• September 17, 2023

There is a difference between separatism and secession. I suppose the most marked example of a national group carved off from their homeland by an arbitrary ‘treaty’ are the nationalist community of the North East of Ireland. The six counties were created to accommodate the pro unionist element. In the process of drawing lines across a country clearly called IRELAND nationalists found themselves in another ‘State’.

Another example in Europe is the German speaking community of South Tyrol also called the ‘Autonomous Province of Bolzano’).

After the defeat of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires in World War One the area was annexed by Italy. Indeed Italy’s entry into the war on the British and French side was conditional on a guarantee in the 1915 Treaty of London to grant the South Tyrol area to Italy. At the time the vast majority of its people were German speakers.

Despite a reminder to President Woodrwo Wilson in 1919 that he had said Italy’s post war border world recognise clearly lines of nationality the subsequent ‘Treaty of St Germain’ gave South Tyrol to Italy. In the process a dispute that lasts to this day was created.

Of course the National makeup changed as German speakers migrated to Austria and Italian speaking immigrants moved to the area. Today it’s suggested that a divide favours continued linkage to Italy although German speakers still migrate to Austria.

The autonomous status granted in 1972 to South Tyrol has today eased some tensions and ended the armed conflict and bombing campaign that existed in the 50/60s. However, despite autonomy, independence activists who took part in that earlier bombing campaign were still in jail in the 1990s and as recently as 2009 the words Ein Tyrol (one Turol) were burned into a hillside by secessionists.

Image: Members of the German speaking people from South Tyrol protest on the streets of Vienna in 1956. A 1972 treaty between Austria and Italy defused tensions however as recently as 2009 demonstration calling for ’Ein Tyrol’ occurred (Inset).

Bernard Moffatt

AGS Celtic League (17th September 2023)

May be an image of 13 people, the Brandenburg Gate and text



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