Ruth Dudley Edwards: When it comes to Catalonia, nationalists want partition and unionists want unity
There are strange contradictions in our reactions towards events in Spain, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
John Carlin, a distinguished journalist of Spanish and English parentage, wrote in Saturday’s Times: “What we have is the cruel absurdity of the Madrid government acting towards the Catalans like a husband who hates his wife and mistreats her but refuses to let her contemplate leaving him, screaming ‘She’s mine’!”
(How reminiscent of the republican movement, who act towards unionists like a suitor who hates and abuses the woman who is in a happy marriage he’s determined to break up, screaming “Choose me or I’ll kill you, bitch!”)
David Cameron was strongly criticised for allowing a referendum on Scottish independence to go ahead, but it lanced the extreme nationalist boil.
Being mostly pragmatic, British governments understand the need to yield some ground in order to hang on to most of it.
If Brussels had felt the same, Brexit wouldn’t have happened.
Spanish governments have never been like that, perhaps, points out Mr Carlin, because many centuries of Roman Catholic absolutism produced an intransigent mind-set.
There is, I learned to my fascination, no translation in Spanish for the word “compromise”.
In consequence, Madrid has frequently been in vicious clashes with the regions and even when forced into making concessions seizes every opportunity to retract them.
The carry-on in Spain inevitably causes some soul-searching on the island of Ireland and some inevitable if weird contradictions and consequences, with unionists generally favouring unity and nationalists partition.
The parties that prize law and order back the Spanish government, though it’s important to note there is no unconditional support.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he and his government accepted and respected the constitution and territorial unity of Spain; the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement said: “Upholding the constitution and the rule of law in all its aspects is a key underpinning of a modern democracy.”
But Mr Varadkar and the DFA expressed deep concern over the violence.
Unionists have also been critical of police brutality, which the Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister described as “unseemly and disturbing”.
The DUP MLA Christopher Stalford told the BBC that the force used against protesters had been “totally counterproductive”.
He recalled that at times the forces of the state in Northern Ireland “had the law on their side (but) they lost the moral argument by the sway in which events played out in the press”.
The Sinn Fein Lords of Misrule had no such nuances in their response, being essentially in favour of uniting Ireland but breaking up other democracies just for the hell of it.
They and their kind thrive on chaos.
Completely ignoring that the majority of Catalans did not vote because they are content with the region’s considerable autonomy, are against independence and wanted to give no legitimacy to what was an illegal poll, Gerry Adams and his colleagues blithely accepted the separatist line.
They seem untroubled that the rest of Spain would be seriously impoverished if its richest region jumps ship.
The Catalan people, said Mr Adams, deserve the “same respect” as Irish republicans, “and their votes should be upheld the same as it
would anywhere else in the world”.
I don’t remember him saying the same when 99% of the people of Gibraltar and almost 100% of the Falkland Islanders voted to stay under Britain’s sovereignty.
Mr Adams has never been inclined to worry too much about the law of unintended consequences or he wouldn’t have supported thirty years of terrorism that entrenched partition, so perhaps he doesn’t realise that the EU is utterly terrified about the knock-on effect of giving in to the secessionists.
Who would be next?
The Basque country? Galicia?
And what about Corsica, Flanders, northern Italy and so on and on? It’s a gloomy picture, but as a letter last week in the Irish Times pointed out: “If there is one silver lining to the debacle in Catalonia, it is the declarations of support for independence from innumerable Sinn Fein representatives. That we have moved on to the point where they will publicly advocate for the right of statehood of an ethically distinct region, despite the wishes of the national majority, shows the incredible advances made in the peace process. Perhaps next the DUP will call for North and South Korea to merge.”