Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Ireland-Scotland analogy

Writing in the Financial Times (subs. req'd), Kevin Toolis offers amusing and trenchant points about the relevance of the often bleak state of Irish politics and economics as a lesson for pro-independence Scotland. But he goes a bit far here --

But that was not the worst. From the 1920s to the 1970s, millions of Irish were forced to flee – ironically to the UK, in search of work and social freedom. Amid that stream of exiles were Ireland’s greatest artists and writers, figures such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Edna O’Brien, refugees from the suffocating social prohibitions of the new nationalist order. Rather than bloom, the shamrock withered.

The problem is the assumption that if the 26 counties had remained in the UK, all those people would not have moved to other parts of Britain. In fact, the 26 counties' history within the UK had featured mass emigration and, yes, famine, within the memory of the people in the early 1900s so the desire for independence was just cultural fantasizing. As for that 20th century emigration, things weren't so great in Tyrone, Derry, Armagh, and Fermanagh in those years either.