Spain's treatment of Catalans will backfire
I've admired the good people of Catalonia since their parliament banned bullfighting in 2010. Though the Spanish government overturned the ban last year, Catalans remain overwhelmingly opposed to the agonising torture and death of an animal for the amusement of human beings.
Apart from its steadfast opposition to organised animal cruelty, I admire Catalonia's distinctive culture, stretching back centuries, its lovely beach resorts, its breathtaking museums, its stunning architecture and the splendour of the snow-tipped Pyrenees.
I didn't have any strong views on the question of partial autonomy for Catalonia versus outright independence from Spain. Until a few days ago, that is.
After watching those unforgettable referendum day scenes on TV, I felt a bit like many middle-of-the-road, non-political Irish people must have felt back in 1919, when, to quell a campaign for Irish independence, the British unleashed the Black and Tans to teach us a lesson they reckoned we'd never forget.
We didn't. The problem for Britain was that we learned a different lesson from the one intended for us. Namely, that when a state has to resort to a massive wave of brutality and repression to suppress a widely held aspiration, you can be pretty sure it has begun to lose its authority.
A few days before the Catalonia referendum, opinion polls indicated that the pro-independence side was likely to lose.
If the Spanish government had simply ignored the vote and then cited the result as vindication of its position, it might have emerged with some credit.
Alas, even the canniest of politicians can become blind to the fact that bullying doesn't work.
Catalonia may well now be on the road to full independence, and Spain has only itself to blame.
It may have gotten away with reversing the bullfight ban in Catalonia, but the people of that region are not poor, dumb animals at the mercy of superior beings.
They not will submit to swashbuckling arrogance, or be crushed underneath the jackboot of human cruelty.
Callan, Co Kilkenny