People tend not to change, but generations do.
There appears to be a gestation period for a fundamental shift in attitudes that is longer than a single lifetime.
I saw this in the Marriage Equality Referendum here in this country.
There was a clear shift in attitudes from the fifty something to the twenty something.
I’m proud to say that this old duffer was proudly with the young team when we made Grá the law.
At my stage of the game, I tend to look at the younger generation to see how they view things.
Because quite simply they will be the ones to take things forward.
Cat Boyd is of that cohort and today she wrote a powerful piece in The National.
She shared with her readers a recent interaction with a detachment of the Famine Song Ensemble.
For the avoidance of doubt, this racist ditty is illegal in Scotland and has been ruled to be so since June 2009.
At the core of Cat’s piece is an understanding that modern Scotland has abnormalised itself apropos Irishness.
Moreover, it looks rather strange to the outside world.
This becomes increasingly apparent around Saint Patrick’s Day.
The recent story about the tricolour in North Lanarkshire is a case in point.
It is to her credit that she challenged the genocide choristers and it reminded me of my own brood.
Because of the decision that was taken by their mother and myself they have not encountered what Cat faced down on the Glasgow subway.
If I were to mention this vignette to them, they simply wouldn’t get it.
They have grown up in an environment where it is safe to be culturally Irish.
Indeed, that is true of any major city in the developed world.
Except in the one that their father is from.
For them, Saint Patrick’s Day is a childhood memory when they took part in the parade in their school uniforms.
For the Big Fella, it was also when he…ahem… soaked up the ambience in Dublin as a tipsy Trinity undergrad.
No harm in any of this.
To quote Cat:
“…they are about as politically inflammatory as Riverdance or The Corrs…”
However, for The People ANY manifestation of Irishness seems to enrage them.
It is no coincidence that the city that gave the world The Famine song also has no fitting memorial to An Gorta Mór and no Patrick’s day parade that the rest of the world would recognise.
I am of the generation born in the West of Scotland in the 1950s.
The message I grew up was never to react when the inevitable bigoted abuse was hurled at you.
It was our pre-appointed place at the back of the bus and that was that.
When I look at young people like Cat Boyd and Angela Haggerty, I know that the seating arrangements have been irrevocably rearranged.
They simply will not tolerate what I was taught was the natural order of things in Scotland.
I hope that this strong voice is heard in Holyrood after the election.
Therefore, I think it fitting to give herself the last word:
“Let’s celebrate our city’s Irish heritage, and be proud of it together – not be cowed by bigots.”