#Euro2016 sees tensions between Irish supporters at their most relaxed for decades

Now, not everyone will agree with this piece from  of TCD, but I suspect it has some resonance given the events of recent days (and not just official inputs). But whatever the media perceptions, the data is once again, ahead of the game:

…in 2014, it was found that 63% of those surveyed believed that sport has the potential to break down traditional inter-community barriers. And in 2015, a major study of sport and social exclusion in Northern Ireland found that 84% of participants believe that sports are more open and inclusive than they were ten years ago.

Significantly, the report also revealed an increase in support for the Northern Ireland football team among the Catholic, nationalist community. Two thirds of Catholics surveyed stated a desire for greater support for the team from within their own community.

Browne notes:

The “Football for All” campaign’s mantra is to make sure football is welcoming and inclusive to all members of society in Northern Ireland. The campaign deserves great credit for its attempts to clean up the divisive image of the Northern Ireland football team.

As a result, the choice of following both teams through the Euros – rather than one or the other – has become a more palatable option for football supporters than ever before.

He continues:

Further research indicates that there is a growing clamour to consider starting an all-Ireland football team. Some politicians have supported this approach, which has already been adopted by the rugby and hockey unions. Most of the people in favour of this proposal come from the Catholic community (70%, compared to 39% in the Protestant community).

There’s no determinism attached to this, of course. The popularity of the idea of a single island team may reflect more easily shared allegiances in sporting codes in which participation tends to be loaded either towards unionism or nationalism in Northern Ireland.

Soccer, on the other hand, is burdened with being popular within both communities: with English football clubs being one of the only forms that provide genuine cross-community allegiances. Still, we are a long way from the days when the NI captain had to withdraw because of a death-threat.

The progress since those days of real stress and tension has been immense, much of it down not to the drift of circumstances but to active situational leadership on the part of the IFA. Perhaps others with a more serious political role might learn from their example.

, , ,

  • Redstar

    A load of nonsense- 2/3 of Nats support NI!! Yeah for Euro 2016 the Falls is a sea of Ulster Flags and the bars there filled with the ” customary traditional” NI chants and songs….

  • Ryan A

    I think that’s what it infers i.e., own community; the Republic – Mick might be worth clarifying?

  • Redstar

    Possibly Ryan, but it does state ” Catholic Nat community” which normally refers to the North

  • murdockp

    If the Irish Rugby Union structure could be applied to soccer, this would be called progress in most peoples book. It is like the peoples Judean front in the life of Brian watching the Irish Football association and the Football Association of Ireland demonstrate to the world they are from different countries.

    It is funny that the Unionist community detest all things Irish but are happy to have the Ireland name as a stand alone Island word in the “Church of Ireland” and “The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland” and ‘Irish’ in their soccer team.

    The international community must be having a right laugh at this small island sending two teams and supporters to a football tournament dressed head to toe in green and supporting their teams in exactly the same way, with unbridled happiness at being there.

    Reminds me of the Simpsons St Patrick’s day episode.

    My point is we should have one soccer team for Ireland, it works for Rugby.

  • Redstar

    Murdock this explains it all!!!!!!


  • WindowLean

    It then says “Two thirds of Catholics surveyed stated a desire for greater support for the team from within their own community”

    What exactly does that mean?

  • Alan N/Ards

    “It is funny that the Unionist community detest all things Irish but are happy to have the Ireland name as a stand alone Island word in the “Church of Ireland” and “The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland” and ‘Irish’ in their soccer team.”

    I’m not sure you can say that the unionist community, as a whole, detests all things Irish. Yes, they mightn’t like Irish republicanism and the emblems that represent republicanism, but that’s a different thing altogether. There are many of us who celebrate on St. Patrick’s day, but under a different flag. I’m a member of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland but I’m not a citizen of the Irish republic, while other members of the Presbyterian church are citizens of that state. But we are united by our belief in God.

    The IRFU way of doing things is, to a degree, working in uniting rugger fans on this island. Using Ireland’s Call for away games, is a recognition that all Irish rugby fans do not belong to, or give allegiance to, the ROI. Do you accept that as being a positive step by the IRFU? I, and many other rugby fans, long for the day when it’s the only anthem used at The Aviva. It will mean we don’t have to stand (respectfully but uncomfortably looking at our shoes) in silence, while our fellow islanders sing their anthem.

    If you are talking about an all Ireland team which uses the Irish anthem and flag for home games in the south, but a different anthem for away games, and all the games in Dublin, then there’s no point in talking about it. If you want to see a flag and anthem that both sides can embrace for this team, along with equal number of games in Belfast and Dublin, then that’s fair enough.

    I think the way the fans are getting on should give people (like you) hope that it might happen down the road. Anything is possible, if people want something badly enough. At the end of the day, it will be the fans who will decide if they can support an all island team. The way that they are getting on in France should give us all hope that enemies can be reconciled through sport. Will that lead to an all island team ten years from now? Who knows.

  • Redstar

    I don’t really know. It must mean the laughable claim that 2/3 support NI – otherwise why would they be wanting greater support within their own community . It’s nonsense

  • Redstar

    Fair points well made Alan.

    Do you then understand why Nats are not comfortable with GSTQ being played for NI games? I mean Wales and Scotland don’t use it and as you say a compromise was made for the rugby team

  • Ciaran74

    The pressure on the Irish in the north to accommodate/ appease/ and acquiesce to Unionism, which is utterly uncompromising, is relentless. Birth trends, as well as political developments outside of Ireland are against Unionism. The subtle war is to erode the will of nationalists, who as a people are historically susceptible to agreement, even when it is not always in their best interests.

  • WindowLean

    The report itself is nearly 400 pages. On page 288 the question is “I would like to see an all-Ireland soccer team instead of one each for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland” 54% either Agree or Agree Strongly and 23% Neither Agree nor Disagree. Also it says 40% of Protestants either Agree or Agree Strongly. Can that be right?? Caveat: not all respondents identified themselves as either Catholic or Protestant.

  • You could turn all this on its head and say people must find it weird that the uk has 3 teams in the euros. Why dont we have a uk wide team? Why would it have to be an all ireland team?

    An all ireland rugby team might be swallowed by more amenable grammar school type unionists, but i cant see it ever flyling in working class protestant areas where the ni football supporters are drawn.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Absolutely. I have said it many times (on slugger). NI needs to have it’s own anthem. The only time GSTQ should be used is when a UK team is competing. NI and England should not be using it to represent their teams. I want an anthem and flag that nobody should feel embarrassed by. I’m sure some people will think that I am a Lundy, but I don’t care. I’m sick to the back teeth of people thinking that they have the right to impose their allegiances on a minority.

    I also believe that the only time the Irish anthem and flag should be used is when the team is representing the Republic. Like the football team. Teams, which are made up and supported by both unionist and nationalist, need to use an anthem and flag that all can embrace. I’m happy for people to be Irish republican, but there are times when the emblems need to be left at home to make every one feel welcome.. Likewise for NI supporters and their emblems.

  • woodkerne

    Wishful thinking, I’d say. The level of tacit support among non and anti-unionists for the NI team probably has increased and perhaps even among republicans in recent years. I suspect though rather like the Tebbit cricket test that an increasing strength of feeling among nationalists in the north is for a second-favourite ‘national’ team – after the RoI. And this representation of twoness, thinking about it, is entirely apt reflecting as it does a divided polity, culture and civil society in which instititutions of integration – of oneness if you will – are few. As common experience and shared symbols increase over time, genuinely unitary identification with and for an Irish team may one day emerge. (As an index of change, one suspects, if it does, the border will already be irrelevant.) However, so long as Windsor Park remains the home of the NI team and while the local football authority insists on God Save the Queen as a ‘national anthem’ (as with the Poland game the other night), the level of alienation among northern Irish catholics is bound to remain high.

  • Ciaran74

    The IFA used this study to show that 70% of Catholics were behind the NI team. And they got Oonagh to comment on it! The study, like all social sciences probes for areas of interest, even where there aren’t any. This one is pretty wide but the ‘desire’ word was soft enough to get a accommodating response. Hard statements like want to support or actually supporting would return a vastly different result. The history, the flag, and the anthem are just too much to swallow. But they’ll keep working on us……

  • Redstar

    Bah, it’s annoying when someone posts in response and you cannot disagree with any of it!! Fair play to you Alan

  • Ciaran74

    With 2.9% of the population, team content would be negligible, and the NI football world would evaporate. Crack on.

    As an all Ireland sporting entity, it has critical mass. I’m afraid in soccer terms both teams need acts of God (luck) to be consistent contenders.

  • eamoncorbett

    On the other hand FIFA may eventually force the UK to play as one team , as they do in the Olympics . The only reason that this doesn’t happen now is because of an acknowledgment by the governing body that England first introduced the game to the world . I don’t think that this situation can last forever as with most traditions an end must surely come .
    A scenario as described above would mean NI players would either have to play their way in to a UK side or do without international football . The other alternative ,use the dual nationality clause and play for the ROI . This is not as far fetched as it seems , when you consider that all the Russian republics are forced to play under one banner even though they are as different from one another aS Chinese are to Swedes . However I do agree with your last two paragraphs , I was merely pointing out other ways that an all Ireland team could come about.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Lol. Thank you. Look, the way the fans from this island have been getting on is (hopefully) going to improve relations (on the football front) on this island for years to come. I absolutely am so happy to see both sets of fans enjoying themselves, in each others company.

    I heard Mark Simpson’s report about a bar, in Nice, which has been the base for NI fans this past week. He talked about a ROI fan coming in wearing a Celtic top and there was not a word said to him or the people he was with. That for me speaks volumes. Okay, I know that it only takes a couple of morons to start things off but, I genuinely believe that we have turned a corner, and I am so thankful for that.

  • Jimmyz

    Good job we are not depending on the GAA on breaking down barriers then

  • hgreen

    Well I think in return for the IFA ditching their anthem in the north the GAA should do the same and have the counties have their own tunes.

  • hgreen

    I and I’m sure many other nationalists have children involved in IFA run competitions here in the N.I. The representatives from the IFA I have met at youth level are a credit to the organization. There is a huge amount of goodwill to be tapped from the nationalist community however the GSTQ anthem remains a big barrier. Wish they’d get over it and use Danny Boy.

  • hgreen

    The falls is hardly representative of the rest of N.I.

  • woodkerne

    Or The Mountains of Mourne or …. Might indeed be an opportunity to invite nominations and public consultation on selecting a non-sectarian alternative?

  • murdockp

    an all island team should represent all people’s in Ireland. the joint culture is both our histories however unpleasant at times this history has been.

    however i still am of the view many unionists are anti Irish culture. the grinding of the word uisce from the manholes of ballymena and the irish emblmes lined up for burning on bonfire night show how insecure many unionists / loyalistd have become.

    this is nothing to do with republicanism as I don’t believe un a UI.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Who don’t we have a UK team? That’s easy. Because everyone in the UK is completely opposed to the idea. Perhaps the more intriguing question is why do two of the three teams from the UK competing in the euros choose to use the UK national anthem as their anthem when the UK doesn’t even have a team,

  • Jollyraj

    “Birth trends, as well as political developments outside of Ireland are against Unionism”

    Absolute nonsense. And nothing to do with football. So let’s briefly deal with it…

    No one is born unionist or nationalist.

    Given that there is more quiet support for remaining in the UK right across all communities, unionism is in fierce good shape.

    Now perhaps we can stay on topic?

  • Mary Rader
  • Am Ghobsmacht

    What about some sort of rendition of Dougie McLean’s ‘The Gael’? (Better known as the Last of the Mohicans tune)

  • woodkerne

    Don’t know it but absolutely why not. What’s needed is some manner of consensus – a head of steam – and campaign for a truly popular, secular and pluralist buy-in, don’t you think?

  • Ciaran74

    But we are born ‘something’ Jolly? Right? I may have become a nationalist but it was odds on given 95% of my family history is Irish Gaelic.

    That would surely lead to a positioning in certain subjects, one being whether I believe NI is a country and if I can or should even support them. Staying on the topic.

    Is traditional unionism really in fierce shape? Italy will do well this time out but they will all retire afterwards. Although Arlene and others do not want to admit it just yet, unionism is looking for Irish people to become light unionists for the future existence of NI.

  • Ciaran74

    Do you really think the Govt of NI flag can be replaced Alan? It’s a pretty sensitive proposal but it would reduce anti-NI branded sport feeling.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘….further research indicates that there is a growing clamour to consider starting an all-Ireland football team. Some politicians have supported this approach, which has already been adopted by the rugby and hockey unions.’
    No they did not adopt. The unionists and ‘West Britons’ who played these sports simply took little notice of Irish independence and partition in the first place.

  • Skibo

    That is very unfair. The GAA is open to all and everyone is free to play. The Association has been deamonised for years by Unionist politicians and was only ever interested in sports.

  • Skibo

    The main reason for not having a UK team is the associations. They each have a vote. To amalgamate the teams would mean amalgamating the associations and leave the UK with one vote as opposed to four.
    This is a point foreign associations have raised before.

  • Gingray

    I imagine a lot of those Protestants who agree are not football fans 🙂

  • Alan N/Ards

    One can only hope. The same question can be/ has been asked about the Tricolour and Irish rugby. I honestly, genuinely hope that common sense will prevail and we (republicans and unionists) can leave our emblems at home and unite under whatever emblems that are not contentious to the other side.

    I don’t want people to stop being unionist or nationalist. I just want people imposing their flag and anthem on their neighbours, as we live in a divided land. The IFA and IRFU are making efforts to make both sports a welcoming place for all but more needs to be done.

    I really hope that the fans ( from both sides) who have met in met in France can keep in touch and hopefully build friendships that last a life time. You know, when you make a friend of someone who you think is your enemy, then he/she is no longer your enemy. It’s the way to go, and fair play to every one for being a credit to this island.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I have no idea how many people attend 11th night bonfires but I doubt if it is the majority of unionists. It might be the majority of people in working class areas, but a definite minority in middle class areas. I am of course guessing here, as I don’t attend them my myself.

    As for the the stupid people in Ballymena who complained about the word uisce on manhole covers – they drive me nuts. Seriously!

    Saying that, I remember the Irish cultural festival at Ardoyne last year, when the performers made a number of sectarian comments and it didn’t appear to be an event that would have made unionists welcome. I do realise that many other events are better organised than this one.

  • Katyusha

    “If you want to see a flag and anthem that both sides can embrace for this team, along with equal number of games in Belfast and Dublin, then that’s fair enough.”

    Not buying it unless Cork get an equal number of games and some red in the team colours. And a red star above the crest to both proclaim the People’s Republic and fool the opposition into thinking we once won a tournament. Combined with NI’s navy blue we end up with a flag like this.

    I jest. Personally, I don’t mind having two teams. It looks a bit silly, but then England isn’t a state either. I just want to be free to support either or both without getting abuse for supporting the “wrong” side. The reconciliation is good to see.

  • Jollyraj

    I may have become a nationalist but it was odds on given 95% of my family history is Irish Gaelic.

    Not big on personal choice, then?

  • Ciaran74

    Anarcho-syndicalism was short on the ground in Belfast in the 80’s and Unionism was just too mean, in a generosity sense……

  • Tochais Siorai

    Ah, Cork people………….God help them and their Peoples Republic.

    How about keeping two Irish international teams? One for 31 counties and the other for Cork.

  • Oggins


  • NotNowJohnny

    As I said, no one wants it. Not the supporters. Not the associations. Not the leagues. Not the players. No one. It’s nothing to do with the vote. The reason FIFA might wish it may be related to the vote but that’s the only part the vote plays in this. And FIFA is definitely not going to insist on it.

  • Anglo-Irish

    How about this?

    Memories of childhood ‘summers’ evocative or what?

  • Enda

    And do not Ulster unionists choose their political bent based on ancestral lineage, yourself included I presume Jolly? Where’s the personal choice in any of it?

  • Jollyraj

    Many people do, from all sides to a greater or lesser degree. Personally, no, my background instilled no particular political beliefs in me. As an adult I travelled around the world and explored my own thinking. And at this stage in life I am happy with my identity and status as a British citizen living within the UK, and have never yet heard a convincing argument as to why we in NI should wish to opt out of the UK and form a new experimental state with the Irish. Hence, I suppose, I’m a unionist.

  • Skibo

    Isn’t it wonderful to be so well connected that you can speak for all the supporters, all the associations, all the leagues and everybody else not covered by that.

  • Redstar

    Amazing result for NI and their fans. Credit where credits due. Crapping it for us v Belgium!!!

  • Alan N/Ards

    Fantastic night for the players. Terrible news about another fan dying.

    I hope the republic do well. It will be great for this island if both teams do well. Come on the boys in green.

  • Redstar

    Absolutely horrible. Puts everything in perspective. . Thoughts with the family

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I think this is more apt from a supporter’s point of view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlBiLNN1NhQ

  • Anglo-Irish

    Unfortunately that song is used by Manure fans and as they are footballs Marmite it isn’t going to work.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m not speaking for them. I’m expressing my view based on my knowledge and understanding of the issue and that view is that the reason is that it is because no one wants it and that it has nothing to do with the vote. However if you have some basis fur believing that if any if the supporters, leagues or Associations are in favour, then I’d be interested to hear it

  • Jimbob7810

    The Irish words on the man hole covers were stupid and pointless. Nobody in Ballymena speaks Irish and everybody can speak English. Irish is a language for Ireland, not the U.K.

  • Jimbob7810

    If the Catholics or Republicans don’t want to hear the UK’s national anthem, or don’t want to see the Ulster Banner representing Northern Ireland, why don’t they support the Republic instead, because a brave lot of the republic’s players are from Northern Ireland, so why can’t they just see that as an all-Ireland team? Maybe some just want to take over the Unionists’ football team as well as everything else they’ve tried to take over.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Can’t say fairer than that Joĺly

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Why can’t we play the UK anthem for UK games and a NI anthem for NI games?