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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  • SuperSoupy

    Maybe you’d care to revist thc Curistan story you so doggedly pusued in light of today’s news? Or would balance be asking to much?

  • heck

    SF alex maskey laid a wreath for dead brits at the city hall when he was mayor of belfast. The GAA have let this game happen at croke park-scene of an earlier british was crime.

    looking at Donaldson’s reaction it looks like SF are attempting reconcillation while big**s like donaldson want to stay in the past.

    Unfortunately I think donaldson’s views reflect the majority unionist population. It has’nt changed since the days of Terrence O’neil. “If only fenians would behave like good prods then we would have peace”.

  • SuperSoupy

    On the substance, I’m at a loss to see how the ramblings of RSF are a reflection on the GAA, IRFU or Irish sport in general.

    RSF represent the past and nothing else, certainly not anything other than the tiniest minority in Ireland.

    As was clear by the coverage today the use of Croke Park is seen as a significant event, if the British government want to make a gesture of closure over the historical rift between the GAA and the British establishment (something the GAA have clearly worked towards healing), fairplay and big deal.

    In addition it makes the RSF protest look even more idiotic and backward looking, good.

    More importantly I hope Hain enjoys the rugby and England get stuffed.

  • SuperSoupy

    Is the history of today’s match getting the better of Ireland?

    They only seem to have gained an element of focis as the 1st half was ending.

    Hopefully, they get their mind back on the job and any sense of greater history in the England game doesn’t deflect them from the task.

  • SuperSoupy

    Pete,

    btw: It was 12 spectators and Tipp captain Michael Hogan.

  • Diluted Orange

    heck

    [i]SF alex maskey laid a wreath for dead brits at the city hall when he was mayor of belfast. The GAA have let this game happen at croke park-scene of an earlier british was crime.[/i]

    Wreaths laid at the City Hall on Rememberance Day are left not just for ‘dead Brits’ but dead Irish too. Hundreds of Irish perished in battles such as the Somme in World War I from both the Unionist and Nationalist communities from all across the island.

    Secondly, you might call me a bigot but I don’t see the point of dragging up the past (and we’re talking 86 years here) just because a rugby match against England is to be played at Croke Park. This whole act is deliberately putting politics into the sporting arena, where it doesn’t belong. It will only serve to heighten tensions before what will already be a highly-charged match.

    Personally, I feel this gesture from the British government should be seen for what it is – opportunism and a photo event for Hain, as they’ve had plenty of time before now to express their condolences for the Black and Tans campaign in Ireland.

  • George

    “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.” ”

    I recommended such a move last year. Smart one.

  • The Third Policeman

    Hmmm, I’d be more impressed with a wreath and an apology for the 14 who were gunned down at Bloody Sunday 1972. Donaldson would have nothing to complain about there surely….

  • parcifal

    A good a time as any for Britian to do the decent and honourable thing.

  • lib2016

    “I’d be more impressed with a wreath and an apology who were gunned down….in 1972”

    There have already been admissions by the British authorities that all the people killed on the Derry Bloody Sunday were innocent and official regrets expressed for what happened that day.

    Let’s remember that apologies are due from all sides for the injuries inflicted on and by all sides and that minimising other people’s hurt is the ultimate insult to the dead.

    Any expressions of regret from whatever quarter should be accepted at face value if we want to move on. Maskey did the right thing as others on all sides have done before and since. I hope the British do find some acceptable gesture before the match but it is a sign of hope that some people at least are trying to improve the atmosphere. It will inevitably happen at some time, the sooner the better.

  • Such a gesture of contrition would be a positive move imho.
    Eamonn Dunphy, certainly not a provo, described the events of 1920 inside Croker as “state terrorism in our capital”.

    It is remarkable that there has never been a formal apology from the British government for this atrocity against innocent people.

  • Observer

    Isn’t it amazing that an offer to apologise for the state murder of innocent civilians can provoke anger.
    What are they angry about?

  • Phil McAvity

    “While the question of which team he will be supporting this time isn’t exactly clear”

    Now let’s see, one of the most anti-English people in one of the most anti-English parties in UK politics, who do you think he’ll be supporting? It is also no surprise that this odious man and his corrupt government would jump at the chance to use an English sporting event to make one of their crocodile tears apologies. They wouldn’t even consider such a move if it were Scotland or Wales playing there.

    “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.”

    England does not occupy any part of Ireland. The anglo-Irish became very well integrated into Irish society. Those that have consistently refused to integrate in Ireland and are the sole reason why part of Ireland continues to be occupied by BRITAIN (not by ENGLAND as we do not have the political institutions or the armed forces to occupy anywhere) are the people of SCOTTISH decent. I suggest that if Mr Dalton and his cronies wish to protest then they should wait 12 months until the national team of the real “occupiers” arrives at Croke Park.

  • Observer.
    A very good point.
    Perhaps those who are angry about such a gesture feel that the original acts were nothing to apologise for?

    I hope not.

  • Phil McAvity

    Observer/phil,

    I can’t speak for others but I do not believe that a member of the British government should use an English sporting event to make a political statement that by implication suggests that the deaths of 13 innocent people was the sole responsibility of the English nation, especially when the minister concerned has no accountability to the people of England as a Welsh MP. I doubt very much that the Black and Tans responsible for this atrocity were exclusively English anyway. Hain has no right to link any apology to an England rugby match as to do so plays straight into the hands of people like Des Dalton who hold England and the English soley responsible for the mis-deeds of the British state. It is not the offer of an apology by the UK state to the Irish state that I have a problem with, it is the use Ireland v England sporting event to make it by a person elected by the people of Wales from a government who hold the English nation in utter contempt that concerns me.