Matthew O’Toole – who could well end up as the SDLP leader one fine day – has an article in The Irish Times this morning. “To what extent is the UK state which agreed to the Belfast Agreement in 1998, with all its attendant commitments and understandings, still in existence?”
He goes on to list the many ways in which the UK has changed: devolution for Scotland and Wales, the dismantling of the provisions of the European Convention on Human rights, the present legislation that formally ditches parts of an international agreement the UK entered into , the treatment of migrants, “blatant clientelism” in awarding Covid contracts, the Tory party’s failure to correct let alone ditch an inveterate charlatan in Boris Johnson, Sue Braverman’s lie that the north of Ireland was “lagging behind” the rest of the UK economy when the opposite is the case, Brandon Lewis who assures the British people that a treaty will be reneged on, but only in limited and specific ways.
In short, where middle-of-the-road Scots or Welsh or Irish would have been pretty content to remain as part of a decent UK, the present government has revealed the UK as a centre of lies and inequality.
Matthew old chap, your ear for a moment: there are some of us who don’t need Tory dirty-work-at-the-crossroads to believe we were Irish when Boris Johnson was in short trousers and Brandon Lewis but a gleam in his da’s eye. Nobody’s contradicting what you say about present-day Britain, but even if Britain had been squeaky clean and functioning just fine, a considerable number of Irish people would still have said “This is our country, Britain, not yours. So kindly leave the stage and let us be neighbours, not colony and colonist.”
When early in the twentieth century, a small band of selfless men gave their lives for Irish freedom, they didn’t do so after they’d checked how tolerant or honest Britain was. They did it because they believed that Irishmen and women, from Malin Head to Mizzen head, should govern an independent Ireland, not because Britain was making a hames of occupying us.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as an admirable occupier. Some of us were aware of that decades ago. It would appear that at least one prominent SDLPer is a slow learner.