Tom Elliott’s non U turn

I took HMS Vanguard to work for the first time today (normally Elenwe drives what is now referred to as new Gordon). I managed to turn off the sat nav and the automated heater. However, I was completely unable to change the tuning on the radio: as such I was stuck with Radio Ulster rather than Radio 4.

As such I heard the interview between Mark Carruthers and Tom Elliott. This came after the News Letter ran an article detailing a meeting between Elliott and Danny Murphy, secretary of the Ulster Council of the GAA. This meeting seems to have been cordial and Murphy was quoted as saying:

“We discovered where our positions are, and I think we’re better acquainted with the position of the Ulster Unionist Party with regard to the GAA, and they probably have a better understanding of where we’re coming from.”

On the question of Mr Elliott attending a GAA event, Mr Murphy said that was a personal matter.

“I don’t think that, if we are going to work at building respect and understanding, that we shouldn’t be telling people what they should or shouldn’t do or vice versa.

At the time of the leadership election when Elliott had said he had no intention of attending GAA (or gay pride) events he explained that this was because he had no interest in tokenism and pointed to his work for the GAA in Fermanagh. Elliott at the time stated that he would assess all invitations on merit and that while he did not completely rule out attending a GAA match in the future, he did not have any plan to do so. This position seems to be practically indistinguishable from what he said today despite the BBC’s attempt to spin Elliott’s position as a U turn.

What the interviews in the News Letter and on Radio Ulster do show is that Elliott’s position was nothing like as extreme as was suggested. In light of that it is still unclear why Trevor Ringland decided to perform his leaving melodrama over this non issue. One would almost think he was looking for an excuse to leave after Elliott’s landslide election victory. A few weeks ago there were a few rumours about creating a new liberal unionist party: rumours which seem to have come to nothing; unrelated facts, I am sure.


  • joeCanuck


    I take a lot said during elections (to anything) with a pinch of salt. Especially in N.I. , you have to be careful that you don’t get outflanked on an issue.
    I’d have bet then, and still would, that he will turn up at a GAA game sometime in the next 18 months, likely after the next election. Maybe even before as he can’t be outflanked by the DUP since some of their Ministers have attended events.

  • Driftwood

    Elliott doesn’t seem to DO media, unlike Robinson. I listened to the same interview. Elliot was not anti GAA, he seemed nonplussed by sports events in general. He seems to be unmoved by media sentiment or voter profiling. Sort of…a plebeian Chichester Clarke who has no idea the world has moved on-Truman show?

    My opinion is that he will struggle against voter apathy and some going to Alliance, but the prognosis for the UUP is not good.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As most GAA matches take place on Sundays that would be unusual as breaking the Sabbath would open up another can of worms for him..
    More likely attending an under 10 competition in Irvinestown on a Saturday morning as part of a genuine getting to know you exercise.

    There is a difference in “sectarianism” and “sectionalism”. and in a divided society he just strikes me as a man who wishes to maximise his sense of being “British”.
    Lots of people do that without giving into the base aspects of sectarianism. Similiarly a lot of people seek to maximise their sense of being “Irish” without necessarily being sectarian.
    I am sure that despite not liking his politics much, Elliott is a decent enough man…..

  • Alias

    Good comment.

  • Kevin Barry

    Agreed;. He doesn’t come across as deliberately belligerent or wanting to piss off most of his neighbours who, down in Fermanagh would be going to a GAA game of some kind. I do see him turning up at some back-door game on a Saturday as it would be pretty low-key while not breaking the Sabbath, but the suggestion of an under 10s game somewhere like Irvinestown is also very foreseeable.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Elliott was in the middle of an election battle when he made his remarks and this was an election battle with a ‘Liberal’ where the business of sending not very coded message to potential supporters is important.

    For Eliott to make reference to not attending GAA events or Gay events ( he would really struggle with Gay GAA events) must be seen in the context of Ulster politics and his pending election as a remark designed to appeal to the hardline vote and to perhaps also send a warning shot across the bows of the DUP that they did not have a Unionist monopoly on being anti-GAA/Gay.

    If he has now decided to send another not very coded message that suggests he may be warming to the GAA it is therefore to be welcomed and I think it is reasonable for the BBC at least to suggest he is now at least veering to the left if not doing a complete U turn.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Ummmmmm… many N.I. matches do the shinners attend ??

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Exactly my point Herr Guderian. Tom Elliott is no more sectarian for not attending GAA matches than those who would not go to a game featuring North of Ireland.

  • drumlins rock

    Sammy, can you lets us know when the next Gay GAA match is on? 🙂

  • joeCanuck

    Are people who find it impossible to say those dirty words “Northern Ireland” sectarian?

  • Joseph Addison

    One problem with UUP politicos is that they are Little Stand on Our Own Ulster Nationalists. They misguidedly think that using the Union Jack and being Members of secretive Loyal Orders is a manifestation of Britishness. This is a misguided assumption by far the largest majority of our race are the English “Who are a self contained race and thus need no God.” That is why an Anglican form of secularity is enshrined in our national political ethos; this does not FJH refers to Tom Elliott trying to show his British however lie along side Tom Elliott’s Orange non secularity.
    Thus his particular religious and political philosophy causes him a great dilemma, in so far that he cannot get his head round Irish Nationalist Culture, Religion, or Politics and is firmly of the opinion that his is the true faith and only way ahead. To a near Agnostic Anglican like myself with exposure to many Countries, Cultures, Ethnicities, and creeds I find the new Elliott policy and attitude bordering on acute narrow mindedness.

  • Mike


    They’d need a time machine to go to a game featuring North of Ireland, since both the rugby and cricket clubs have been subsumed in mergers.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    joe canuck…..well what I say in reply to what Herr Guderian says and what I say in reply to you could well of course be two entirely different things..

  • joeCanuck

    You do know I was jesting FJH? maybe fell flat.

  • ulsterfan

    Why should we expect Elliott or anyone else for that matter attend a GAA match.
    I never have nor do I expect ever to do so.
    Does this make me a sectarian bigot or worse.
    Let me also say I will not attend a football match, a country and western concert or theatre play .
    I decline to do so simply because I have no interests in these events.
    I will however go to watch Rugby cricket or Itaiian Opera. Any free tickets available?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well exactly thats my point.
    Mr Elliott is perfectly entitled to emphasises his sense of Britishness. It does not make him sectarian. If he lived in Folkestone rather tha Fermanagh, nobody would think it odd.
    Likewise Mr Elliotts counterpart in further down his Fermanagh road is in no way sectarian just because he wants to maximise his sense of Irishness. Its not considered odd in Ennis, County Clare and should not be considered odd in Enniskillen.
    There are of course bigots in each tribe, who necessarily feel that they can only get a sense of their own Irishness or Britishness by negative attitudes towards themmuns.

    The third tribe in the “non-sectarian middle” are no different. They might feel delighted that darling Jessica has a boyfriend called Ferghalwho she met at that wonderful integrated school. And Jessica and Ferghal go sailing in Bangor Bay and ski-ing in Colorado.
    They are no different in their sectarianism/sectionalism for being delighted that Jessica is not mixing with those horrible young people in East Belfast and being relieved that Ferghal is not one of those ghastly boys from West Belfast.
    And wonder aloud why people cant live together in peace.
    Personally I think Id prefer Tom Elliott to Jessicas parents.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    well…..I did wonder……but no harm done.

  • chewnicked

    Elliott’s interview was hilarious. He went from ‘no intention of going’ to ‘maybe I will’ and back to ‘no intention’ in the space of 5 minutes. Vicky Pollard ‘yeah but no’.would have been well proud, innit?

  • Zig70

    I partly think if you like rugby, not liking gaelic football shows a degree of sectarianism and visa versa. Hard not to have it being brought up in this place, but you should recognise it. I struggle to see what all the fuss is about, if I’m not sure on a GAA rule I’ll ask the nearest unionist as they seem to know the minutiae to justify the dislike. My kid plays both and is loving rugby at the minute. Seeing your kid play a game encompassing hand, foot and head skills is a joy. In either sport my experience is that it’s all about the game, the rest is a sideshow.
    Back to the thread, Elliot used a nationalist symbol as a rally call during an election. It should be seen as such and despised as sectarian, not over intellectualised as in some of the comments.

  • Down South

    As concerns the topic of him going to see a match – it is all about leadership. If he is going to lead a sizeable section of the population then you’d like to think he can rise above personal tribal issues and make a bigger statement – a reaching out if you will and there are few other organisations to engage with that would send a bigger signal of intent.

    I am certain the Queen and Mary McAleese would rather spend (at least some of) their Saturday or Sunday afternoons somewhere else than endlessly tripping up and down carpets talking to footballers but they do it because it is political to do so. Therefore his decision to not attend GAA matches has very little to do with his personal sporting preferences and a lot to do with sending a political statement. If he doesn’t realise this then he is a fool.

  • Drumlins Rock

    chew, I HAVE NO INTENTION of buying the Sunday World tomorrow, I never do, don’t buy Sunday papers at all generally, no real interest in them and that type of journalism… but MAYBE I WILL, if I found out it was covering a story that affected me or I was particularly interested in.
    There is no contradiction in the two phrases, and Tom has said the same thing right throughtout.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Joseph, it usually the reverse, those with strongly held views often respect those with opposite views more than so called “neutrals”.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I presume the next Irish Teasheauch will be attending the 12th of July celebrations?

  • harry orwell

    It would appear from todays papers that despite some warm words that Cameron has finally had enough of the UUP

  • joeCanuck

    Good one, DR.

  • tyrone taggart

    Apart from their being to many flute bands I don’t see why it would be such a big issue?

  • Down South

    Just to make your comment look as petty as it is – The last Taoiseach paid out handsomely to develop a fine visitors centre at the Boyne Battle site and attended functions there, even alongside Ian Paisley. I have never heard either the current or previous Taoisigh say they would not attend a 12th celebration although they may be forgiven for preferring to attend a Rugby match with Ulster teams participating.