The Basques: Their Struggle for Independence

By Luis Núñez Astrain; Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

A PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO
SELF-DETERMINATION

A comparison of the Basque and Irish cases

The Basque protest movement is often compared with those in other countries, sometimes with a view to finding similarities in the armed struggle or else in the Nationalist nature of the conflict. The case with which it can be best compared is probably that of Ireland, another European country, where both the armed struggle and the national element are to be found.

Ireland has about 5 million inhabitants, 70% of whom live in the Irish Republic and 30% in the six northern counties under British rule. The population of the Basque Country is approximately 2,873,000, of whom 91% live in the southern provinces under the jurisdiction of Spain and 9% in the north under that of France. Whenever a Spaniard goes to Bayonne or Biarritz, he goes into France, but when a Basque from the south makes the same journey he goes 'to the north' or 'to the other side'. The Spaniard refers to ' Spain' or ' France' whereas the Basque calls them 'the Spanish State' or 'the French State', thus making clear (with these cumbersome expressions) his respect for the Basque point of view, since the Basques have never been consulted as to whether they want to belong to Spain and France.

A similar terminological precision is to be found in Ireland and one of the things that strikes Basques whenever they talk to Irish people is that they too have recourse to correcting certain English usages. Those who are in favour of the unification of the island call themselves Nationalists or Republicans (and sometimes Catholics) and they call their opponents Unionists, that is those who favour the union with Great Britain, or else Protestants.

For Nationalists the town known to Unionists as Londonderry is

-142-

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