Equality must replace Neutrality- Feeney

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….

  • John East Belfast

    Cahal

    I was beginning to think the matter was put to bed until you came up with

    “John it’s very simple. The NI team encourages a seperate NI identity. I, and I assume many others, feel no affinity for such an identity.”

    That is a very negative statement – if you had said you were positive to the ROI that would have been different

    As I said before what do you think the NI Assembly is about or the PSNI all of which Republicans have signed up to.

    Supporting them is not fostering a separate NI identity is it – certainly not one that makes you more or less Irish or more or less British ?

    Anyhow why are you so insecure about a football team ?

  • kensei

    “kensei consider the Norn Iron team of the year of your birth 1982. This side was a thing of beauty, and a source of light and great joy in the midst of the troubles. Consider the talent and the diversity of that team. Billy Hamilton and Gerry Armstrong up front together. Martin O’Neill and Norman Whiteside running the midfield. And the best goalkeeper in the history of world football – Mr Patrick Jennings.

    As some-one of a similar age to yourself I was raised on the legacy of the wonderful side that lasted through the 1980s. ”

    I first really got into football around Italia ’90, being a geek 😛 I wasn’t much interested before that. So the 90’s would have been the most important years to me.

    Do I really have to pull examples of NI fans behaviour in that period and shortly after? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to muster more than apathy towards them because of it.

  • kensei

    “Only citizens of the Republic of Ireland can represent the Republic of Ireland team. Funny sort of All-Ireland team that.”

    Fortunately, everyone on the island is entitled to citizenship of the Republic by birth.

    JEB

    “That is a very negative statement – if you had said you were positive to the ROI that would have been different”

    Of course both he and I are positive to the Republic’s identity, we’re fucking Republicans. Is there a hint there?

    But he was responding to other people trying to foster an identity he doesn’t have on him. I don’t feel any with the French identity. Is that negative too?

    “As I said before what do you think the NI Assembly is about or the PSNI all of which Republicans have signed up to.”

    Transitional step along the road to a United Ireland; exercising some local authority and removing power from the British to the hands of Irishmen; improving where we live, in part to make integration with the South easier; etc. What did you think it was about?

    “Supporting them is not fostering a separate NI identity is it – certainly not one that makes you more or less Irish or more or less British ?”

    Of course it is. How can it not be?

    “Anyhow why are you so insecure about a football team ? ”

    I’m not. I support my team. Happy for you to support who you want. You’re the one telling em what I should and should not do.

  • Mike

    longshotkickdabucket –

    “But Mike, if your fans are so proud to be Irish why do so may of your fans carry Union Jacks? Indeed your esteemed President, Jim Boyce, was photographed with a group of fans carrying this flag in a Sunday paper last week. -Was Boycie DUPed?

    Also why the slavish adherance to God Save The Queen? Welsh and Scottish fans have their own anthems,so why have the IFA not followed suit?

    If you are all so proud to be Irish, you have a funny way of not showing it.”

    It’s hard to know where to start with this.

    Firstly, I haven’t been talking about anyone being “proud to be Irish”, so I don’t know where you’ve got that from.

    Secondly, many of our fans would see themsevles as Irish, many on the other hand would not. I see my identity as Northern Irish and British.

    Thirdly, one can be both Irish and British.

    Fourthly, you seem to be suggesting NI matches should be some sort of occasion for showing “how proud you are to be Irish”. I don’t think it should be that at all (or being proud to be British). I think it should be about supporting Northern Ireland.

    Fifthly, to claim “so many” NI fans carry the Union Flag is a complete fallacy. It’s a very tiny amount. There are only a small handful of Union Flags to be seen at NI matches.

    And lastly, I would like to see GSTQ replaced for NI matches with a NI-specific anthem.

  • Mike

    kensei –

    “Fortunately, everyone on the island is entitled to citizenship of the Republic by birth.”

    However, only a minority in Northern Ireland choose to have RoI citizenship. An RoI team which can select only RoI citizens is by no stretch of the imagination an All-Ireland team, even if some of said RoI citizens are from NI.

  • bigrab

    mike

    Ireland selects players from all over the Island & is supported by the vast majority on the island.

    Pretty much an all Ireland team for most of us.

    But i am quite happy for unionism to continue having its own wee team, if it keeps you happy.

  • Mike

    ‘Unionism’ does not have a team. There is a team that represents Northern Ireland (with players from NI qualifying on both UK and RoI passports, incidentally.)

    The fact that you see a RoI team which can select only RoI citizens as an all-Ireland tea is quite revelaing and pretty sad.

  • bigrab

    ’Unionism’ does not have a team.’

    Unionist flag, unionist anthem, no surrender chants,dambusters,the sash, unionjacks etc…

    Sorry my mistake mike.

  • longshotkickdabucket

    Mike,

    You can’t have it both ways.

    On the one hand, you extol the absolute right of the IFA continuing to lay claim as the true and original football associaion on the island of Ireland.

    Yet you then state that you consider it an insult to be considered so Irish anyway?

  • Dave

    If people want to support the ROI and live in NI then that is fine with me.

    I won’t beg anyone to support the NI team but I would like people who were born in NI to support it. People need to understand that with the NI team there are certain trapping that come with it such as the Union flags, and National Anthem. I am however open to alterations to existing practices to make the environment more comfortable for all but I would like it if people could meet each other half way. Its not showing tolerance to simply state that I’ll support the NI team if them stop playing GSTQ, and some of the alternative anthems that have been suggested are pathetic to say the least.

    So in conclusion if people want to support the NI team good, if they think they could support it if certain things were changed well thats fine as well but don’t make demands about removing certain practices that many including myself hold dear.

  • John East Belfast

    “Transitional step along the road to a United Ireland; exercising some local authority and removing power from the British to the hands of Irishmen; improving where we live, in part to make integration with the South easier; etc. What did you think it was about? ”

    will time will tell – it is too early to say how it will pan out

    However all I can say is it is no different than what was here 1921 to 1972 and all Ireland Separatism has not even scratched the surcface of unionism in that debate.
    You would be very foolish to think unionism will be diluted via devolution – it wont happen – dont waste your time.

    Indeed in the discussions I have been having on the Galelic and Culturally Catholic tradition thinking it has the right to the soul of the Irish State to the inability of 6 county nationalists to support the region at international soccer within which they reside then it is clear to me nationalism does not have the first idea how to unite this place other than to rely on demographics.

  • GavBelfast

    “Yet you then state that you consider it an insult to be considered so Irish anyway?”

    Where did he, or anyone else, say that?

    Selective reading and imaginery interpretation there too.

    Oh, and I see the odd malevolent troll is back too, and probably not someone who really supports the Republic team anyway.

    Nite all.

  • kensei

    “However all I can say is it is no different than what was here 1921 to 1972 and all Ireland Separatism has not even scratched the surcface of unionism in that debate.”

    The situation is very different than it was in 1921 to 1972. Even if the institutions and relative power balance hadn’t change, the context has massively.

    “You would be very foolish to think unionism will be diluted via devolution – it wont happen – dont waste your time.”

    Devolution is an opportunity for Nationalism, and no more. I make no assumptions.

    “Indeed in the discussions I have been having on the Galelic and Culturally Catholic tradition thinking it has the right to the soul of the Irish State to the inability of 6 county nationalists to support the region at international soccer within which they reside then it is clear to me nationalism does not have the first idea how to unite this place other than to rely on demographics.”

    You want the eradication of my culture from the state. I want the addition of yours. That is the fundamental difference. I’m not at all sure that you could claim to speak for all Unionists on the different approaches, JEB. It’s is early days yet, anyway and Nationalists are still learning.

    There will always be a percentage of people you can’t convince regardless. I suspect you may be one of them, anyway.

    In terms of your own political goals, the complete incomprehension of the Nationalist position and identity certainly won’t help this. So we all have problems. I am happy for you to assume things will always be thus and become complacent. It makes a hard job just slightly easier.

  • Southern Observer

    It’s not particularly ‘crazy’ or indeed anything out of the ordinary given that an international border runs through the island. Plenty of ‘small places’ have more than one team, because there are international borders in place. It’s international football after all.
    There is a tradition of all-Irelandism in most of the sports- athletics,boxing,rugby,cricket etc.Soccer is the exception rather than the rule.

    Actually I think rugby (given the IRFU’s one sided treatment with regards to the states which make up its territory) is an outstanding example of how in a sport with mass support, an all-Ireland team, with respectful treatment for both constituent states, and therefore all layers and supporters involved, is seemingly impossible.,
    The IRFU have actually made strenuous efforts to get around the thorny issue of anthems etc.by commissioning ‘Ireland’s Call’.However I don’t want to derail the thread and in particular draw a certain member of the Marx Brothers down on top of us.

    kensei consider the Norn Iron team of the year of your birth 1982. This side was a thing of beauty, and a source of light and great joy in the midst of the troubles. Consider the talent and the diversity of that team. Billy Hamilton and Gerry Armstrong up front together. Martin O’Neill and Norman Whiteside running the midfield. And the best goalkeeper in the history of world football – Mr Patrick Jennings.
    The mind boggles with what could have been achieved with the additional talents of Brady,O’Leary,Stapleton…

  • IJP

    Transitional step along the road to a United Ireland

    To repeat: herein lies the problem.

    There is nothing in the Agreement, or in its various bolt-ons, or in anything else that says this process is a “transitional step along the road to a United Ireland”.

    The Agreement fundamentally requires an understanding that there may never be a “United Ireland”.

    That may not be what you aspire to in an ideal world, but in this less than ideal world it is your responsibility to accept and respect that that is the position.

  • IJP

    Southern Observer

    Yours is the most compelling case I’ve read for an all-island football team.

    The idea that “that is simply the way sports are organized”, in the same way that it’s the way banks are organized, is the best one I’ve heard.

  • Southern Observer

    An Ulster Protestant and great player of his era,Derek Dougan, has made a far more compelling case than I could ever make.

  • speedy

    George Best was a strong supporter of an all island team.

    His reasoning was fairly simple – you pool your resources,players,finances etc…

    The more chance of actually winning something.

    Simple but effective.

  • Speedy, George Best’s heart was never in international football anyway. If he’d managed to keep his career going as long as most players he could quite easily have gone to Spain 82 without any need to deprive Northern Ireland of its own football team.

    That whole part of that interview stank of trying to pass the blame for his own failures onto someone else.

  • speedy

    Best actually spoke on a number of occasions about his belief in a single football team, as did former captain Derek Dougan and a few other players over the years.

    I don’t recall Bestie blaming anyone but himself for his shortcomings, although i do agree about him showing little commitment for the international team. How many w/c qualifiers in his whole career for example, very few.

  • qubol

    I think I might be sick.
    I’ve read IJP and the other Alliance ones before but after 200 posts on one subject I’m aghast at how much Alliance just don’t get it.
    What IJP asks of nationalists (through his incorrect interpretation of the agreement) is that we forsake our identity to build a new NI identity. To do so would damage our legitimate aspirations of uniting the island, why would we do that? Unionists on the other hand would have to do….. very little cos, we’re all British don’t you know.
    As I think George said this is a tacit acknowledgment of the inherent weakness in NI as an entity. We have to accept the *reality* that for now we live under British rule but as for cementing the British Union well thats bullshit.
    The irony for IJP and the other Alliancites on the thread is that the *reality* is that differences do exist and no amount of complaining or pretending will change that. You can’t force people to believe in things.
    On the plus side this thread has made me realise if Alliance ever got into power I would have to kill myself.

  • IJP

    qubol

    Eh???