Ruth Dudley Edwards has been travelling in Northern Ireland and finds the Protestant inhabitants west of the Bann subdued and wary of some the younger generation amongst their Catholic neighbours. In an area where RTE is no stranger to local protestants, she detects some shift in attitudes around the GAA:
“Once,” said a woman from a loyalist enclave, “we’d have wanted Tyrone to beat Kerry in the Gaelic football final. Now, because of the way their supporters carry on these days, we were mad keen for Kerry to win last weekend. We begrudged Tyrone their victory.”
GAA followers from the south are reported to be civil, but locals to have moved from being unfriendly to downright abusive and sometimes violent.
After last Sunday’s match and the noisy cavalcades with their blaring horns and people beating their fists on the tops of cars caught in traffic jams, in Cookstown, Dungannon and Omagh, there were fights between loyalist and republican youths until well into the small hours.