Ireland and Scotland almost blur into one

Ireland Scotland almost blur
Pictured is President Michael D Higgins meeting with Ms. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland in Glasgow, on the 1st day of the Presidents 4 day visit to Scotland. Photo Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016

No-one knows better than the Irish and Scots about what it means to be migrants

This is what President Michael D. Higgins told the Scottish parliament, just days after the Brexit vote.

He cited the “shared and complex” history between the two nations and, drawing on a joint Gaelic origin, explained how they almost blur into one.

“It has often been difficult to say where what is Irish ends and where what is Scottish begins,” he said.

“Fundamentally, we are all intermixed migrants.”

The subject of immigration is a sensitive issue across Europe, but President Higgins used his address to argue the positive impact of both Irish and Scottish diasporas.

He described the impact the Irish had on Scotland and vice versa, as well as taking pride in their respective influences across the globe.

Ireland Scotland almost blur
Photo Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016

“For a long time, the Irish and the Scots found that our own people were forced to seek sustenance abroad,” he explained.

“The strength and vitality of our diasporas today can be attributed to the bravery and indomitable spirit that motivated our ancestors to seek not only better lives for themselves and their families, but also to recognise the value of community, and to appreciate the welcome they received on foreign shores.”

The President also noted how some of the shared roots between the two countries were born out of tragedy.

He said how the Great Irish Famine did not just reshape the Irish nation but also reshaped its relationship with Scotland.

In 1841, the Irish represented just 4.8 per cent of the population of Scotland but, with an average of a thousand migrants arriving in Glasgow each week by 1848, this rose to 7.2 per cent in 1851.

By contrast, the population of Irish in England and Wales at this time stood at just 2.9 per cent.

Though Ireland, and parts of Scotland, had suffered from a terrible hunger, President Higgins acknowledged that they are now in very different situations.

Ireland Scotland almost blur
Photo Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016

“We stand as confident and prosperous nations, with shared challenges that are both regional and global,” he said.

“We can see before us now the enormous potential for partnership and cooperation, grounded in the values that we share, as peoples who cherish creativity as a socially sourced and shared resource.

“We are both committed to deepening this bond and the potential for growing our work together is, I believe, endless.”

After commenting on the shared heritage and the future of Scotland and Ireland, the President touched on two pertinent issues of today.

Speaking of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom, he chose not to comment on the result, but rather to praise it outright as an example of democracy.

He added that this democracy is not impermeable, citing “the growth of a temporary, inchoate populism in Europe and America” as a threat to the values which Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the continent have strived for.

And the President saved a poignant word for the late MP Jo Cox, who was murdered on June 16 in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

“Jo exemplified the very best of principled public representative politics, and we, all of us who share her fearless commitment to principled and respectful political debate, owe it to her memory to work harder than ever at this crucial moment to strengthen our democratic system and make it work to meet the needs of our people, and not to surrender to fear or bend before the politics of fear,” he said.

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