Brian Feeney has been articulating the need for a new political vocabulary in the aftermath of the Adams-Paisley ‘moment’ and in anticipation of the imminent return of devolved government. He argues that the NIO must be purged of its ‘Alliance mentality,’ which promoted an artificial sense of neutrality in its dealings, and substituted with a thinking more in line with the Good Friday Agreement promise of full equal rights for nationalists and unionists.
While Feeney was doubtlessly thinking of more meaty topics than football, I thought his argument struck a particularly appropriate theme as I glanced through the comments on the various football threads (and here) on Slugger in the past 24 hours. Following on from last night’s football victories in Dublin and Belfast, I noticed that a number of our regular- and not so regular- contributors could hardly wait to indulge in a spot of political sparring in the aftermath of what should have been an enjoyable night for Irish footballing fans all round.
Many supporters of the northern team seem to be particularly hostile to the fact that nationalists give their first allegiance to the national team playing in Dublin.
Whilst I find this somewhat amusing, it does highlight an inability or reluctance to accept the equal legitimacy of a very natural manifestation of the Irish nationalist identity- just as natural as unionists supporting their ‘own’ national team.
In his article, Feeney points out that in other divided societies, ‘normal’ politics proceeds on the basis of accepting one another’s differences, as opposed to ignoring them. That is a hard lesson that no doubt will require much swallowing all round in the time to come. But I’d like to think that a small start could be made by all sides simply accepting the equal validity of our footballing allegiances. Perhaps then we may even start to genuinely celebrate each other’s triumphs….