Football eligibility row illustrates unionism’s inability to respect ‘The Other’ tradition

One issue which illustrates perfectly the inability or unwillingness of unionist politicians to understand their Irish nationalist neighbours is that of the ongoing whingefest surrounding the ability of Irish citizens born in the Six Counties to represent the Republic of Ireland international soccer team.

Having stoked the flames of this fire for several years now, the DUP have decided that now is the time to call for inter-governmental talks between the British and Irish governments with the sole objective of denying northerners the right to represent the Republic of Ireland.

Why they expect governments to take time out from other pressing engagements to entertain such a notion is perplexing in its own right. But exactly why they’d expect their nationalist partners in the Executive- or indeed Irish government in Dublin- to engage in such talks is beyond comprehension.

Already Sinn Fein have replied in kind, calling for an all-Ireland team to replace the two international sides.

The latest bout of whining has been sparked by the on-field success of Derry-born James McClean, who is expected to be called into Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad on Friday and thereby make his first appearance in the Republic’s squad (the same individual has been the target of some fairly extreme politically motivated and personal abuse via his Twitter account in recent days from Northern Ireland ‘fans.’)

Having spent generations decrying the fact that nationalist Ireland refused to accept and respect their British identity, what is it that makes unionists so incapable of accepting and respecting the all-Ireland identity of their nationalist neighbours?

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