The Irish lies of Basque nationalism
Open letter to Bertie Ahern
27th April 2016
As you recently welcomed Mr. Arnaldo Otegi to participate in the celebration of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising as part of his Irish tour, I am writing to you to inform you of some information that he is unlikely to have told you.
His friendship is anything but disinterested: Mr. Otegi’s goal is to latch onto you in an attempt to equate the political cause he represents with the Irish people’s age-old struggle for national freedom. However, the reality is quite different.
1- You know very well that the Irish people have been confronting the English for centuries. On the other hand, the Basques have always formed part of Spain, a nation which they built from the very beginning along with the rest of the Spanish people.
2- In the Middle Ages, while the English were conquering Ireland by military force, the Basques were conquering Spain by military force. Open any history book and look up the term ‘Reconquista’. You will see that it consisted of a violent war and repopulation process carried out by the Christians of the north – among them, the Basques – to drive out the Muslim invaders from the entire Spanish territory.
3- The English imposed domination by a foreign kingdom upon Ireland. The Basques, along with other northern Christians, gave rise to the kingdom of Castile.
4- The English had to fight numerous battles to defeat the Irish, who struggled time and again to free themselves from English control. Never has there been any battle to oblige the Basques to form part of Spain.
5- The Irish were conquered and colonised by the English. The Basques have been privileged conquerors and colonisers of half of the world. For centuries, they were Spanish navigators, conquerors, admirals, governors, generals and viceroys. How many Irish people had such a role in Great Britain?
6- The Irish were economically, socially, legally and politically marginalised for centuries for the mere fact of being Irish: remember the Statutes of Kilkenny and the Penal Laws. The Basques have enjoyed significant privileges and have formed part of the Spanish ruling class for centuries for the mere fact of being Basque. The writer Pío Baroja, from Guipúzcoa, wrote: “Guipuzcoans have never experienced any kind of oppression; on the contrary, Guipuzcoans have been a privileged group in Spain, which has given them an aristocratic position within the Spanish state”.
7- How many Irish people have governed the United Kingdom? None. How many Basques have governed Spain? Countless numbers.
8- The Irish were driven off their land so that it could be handed to the English. The Basques have never been driven away from anywhere.
9- Ireland was repopulated by English and Scottish colonisers. The Spanish didn’t repopulate the Basque Country; it was the Basques who repopulated Spain for centuries. The entire Spanish territory is covered with place names that confirm this fact.
10- The Irish were decimated on various occasions by English armies. Just think of Cromwell. Nothing like this ever happened to the Basques.
11- Thousands of Irish people were enslaved and deported to the English colonies in the Caribbean. In Spain, no Basque was ever enslaved or deported. While the Irish were travelling to America to be used as slaves, the Basques were leaving to serve as viceroys.
12- A million Irish people died of hunger and disease in the 19th century due to their poor living conditions and the disinterest of the government in London. Remember Sir Charles Trevelyan. In Spain nothing similar ever happened, and the Basques never had to suffer under any Trevelyan. The Basque Miguel de Unamuno wrote about his province at the beginning of the 20th century: “Material life is good there, very good; there may be no other region in Spain that lives better. They eat well, they drink well –perhaps in excess-, they sleep well, people work and enjoy themselves”.
13- While the Irish had to emigrate to avoid dying of hunger at home, the Basque Country attracted workers from other parts of Spain due to its prosperity. For many decades, the Basque provinces were –and continue to be– the wealthiest in Spain with regard to per capita income and living conditions.
14- In Ireland, there was and continues to be conflict between two religious communities. Not in Spain. The Irish have suffered centuries of persecution because of their religion. In Spain, the Basques have never been persecuted for their religion or for any other reason.
15- The Irish have traditionally swelled the ranks of the proletariat in a country economically dominated by the English. In the Basque Country, not only is there no foreign exploitation of the local proletariat, but rather the opposite situation has occurred during certain periods. That’s why one of the homes of Spanish socialism was Bilbao. Besides, the Basque capital has been investing all over Spain for several centuries.
16- Irish nationalism developed primarily following the Great Famine from 1845-48, when the disastrous situation in the country appeared to make political change inevitable. Basque nationalism emerged at a time when the level of industrialisation and wealth in the Basque Country greatly exceeded the Spanish average.
17- For a long time in Ireland, there was armed conflict between two groups employing terrorist tactics. In the Basque Country, there has been no armed conflict between two groups. One of the groups has contributed the bullets. The other has provided the victims.
18- As a general rule, those in Northern Ireland who do not support the unification of Ireland are the descendants of English and Scottish Protestant colonisers. Non-separatist Basques are not the descendants of foreign colonisers, but are just as Basque as the separatists. And many separatists are recently arrived who have joined separatism to follow a trend and to avoid the possibility of being victims of terrorism.
19- In Ireland, nationalism and terrorism are the consequence of centuries of British domination. In the Basque Country, where there is no and has never been any Spanish domination, terrorism and oppression are the product of Basque nationalism.
20- And, finally, although Mr. Otegi may have laid flowers in memory of the fallen in 1916, bear in mind that whereas they were Irish patriots who placed “the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God” and confronted the British army face to face, those represented by Mr. Otegi, besides being communists, are a group of fanatical cowards who have been killing from behind for half a century.
Don’t be fooled by false information. I hope these lines have been useful to you and I wish you all the best.