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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Our Celtic Cousins

A Letter from Ireland

a Chara,

It’s a cliché to say that all political careers end in failure. Like all clinchés, there is a grain of truth. If you enter politics as a profession then you are bound to fail. If you set about trying to win high office to further a career, you will undoubtedly be found out.

I am lucky to work with activists. Some become political representatives. For them, it is a means to an end. For a bigger idea, the building of a new united Ireland. A better Ireland for all the people.

Personal ambition is secondary to advancing a big idea. We are all just cogs in that struggle for the common good.

I was reminded of this when Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) announced her resignation. She is the First Minister of Scotland. Under her leadership, the SNP has grown and consolidated its position as the largest party in Scotland. The big idea of that party is Scottish independence.

Over the past number of years, there has been majority support for an independent

Scotland. By those measurements, Nicola Sturgeon has been a remarkable success.

It will come as no surprise that I support the right of the people of Scotland to determine their own constitutional future. The right to national self-determination is fundamental to Irish Republicanism.

The Good Friday Agreement secured the right of the people of Ireland North and South to Irish Unity referendums. It obligates both the Irish and British Governments to legislate if the people vote in both jurisdictions for Irish unity.

Scotland has no such agreement. It is up to the British Government at Westminister to “allow” a referendum. A British government that has no mandate in Scotland and is made up of a majority of English MPs.

The British government, which fashions itself as the “United Kingdom”, refuses the Scottish parliament’s call for a referendum. What kind of union refuses the right of one party to leave? Could you imagine the outcry if the EU told the British that they could not leave?

The “union” is fundamentally undemocratic and unequal. Government by English interests in the interest of England.

This is a lesson well-known to Irish Republicans. It is now a lesson being learned by a new generation in Scotland. The right to self-determination cannot be denied.

Democracy cannot be denied. It is time to set the date for referendums in Scotland and Ireland. Nicola Sturgeon has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a passionate advocate for the right to self-determination of the Scottish people. I wish her well in the path ahead.

Have a great weekend.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.

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