Irish for Yes at Bannockburn
The final speaker was Feargal Dalton who is a Glasgow based Scottish National Party councillor. He first visited Scotland in 1994 to do some mountain climbing in the Highlands. He stated: “I had learned a bit of Scottish Gàidhlig at school. But I was struck by the place names on the map and how similar they were to the Irish language. It was only then I realised how strong the cultural links are between Scotland and Ireland. We stopped in Glasgow on the way home and I was struck by the raw urban friendliness of Glaswegians; they reminded me of my fellow Dublin northsiders. I set about making Glasgow and Scotland my home which they became in 1996 and in the first Holyrood election of 1999 I voted for the SNP. I bumped into a good friend on the way back from polling station, a friend who is a Scot but with a strong Irish identity. I told him that I had just done my bit in the election by voting for the SNP. He said, “Oh no, we Irish in Scotland don’t want Independence. We’d end up like the ones in Belfast.” I was taken aback. This was my first encounter with Unionism in the Irish Community in Scotland. And it was a Unionism based on fear and fear alone”.
Mr Dalton went on to state: “Some in the Irish community have a lack of appreciation or a deliberate denial of the strong historical links between Scotland and Ireland. Unionists within the Irish community and in general in Scotland often say there is no connection between the Scottish and Irish independence movements.
I suggest they speak to a pupil in Ireland who is studying history. My history book at school had a photograph of James Connolly on the front. Scotland’s very own Irish patriot. A man who grew up in abject poverty in the Cowgate in Edinburgh. And he made the link between self-determination and social justice, ‘The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour and the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland.’
A hundred years ago there were unionists who said, “don’t devolve anything to the Irish. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.” Other unionists believed some powers needed to be devolved in order to kill nationalism by kindness. Sounds very like, “Devolution will kill nationalism stone dead”. The words in 1995 of our own George Robertson, Scotland’s foremost Unionist.
Earlier this month we had the commemorations for the fallen in Normandy. Commemorations that were attended by the nations of the allies and Germany. The British and Irish Governments are working out the detail of how they will commemorate the fallen of 1916 in two years’ time.
But John Major says that by commemorating the fallen at Bannockburn we are anti-English.
I can assure you Mr Major that I am only anti people who blame the failings of an indigenous elite on the poor, the sick and on immigrants. I would never denigrate your history or the memory of your fallen Mr Major, so I respectfully ask that you don’t denigrate ours.
The polls are showing that the gap between Yes and No has narrowed. We are finding on the doorstep in Glasgow that there is no gap. This is causing increasing panic at Westminster.
Some at Westminster are saying that they won’t recognise the reality of Scottish Independence. We even have some Westminster politicians saying that they won’t recognise a yes vote; peers from the House of Lords no less and what would they know about democracy.
My grandfather and others in my family played their part in the Irish independence movement. I can stand here today and proudly say that. Some in my family paid for that independence with their lives.
But here we are in Scotland in 2014. And at this defining time in our lives, in this defining moment in our country’s history, I say to those in the Irish community and the wider community; if you believe in the full self-determination of Celtic nations, all you have to do is simply put an X in a box next to Yes”.
The chairperson then read out a message of support from Dan O’Neill who is Chief Guardian of the Ancient Clan O’Neill of Tyrone, in which he expressed the importance of Celtic solidarity in our common struggles which would be best affirmed by casting a Yes vote on 18 September.
Eugene McCabe who is a Glasgow based Yes Scotland campaign activist, laid a wreath at the memorial cairn on behalf of the Irish in Scotland. The chairperson concluded the ceremony by asking those assembled to observe a minute’s silence while the uilleann piper, Uilliam ÓhAicéad, played a lament in memory of the fallen. The colour party simultaneously dipped its flags as a mark of respect.