Nigel Farage is a funny little man. With his constant grin and low-set frame he looks like a cartoon character from the Film Fun comic of yesteryear. Clearly Farage is tapping into the feelings of a right-wing section of the British population which aches for a return to the old days: when Britain was Great Britain and the place wasn’t ruled from Brussels or over-run by immigrants. Now, following UKIP’s success in the British local elections, he’s turned his gaze to Scotland. Being the leader of the UK Independence Party he is, of course, agin Alex Salmond and the SNP’s drive for independence. And the club he’s picked up to batter Salmond with is - would you believe it? - Gerry Adams.
In Nigel’s considered opinion, Gerry Adams is a more honest and logical politician than Alex Salmond. How so? Well, he says, the SNP leader has “hoodwinked” Scots, because he tells them that Scotland can be independent and have a strong voice in the EU.
“Even though he [Mr Adams] is my least favourite politician, the Sinn Féin position has always been Northern Ireland out of the UK and out of the European Union.”
Well, I’d say Gerry Adams is relieved he’s disliked by Nigel. With a friend like that, who’d need enemies, and Adams has enough of those. Nigel is right, of course, that Gerry Adams wants, like all genuine nationalists and republicans, the removal of Northern Ireland from the UK to become part of a new Ireland. But maybe Farage should stop grinning long enough to check out Sinn Féin policy on the EU. It’s all there on their website, Nigel.
“We want to build a Europe of Equals - a true partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond. We want an EU that promotes peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament and the just resolution of conflicts under the leadership of a reformed, renewed and democratised United Nations. Ultimately, we want a future United Ireland to take an active, leading role in such a reformed EU”.
But then Nigel’s not alone in misrepresenting Sinn Féin’s position on Europe. Right-wing parties south of the border - notably Fine Gael - do the same thing. In Dail debates, Enda Kenny is never slow to accuse Sinn Féin of being anti-Europe. Well yes, Enda, if by the EU you mean a place where Berlin sets your budget and the population is burdened with back-breaking debt that’ll take decades to reduce, never mind pay off.
But while Nigel’s wrong about Sinn Féin's stance on Europe, he’s right to link the pressure for independence in Scotland with the same thing in Ireland. When I interviewed Ian Paisley Jr for my book Whose Past Is It Anyway?, he saw the link as well. He figured a revival of the 1912 Covenant spirit could help keep Scotland firmly in place: “I think it would be wonderful. It would be a real filip to unionist here that we had helped save the Scottish union now, a hundred years later”.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Lyndon Johnson used to justify US intervention in Vietnam by talking about a communist domino-effect through all the countries of South-East Asia if the US didn't intervene. Scotland today is less a domino and more of a corner-stone of the Union. If Scotland were to vote for independence - and don’t rush to dismiss the possibility that it will - then the whole concept of a United Kingdom would have been destabilised, with profound implications for us in Ireland.
So well done, Nigel. You mightn’t have a clue about Sinn Féin policy on Europe, but you’re right to link what’s happening in Scotland with what’s happening in Ireland. If one succeeds in achieving independence, stand by for something similar happening in the other. Oh, and by the way, Nigel - keep campaigning against Scottish independence, would you? Your every word helps stiffen Scot Nats’ resolve to run their own country.