Irish Examiner view: Possibilities that demand our attention

Irish Examiner view: Possibilities that demand our attention

Local elections scheduled for May are expected to consolidate the Scottish National Party's position and deliver an outright majority for Nicola Sturgeon in the Edinburgh Assembly.

The death of hunger striker and Cork Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney in London's Brixton prison 100 years ago yesterday was marked by various events, all of which recognised his, and many others, great sacrifices. 

Those sacrifices are some of the foundation stones of this Republic, a Republic far beyond anything those in the vanguard of Irish independence a century ago aspired to. Neither could they have imagined that the issues that defined their lives, and all too often their deaths, would be relevant today. 

Even the most outward-looking among them could have imagined that their determination to end Westminister's rule on this island, all of it, might be echoed on the far side of the Irish Sea.

Just as their movement gathered momentum those same hopes deepen in Scotland, a bulwark of the United Kingdom for centuries. Just six years ago, Scotland voted by a 10-point margin against an independent Scotland. 

It is possible to argue that like our 1914 Home Rule Bill, deferred and then forgotten because of World War I, that referendum was but a steppingstone leading to an unknown future. A series of opinion polls, however, seems clear about what Scotland's future might look like.

The last nine indicate that support for an independent Scotland stands as high as 58% and averages 53%. That sustained view must trouble Boris Johnson’s government, which may not be able to withstand demands for a second referendum even for the four years it is expected to hold office. 

In the event of a result different from the 2014 remain vote, they cannot block change by saying the margin calling for independence is too small. 

They used the tight 52/48 Brexit vote to assert their own nationalism so they can hardly insist on different rules for Scotland's nationalists.

Local elections scheduled for May are expected to consolidate the Scottish National Party's position and deliver an outright majority for Nicola Sturgeon in the Edinburgh Assembly. The SNP has already asked Scottish courts to allow Holyrood circumvent a London veto on a second referendum so, just as MacSwiney did a century ago, Scottish nationalists will move their efforts to a higher plane after May.

Some Irish nationalists are trying to do the same by intensifying demands for a vote on Irish reunification. Should Sinn Féin make the suggestions in our opinion polls real and secure power in the Dáil then that project will also be moved to a higher plane.  

Should that vote endorse a 32-county Ireland, possibly not the certainty some foresee,  then our capacity to extend parity of esteem to those unable to reconcile themselves to that will be as important, and as incendiary, as how British authorities reacted to MacSwiney's hunger strike a century ago. 

Just as there will be Scots in Perthshire or Sutherland opposed to breaking from Britain there will be Unionists in Antrim or Tyrone who, under nearly any circumstances, will oppose reunification.

Even at this very difficult moment, we should prepare for the consequences of those two votes even though their objectives are diametrically different.

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