SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has insisted the insular nationalism that led to the English and Welsh Brexit majorities last year couldn’t be more in contrast with the pro-European nationalisms espoused in Ireland and Scotland.
Mr. Eastwood made the observation while delivering the ‘Ivy Day’ oration at Charles Stewart Parnell’s graveside in Dublin on Sunday.
He said long-standing relationships across Ireland and Britain had been funamnentally altered by the Brexit vote.
“The historic and delicate equilibrium imagined by John Hume and endorsed by the Irish people in 1998, in the context of EU membership, has been shaken by a subsequent referendum 18 years later,” said Mr. Eastwood.
“Put simply, the Brexit referendum result means that the English people have chosen a very different future from that chosen by the Irish people, north and south.
“That will almost certainly result in a distinct divergence in terms of economic positioning but it equally may mean a significant divergence in political values between the two islands,” he added.
Mr. Eastwood discerned in the Brexit vote a tale of two nationalisms on two islands.
He explained: “In the political undergrowth, the Brexit referendum and its aftermath told the story of two distinct and diverging nationalisms.
“The first saw the re-emergence of an English nationalism, a concoction of deep discontent and disaffection which has bubbled and brewed under the radar over recent years. It is a nationalism which, through tactics laced with fear, has prospered on the promise of reverting inward and backward. It is a vision which embraces isolation and attempts to lock the door on modernity through the bogeyman proxy of the European Union.
“The other is the progressive nationalism seen emerging most prominently here in Ireland and in Scotland.
“Instead of being needlessly narrow, it is outward looking and inclusive. It believes that nationhood and identity is strengthened through co-operation and partnership. It is a nationalism confident and comfortable in its own skin, open to offering identity and belonging to all.”
He said the various nations of Ireland and Britain were now moving into unchartered waters.
“The stories of these two nationalisms will, from this moment on, journey in very different directions. They are two journeys which will inevitably end at very different destinations.”