Despite my mother’s best royalist efforts, I have long been a Republican—a state of affairs reinforced by 15 years among our American cousins who have built a pretty impressive country on the proposition that anyone can be anything they choose. But this conviction is repeatedly undermined by the 85-year-old lady currently visiting Eire. Throughout my life, she has not only been a class act as Head of State but has shown a dedication and unflappable consistency that elicits unqualified admiration and keeps confounding my republican leanings.
This week, she is at it again, raising the ante by being the first British monarch to visit Eire. And when she laid a wreath today in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, it was an act of groundbreaking diplomacy and sheer humanity. For this is not the Irish National War Memorial where the 300,000 who fought and the 49,000 who died in British uniform are still remembered. An Gairdín Cuimhneacháin is dedicated to “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom” starting in 1189, up through the Easter Rebellion of 1916 to the 1919-21 skirmishes—in all cases struggles against British rule. As an eloquent act of contrition for past wrongs, there can be few equals to this simple ceremony. And if the only casualty of this historic act, this gesture for a better future is my republicanism, then I am well satisfied.
But, as I reflected on this, what satisfied me more was a realisation that what sets us Scots apart from our close Irish kin is we have no Garden of Remembrance. In the last hundred years, from Keir Hardie’s hopes, through the stillborn Liberal bill of 1914, the Covenant, the Claim of Right and our reconvened parliament, the cause of Scottish Independence has moved from dreams to the verge of reality. And, proud as I am of the growing band of patriots who made that long journey possible, nothing compares to pride I feel that all this has been achieved without the loss of one single life—possibly even no serious injury—and that we Scots have no need for any Garden of Remembrance.
Long may it remain so.