Despite the Madrid Government’s attempts to seal Catalonia off from world opinion, throughout Europe there is avid interest in what the Catalan people are so valiantly fighting for today. Irish people see Madrid relying too much on imposing the rule of law and powerful institutions. Democracies should encourage governance for and by the people, also with and for their neighbours, and not have recourse to law courts interpreting documents inherited from repressive regimes such as Franco’s decades ago.
In electing representatives that support self-determination, even though some of them were in prison or in exile, the Catalan people have clearly indicated their wishes. They have obtained a splendid victory under the worst conditions, without their candidates being able to even campaign, some being in prison, others in exile such as President Puigdemont. In the long run Catalonia’s wishes cannot be frustrated by the rich and powerful. The victory attained, once again, by the pro-independence forces must be respected. No regime should claim it has the authority to prevent the Catalan people from flourishing and developing, if they so wish.
Those aware of Irish history see clear parallels between the current Catalan situation and the outcome of the Irish elections in December 1918, whose centenary we will celebrate this year. A majority of the elected members chose to set up an independent parliament in Dublin. However, almost half of these elected representatives were not able to attend that meeting. They were being held in British prisons. These included my maternal grandfather Terence MacSwiney, who later in 1920 got great support from the people of Catalonia, when he was again held in prison, this time during a hunger strike that led to his death.
The Irish and Catalan situations are not very different. Catalan leaders are imprisoned and exiled in an attempted repression of the Catalan people. They may like to know that, despite the gloom and hardships suffered by Ireland a century ago, soon after that Irish independence was recognized. Spain cannot democratically sustain an oppressive and hostile rule over the Catalan people indefinitely into the future. If the Catalans persevere and maintain their self-determination despite misrule and tyranny, they are sure to follow in the democratic path the Irish opened up one century ago.
Cathal MacSwiney Brugha is the grandson of Terence MacSwiney, mayor of Cork that died in the hunger strike in 1920.