Anyway, last Wednesday I and an old hand at the mode of bus pass travel, set off on a journey somewhere. We asked Mrs Quinn to leave us at the Castledawson roundabout and my friend said as we arrived, “Let us get the first bus that comes in.”
The first bus happened to be for Derry.
Now that is freedom. I was out for the day and heading off to wherever the first bus went. I put my wee card down on the ticket machine and the driver printed me off a ticket; no money changed hands, I was using my bus pass.
Finally I have got to that stage in life where I can go out for the day and just go. My friend and I dandered around Derry, ate burritos in a nice little bistro and annoyed a few shop keepers by asking plenty of questions and buying nothing.
Ah, the liberty of being sixty.
When we arrived home, Mrs Quinn had a nice supper prepared for me and I put my feet up for the evening; unfortunately the lovely lady to whom I am married does not like the smell of cigars so this ultimate pleasure shall have to wait for another day.
The next time I am heading out for the day I think I shall invite my friend Alex along. Alex is a bit younger than me at 59 but he is about to retire.
“Alex Salmond is to step down as Scottish first minister after voters decisively rejected independence
Mr Salmond said: "For me as leader my time is nearly over, but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die."
Speaking from Bute House in Edinburgh, the first minister's official residence, Mr Salmond told journalists: "I am immensely proud of the campaign that ‘Yes Scotland’ fought and particularly of the 1.6 million voters who rallied to that cause."
Mr Salmond, 59, who has led his party for a total of 20 years, also said there were a "number of eminently qualified and very suitable candidates for leader", although the current deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, also deputy SNP leader, is seen as a clear frontrunner.”
The Yes campaign was not decisively defeated. The whole reaction of the English reminded me to the Gibraltar Three legal case.
Do you remember it? Well, in case you don’t here are a few of the details.
Paddy McCrory, an ordinary Belfast solicitor was pitted against all the lies, disinformation and propaganda that the English could muster. On top of that he was up against the best legal team that England could put forward: QCs John Laws and Michael Hucker, both of whom went on to be prominent judges afterwards.
Cast your mind back to the case; three IRA people, Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell, had been executed in Gibraltar and an inquest was held. For months we had the usual lies from England. In particular there was the character assignation of Carmen Proetta who claimed to have seen two of the group shot without warning.
At the inquest the minnow from Belfast, Mr. McCrory, took on the might of the English establishment. Of course the jury found that the IRA members were legally killed, but they could not get a unanimous verdict; the embarrassment of the reporters when it came out that even after all the lies and propaganda, the best the English could do was get a majority verdict, spoke volumes about what the people really thought.
Paddy McCrory, a true man of justice, had fought the English on their own territory and almost won. Think now of the reaction of the English when they realized that Scotland might vote for independence.
They lied, blackmailed, threatened and cajoled the Scots in every way they could, and still they could not take the Yes vote down below 45%.
Alex Salmond took on the English and scared the bejeebies out of them; he took the SNP from a laughing stock and now he has fundamentally and irreversibly changed the whole concept of the United Kingdom.
We are, as the pundits like to say, moving into unchartered territory. But Scotland should beware; the promises which the English gave in their ‘vow’ have no legal basis.
As I write this the vow is already beginning to look a bit shaky: the parties are cringing and craving a way out. We in Ireland know this: “The Treaty broken ere the ink with which 'twas written could dry,” is what was said concerning the Treaty of Limerick in 1691.
The English massacred the soldiers in Limerick within hours of signing a treaty.
They don’t call her ‘Perfidious Albion’ for nothing.
What if it had have been us: what would the English reaction have been if we were close to voting to leave the United Kingdom:
“Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry!” or “Until this moment, I never understood how hard it was to lose something you never had,” or perhaps “So sorry that you’re leaving, you’ll be missed ever so much. Good luck in the future, and please stay in touch.”
But what they would really mean is “You were always a useful place, a wonderful training ground for our lads in the army. You will leave a big hole in our military exercise programme, where else in these isles can we let the SAS kill people for fun.”
Make no mistake about it, if we were voting to leave the UK there would be howls of joy in Westminster.
So has the recent vote and its aftermath anything to do with us?
For the first time in years I am actually worried about the future of this place. There are changes coming and on all the evidence points that we are nowhere near ready for them.
Over the next ten to twenty years the United Kingdom shall become unrecognisable from what it is today. In effect we shall have three independent countries, England, Wales and Scotland, united in a loose confederation with Charles or William as the figurehead.
This is what Plaid Cymru said after the result in Scotland became known:
“Following today’s referendum result in Scotland, Plaid Cymru has said that Britain has changed forever and that business as usual in terms of how the nations are governed is not an option.
The people of Scotland have spoken and it is right to respect their decision. What is clear however is that Britain has changed forever and we cannot go back to business as usual. It is precisely 17 years to the day that the people of Wales awoke to their new political nationhood following our devolution referendum.
Since then our national journey has been characterised by false dawns and failures of imagination. Wales can no longer be a spectator in its own national journey. A new process must now begin involving all the nations of the UK to ensure meaningful and significant decentralisation” said Leanne Wood AM, Leader, Plaid Cymru.
Plaid Cymru also say the party remains sceptical about the promises of new powers, but any offers to Scotland must also be offered to Wales. (ITN News)
If you think that has no meaning for us, read this about Nigel Farage and some English MPs.
“Nigel Farage has said the time has come for an English Parliament, to give the country a "proper voice" in the UK.
The leader of the UK Independence Party told the BBC: "We've had a lot from Scotland but the tail cannot go on wagging the dog any longer."
He said there should be a full constitutional convention.
Mr Farage claimed the prime minister was "panicked" by the English question, and dismissed plans for a committee to look into a solution. "I really do think that now we absolutely need to have a constitutional convention to talk about how we create a fair, federal United Kingdom," he argued.
The rise of nationalism on the island of Britain is palpable. And as time goes on we can only expect this rise in nationalism to increase.
While all of this is worrying, it was the next bit of the report that we in the wee north should be worried about.
“Many English MPs have demanded that further devolution to Scotland will necessitate wider constitutional changes, with some backing a federal model where all the different nations of the UK have the same financial autonomy.” (BBC News)
Reflect for a moment on what happened in Scotland. The country split almost evenly down the middle in the referendum on Thursday last but on Friday the country came together to ponder and begin the process of building the new Scotland.
The Scottish people showed that they had a ‘Mature Democracy’ where the people respect the vote of the nation.
We voted for the Good Friday agreement, with a clear majority north and south, and the unionists have never been serious about working with nationalists to make the country viable.
You see, we are the only part of the UK that is not workable as a nation. Scotland with five million people is certainly sustainable: Finland, Norway and Denmark are three countries of similar size and they are very respected nations.
Little Wales with three million is also viable as is Lithuania, Mauritania and Uruguay, all countries in the same population range.
Northern Ireland, with a population of 1.75 million, similar in size to perfectly normal countries such as Estonia, (1.3m) Kosovo, (1.8m) and Mauritius (1.2m) is a beggar nation on which the rest of the UK spends £5,000 per man, woman and child every year.
Think of it, we contribute nothing in the realm of sport, culture, or economics to the community of the UK.
Peter Robinson has rightly said that the situation in Stormont is untenable. But what is the alternative?
Can you imagine majority Unionist rule in this country and no money coming in from the rest of the UK to keep us? It would be hell. Catholics are now above the 45% mark, the level at which even Cameron knew there would have to be changes in Scotland.
We are too many now to be trampled upon!
Or perhaps, by some miracle, it might be a good thing. It may force this country to face the reality of the situation we are in, that for a country to survive the people have to pull together: a house divided against itself shall fall.
Faced with a choice of continuing poverty and the very real prospect of a return to violence, our leaders may choose to join forces and run the country for the good of the people rather than for the clan, but something tells me that I might be wrong.
Only twice in the ninety-odd years of the history of this state, has a politician shown real leadership and displayed an ability to see what needs to be done and did it.
The first was when John Hume took the risk of bringing the shinners in from the cold. The second was when Big Ian allowed our Martin to give him a wee hug.
Whatever the motives of these two men their actions were correct. Although this was not ideal, right relationship comes before right action, in the circumstances it was the best we could get.
They were also helped by the courageous leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, who brought the IRA through the peace process but these men, in my opinion, are now past their sell by date. Great leaders in war seldom make great leaders in peace.
Looking at the leaders of the four main parties at Stormont today; there is not a heavyweight amongst them. Can you conceive of any of them putting country before party?
So what are the parameters that the two sides need to lay down as we begin negotiating the new dis-UK? (We could pronounce that ‘disuuk’)
From the nationalist point of view, no return to majority rule and the promise of some sort of oversight committee made up of members of the other ‘real’ countries in the group.
The oversight committee would have to have tangible powers and such legal remedies that have had to be brought in Northern Ireland would have to stay. By this I mean the Parades Commission and the Employment Legislation.
We would also need the return of 50-50 recruitment to the police: we can’t return to the good/bad old days of the Protestants policing the Catholics.
For the unionist perspective, they would need a commitment that the principle of consent would be adhered too and that their British identity be protected.
The problem with Northern Ireland, and it may not be popular to say this, is that the war was never fought to its conclusion; we got away lucky. There was no winner who had to be magnanimous and no loser who had to accept defeat.
The only way to stop the war from arising again is to prevent Unionist domination. We need bright courageous and far seeing leaders on both sides to prevent this.
All during the troubles, good people constantly prayed for peace. Perhaps we need to start praying again.
The views expressed are not necessarily those of
the editor but are the views of the writer.
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