On mixing politics and sport..

Peter Hain attended Ireland’s previous rugby match.. in Cardiff.. and since Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was also there it’s likely he had his Welsh Secretary’s hat on for the match. But in two weeks time Peter Hain is due to watch the game against England, in Croke Park. And, while the question of which team he will be supporting this time isn’t exactly clear, there may be another issue to guarantee a headline or two for our, shared, campaigning Secretary. In the Observer, Henry McDonald reports that the NIO is considering plans for the Secretary of State for Wales, etc, to “lay a wreath at a memorial to 13 Gaelic sports fans shot dead by British forces inside the stadium in 1920 and issue an apology from the British government.” Meanwhile Republican Sinn Féin have stated they will be picketing the match.. so much for “a new and utterly contemporary spectacle”.. Updated below the foldPerhaps the most interesting reaction is from former Ireland international Trevor Ringland..

Former Ireland international and British Lion Trevor Ringland said last night that the proposal for such a politically charged ceremony posed great dangers for peace and reconciliation. Ringland, who runs the anti-sectarian ‘One Small Step’ campaign in Northern Ireland, said: “The fact that this game is being played at Croke Park, thanks to the generous decision of the Gaelic Athletic Association, will have positive ripple effects for the future.

“But plans for a wreath-laying ceremony and the apology will only mix sport with politics. It will bring the politics of the 20th century into the attempts at reconciliation in the 21st century. The government should think again before going ahead with something like this.”

‘While RSF stated..

Des Dalton, RSF’s vice-president, said: “The political symbolism of inviting the national team of a country which forcibly occupies part of Ireland to Croke Park is something Irish republicans are determined to publicly protest against.”

Also in the report

Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson accused the Northern Ireland Office of ‘monumental stupidity’ in contemplating the wreath-laying ceremony: ‘Whoever thought up this bright idea ought to consign it now to the dustbin of history. Rugby has always been a community where politics and sports do not mix. I sincerely hope this plan is dropped immediately, as it would outrage thousands of rugby fans, not only in Northern Ireland but also across this island.’

The Northern Ireland Office has yet to decide finally if the Secretary of State will take part in the ceremony. He is scheduled to attend the match.

Update The decision appears to be in

..a Government spokesman said today: “There is no ceremonial gesture being considered by the Irish and British Governments in the context of the forthcoming Six Nations international between Ireland and England at Croke Park.”

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