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I've got to say that I've been impressed by how sober and sensible most of the Irish coverage of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising has been. At last the notion that it was an undisputedly Good Thing is being challenged. Questions were asked about whether Ireland would have got home rule anyway, without all the killing and chaos sparked by the extreme nationalists. After all, the Irish Home Rule Bill had already been passed by the British Government and its enactment only put on hold until the hostilities which broke out in 1914 had been ended. Another question raised was whether the north east of the island, where most of the industry was based, might have been included in an independent Ireland if the nationalist killing campaign had not appeared to justify all the fears of the Unionists when it came to rule from Dublin. And the protectionist economic policies espoused by the men and women behind the Easter Rising would have spelt disaster for north eastern counties of the island. People also wonder now if the Rising did not spawn a cancer in the Irish body politic which has still not quite been expunged to this day. Many wonder now if the legacy of bitterness was really worth it. The Easter Rising was staged by a revolutionary movement. The problem with violent revolutions is the scum quite often come to the top. Violence is the enemy of justice. It is not only those who live by the sword who die by the sword in a revolution - quite often the exact opposite is true and the scum who murder their way into power are the most likely to survive.  The glorification of those who murder and intimidate to get their own way cannot be good for democracy.  I don't think there are many in Britain who will be celebrating the centenary of the formation of the Black and Tans come 2019. As the French found in Algeria after the Second World War, fighting fire with fire when it comes to terrorism is often counterproductive.

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When I was a lot younger, I used to look on The Union at work as a something akin to a nuclear warhead - its very existence stopped a lot of nonsense even getting started. There were things the bosses would like to have done but the presence of a union acted as an effective deterrent to their muddle-headed nonsense. I think what had set me thinking this way was an incident which happened a few weeks after I started as an office boy at the Glasgow Herald. One of my duties was to file a bunch of newspapers on some hangers dangling at waist-height. This involved working on my knees. When one of my knees started to hurt badly, I didn't immediately make the connection. But eventually, I had to see a doctor. I had a case of prepatellar bursitus: better known as housemaid's knee, though at the time Glasgow Herald copyboys and coal miners were the most likely workers in Scotland to go down with it, there being very few housemaids around. Anyway, I had to take a few days off work. A week or two later, those days were docked from my pay. It was explained to me that as a new employee, I was not entitled to sick pay. I decided to keep my mouth shut. Any employer that could inflict an industrial injury and then dock someone's pay for taking time off to recover from it was capable of anything. I wanted to keep my job. Now, decades later, it can be told. But I cannot help feeling that if I had been in the union, the management wouldn't have dreamed of docking my pay. 

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These days people move around more. A couple of generations ago there were people who had never strayed more than 20 miles from where they were born. And before television, all people had were the songs and stories of their families and neighbours to keep them entertained. Though, how much time and energy they had left for entertainment at the end of the soul-destroying, back-breaking, drudgery that many had to endure during their working day is debatable. Anyway, the point is many of the stories and songs helped people to know the history of their neighbourhood. And that history helped engender a sense of community. The people who organised the Scottish new towns in the 1950s and 60s seem to have been aware of this. East Kilbride, for instance, had a lot of people from Glasgow settled there and very few residents whose families had lived there for generations. And a lot of the incomers were Catholic. One of the few times folk from East Kilbride featured in Scottish history was when a strong contingent of men from the village showed up at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679.  They fought against the forces of the Crown under a Covenanter banner. That banner used to be on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, and may still be there for all I know. The little Catholic children in 1960s East Kilbride were encouraged to take pride in those Covenanters who stood up, like all good Scots should, for what they believe in.  What the little Catholic children were not told was that if they had ever met one of those Covenanters, things might not have turned out well for them. Those Covenanters may well have run them through with a 14 foot pike and waved their little bodies in the air behind that battle flag hanging at the Kelvingrove. But in the minds of those 1960s social pioneers creating community spirit through history was more important. Indeed, sometimes it is better to forget bits of the story and be happy than remember the whole thing and be sad. History is flexible that way.

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OK, yet another whinge. I'm getting fed up with so-called journalists who automatically assume if they don't know something; then it will be news to everyone. A couple of years ago some stupid radio presenter spent five minutes telling listeners what Diego Garcia was not. She assumed that no-one knew it was an island in the Indian Ocean which the British lease to the Americans for an airbase. She told us that it was not a brand of exotic liqueur and several other things it was not: blah, blah, blah, blah. Boring and time wasting for anyone who knew it was an island. Even worse, in the programme teaser before the hourly news the presenter had told listeners that the eviction of the population of the island of Diego Garcia would be discussed. Not only did she believe her audience was ignorant but it was also composed of people with no short-term memory.  Can we not go back to the days when it was assumed that the listener/viewer/reader had some intelligence and did not appreciate being patronized?

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I can't help feeling that the Scots don't pay enough attention to what happens in Ireland, the Republic of Ireland that is. Sadly, too many Scots are convinced they know a lot about Northern Ireland. Anyway, back to the Republic, or as is sometimes confusingly referred to "The South": Ballyhillin in County Donegal is further north than anywhere in Northern Ireland. Anyway, again, when the Scots consider breaking away from the United Kingdom they don't seem to think it worthwhile looking hard at how things have turned out in the Republic of Ireland, formerly and briefly the Irish Free State, in the past just under 100 years. The two countries have a lot in common, some parts more than others, and probably the same kind of people who run Ireland would end up running an independent Scotland. Just a thought. Something to think about. Would that, could that, be worse than what we have now?

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