain’s response to what was going on over there was the natural colonialist over-reaction to a population that wouldn’t sit down and shut up.
The more the Irish resisted, the more Britain turned the screw.
The tighter they turned the screw, the more the Irish resisted.
The reason Scotland never found itself subjected to London’s darkest measures is that we were easily, cheaply, bought and didn’t have the same commitment to our independence as a nation as they did across the Irish sea.
Am I suggesting that Scotland should have fought a war with England?
Well, we did.
We had our country.
What I am saying, the historical fact of it, is that we voluntarily traded it away and then spurned every political opportunity we ever had to change it. The Act of the Union wasn’t enforced on us … Scotland’s “nobility” gave our nation up for their own ends.
And successive generations of our upper and middle classes made sure it stayed that way, not to mention that there were enough heart-and-soul unionists anyway to tip the balance.
So of course people here lack a proper comprehension of what Irish people did and what Ireland endured.
They endured it because they fought it.
They had generations willing to die if necessary.
An entire generation of us couldn’t muster the balls to take independence when all they had to do was put a cross on a ballot paper.
And that’s where the blind spot is.
Throw a little naked sectarianism in for good measure, and a kind of sedimentary feeling of cultural and political inferiority … and it’s not hard to see why singing about William Wallace gets you a standing ovation at the SNP conference whilst singing about Bobby Sands in the street can get you the jail.
We never felt the heavy boot of the state on our throat.
That isn’t because the British state is some benign force; it’s because we never got back up, as it were, after it kneed us in the groin.
And with no concept of how it feels to have that boot on our throat … yeah, we lack a complete understanding of why a lot of people on that island fought as they did.
Today, there are Irish all over the world.
Today they are commemorating their culture and their country, their backgrounds, their ancestors, their bloodlines.
And here in the city of my birth, there are Police Scotland officers going around the pubs monitoring what those celebrating it in relative privacy are singing in relation to it.
It’s not for nothing that anti-Catholicism has been called “the last acceptable prejudice.”
It’s not a secret that anti-Catholic sentiment remains rife in Scotland.
But here, it’s gelled and melded with an anti-Irishness which permeates every level of society … including, yes, the national government.
You only have to read the recent comments from Mhairi Black – an otherwise liberal, highly intelligent, articulate and quite brilliant woman – to see how the deep the ignorance and spite against Irish culture and expressions of it has seeped and my thesis is that much of our middle class, especially that which believes in national self-determination, resents Irish expressions of the same on some level because the Irish would rather go down fighting than fall to their knees in gratitude that the beatings had stopped.
So, yes, I was happy to do my bit for the Green Brigade.
I am happy to promote their fund raiser, and I hope everyone chips in a few quid if they can.
In Scotland it’s anti-Irishness which is the last acceptable form of prejudice.
They even passed a law for it.
Happy St Patrick’s Day to all my brothers and sisters across this otherwise great land, and across a world that is far more tolerant, accepting of, and understanding about the land you all call home, whether you live there or not, were born there or not, or have familial or cultural ties to it.
Our club is Scottish-Irish. I voted for independence, and I respect the sacrifices made by those who fought for Ireland’s and the unification of that island.
I treasure Scotland and Ireland in equal measure, and anyone who doesn’t get it … well too damned bad.
Let the sneering halfwits of our gutless chattering classes call us what they like.
They don’t understand, and they never will.
For those who won’t make the game, you can make a donation by PayPal at email@example.com
I’d urge everyone who’s able to do so.
You can also follow us on Twitter at @The_Celtic_Blog