Ringland pays tribute to the quiet voices that kept northern society from falling apart…

This has been a recurrent theme in Trevor’s outlook ever since I first got to know him for the research and writing of The Long Peace:

Trevor Ringland refused to visit Croke Park for many years because of the ban on members of the security forces playing GAA games, which has since been lifted.

Today he visited the ground to address a meeting of British and Irish parliamentarians, which included the DUP and other unionists.

“As we look to reconcile the future don’t ignore the tremendous grace shown by so many people to allow this process to develop – to create an opportunity to make sure what happened before never happens again.

“It is the majority quiet voices, we would be failing them if we did not make sure we bedded down the sort of relationships we should have between people on these islands.” He added: “We should never let those who hate the most determine our relationships again.”

Mr Ringland, who leads the Peace Players International organisation, said all-island sport was a good thing.

“The symbolism around some of those sports has to be looked at to make sure those all-island games are properly representative.

“It continues that theme of how do we make ourselves inclusive of identity on this island.”

What’s interesting (and welcome) is that other codes are now actively taking up the same kind of leadership shown by Ulster Rugby. For instance…

GAA president Liam O’Neill said a shared future was inevitable on the island.

“We share it whether we like it or not and we may as well share it as friends.”

He added: “I hope that Gaelic games can contribute to that in some way.”

Ryan Feeney, the GAA’s outreach officer, said the association was actively anti-sectarian.

The naming of GAA grounds after Irish republicans and the now dropped ban on members of the security services playing Gaelic games has historically contributed to divisions with unionists.

Mr Feeney said: “We are an organisation that can reflect on our past and say there are thing we could have done better.

“Our role as the largest sporting body in Ireland is to promote peace and reconciliation. We protect, we respect and we give space to those who share this island and this community with us.

“Instead of a shared future there is one future.”

, , , ,

  • Practically_Family

    “The symbolism around some of those sports has to be looked at to make sure those all-island games are properly representative.

    “It continues that theme of how do we make ourselves inclusive of identity on this island.”

    Hmm. Well phrased.
    Subtle.

    I think Trevor and any other interested party will be able to “look at” the symbolism as much as they like.

    Changing symbolism, and here we are talking flags, emblems, anthems and naming conventions, is a different matter, about as likely to be willingly changed by sporting bodies (or more importantly the fan following) as in any other area of life here.

  • Turgon

    This is a completely flawed and false set of analogies.

    There are many”quiet voices” that prevented society falling apart but that does not mean they have one view or necessarily support the current political process or Ringland’s highly politicised letsgetalongerist typed positions.

    The vast majority of people here were opposed to the campaigns of violence by terrorists loyalist or republicans. These people came from each and every walk of life. They also had wildly differing political views. One could have been completely committed to a United Ireland but if one did not support murdering people to further that aim one was such a “quiet voice”. Equally one could be a passionate hard line unionist and opppose murdering people: also a “quiet voice”.

    One could also be apolitical. Indeed throughout most of the Troubles most of us were apolitical in how we acted. Most people in their jobs, their social interactions etc. did not discriminate. The fact that they did not choose to involve themselves in letsgetalongerist typed politics does not mean they were anything other than a “quiet voice”.

    Ringland seems a bit obsessed with sport. It is simply not that important. Also it is a simple fact that one could have supported banning RUC officers from playing GAA and yet oppose murdering them. To suggest otherwise is both a nonsequitor and a culmany against people with such views.

    One can also have no interest in all Ireland sport: even promote seperate NI and RoI rugby teams and oppose violence and support good community relations.

    Finally for Ringland to explain that he refused to attend Croke Park is simply being self important. I may disagree with the GAAs position but my or anyone else’s refusal to go to Croke Park does not affect the GAA; only me and to ascribe importance to a single person’s change of mind is silly.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    “We are an organisation that can reflect on our past and say there are thing (sic) we could have done better” – or even not at all (QEII). A further acknowledgement that can only be positive. However, there is the issue of self exclusion which manifests itself in the 2 tribe division in many areas of NI life, e.g. people from East Belfast refusing to enter West Belfast and vice versa. The accretions of tribal identity, that have no necessity to exist but occur so automatically, create obstacles that only the individual can overcome.

  • Practically_Family

    “Ringland seems a bit obsessed with sport. It is simply not that important.”

    Oh I don’t know, it’s right up there with Kalaahnikovs, Thompson guns and wooly faces on gable ends all over the north.

  • aber1991

    “Mr Feeney said: “We are an organisation that can reflect on our past and say there are things we could have done better.

    “Our role as the largest sporting body in Ireland is to promote peace and reconciliation. We protect, we respect and we give space to those who share this island and this community with us.”

    Who gave this Mr Ryan Feeney the right to speak for the members of the GAA on any issue? Has he ever held elective office in the GAA – at any level?

    The purpose of the GAA is to promote Gaelic games. That being so, the only reconciliation which should interest the GAA is reconciling Gaelic football with hurling and into-County competition with inter-Club competition. As for peace, the only violence which should interest the GAA is the violence taking place on our playing fields – masquerading as Gaelic football or hurling.

    There are too many people within the GAA using the GAA to try to promote their own political ideals or their own personal ambitions.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Bit of a straw man, there, Turgon. Did I miss something or where exactly did TR say that those ‘quiet voices’ who prevented society falling apart……’have one view or necessarily support the current political process.’ Or did you just make that bit up?

    The two organisations mentioned above are an important part of many peoples lives here and both have made huge genuine efforts in the last while in reaching out past their traditional support bases and I get the sense you have absolutely no comprehension whatsoever what a positive contribution sport can make in taking the edge off the animosities in NI.

    ‘……Ringland seems a bit obsessed with sport.’ If I may say, you seem a bit obsessed with Ringland. Everytime he’s mentioned here you’re onto him as if he was some kind of Hitler/Stalin cross breed.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Oh go on then, tell us who they are……

  • aber1991

    If you cannot identify them for yourself, there would hardly be any point in me telling you.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I’d have thought that the message was about inclusivity in sport while recognising the historical inequity of banning selected people from joining an officially recognised team for political reasons.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Probably southern Protestants. Up to no good, as usual…

  • Tochais Siorai

    it’s the northern ones you need to watch.
    .
    Union jacks on hurls, GSTQ in Casement, Clubs named after Turgon…..there’ll be no end to it, mark my words.

  • aber1991

    Most of the culprits are Eire Catholics. And also some Ulster Catholics.

    So far as I know, there are no Prods among those members of the GAA who are trying to use the GAA to advance their political views.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Never trusted those Eirean Catholics anyway. Surprised though to hear Ulster Catholics are involved too. We need names, sir. Names.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Casement”? Surely you mean “Carson Park”?

  • eiregain

    You have no idea what GAA stands for aber. Yes it’s an athletics association, but it has always promoted cultural causes. Scór within the gaa help promote language dance and cultural events. In the south they use gaa organisation to jkeep in touch with rural communities, a sense of being a part of the gaa community has very little to do with sport.

    I can’t wait to hear your opinion on Cúchulainn Initiative?

  • eiregain

    Have you ever been a member abert? Played for a team, attended cultural events? I once played in a huge tournament with teams from England America and elsewhere as a youth. We stayed in moortown Tyrone, hundreds of teams from many different background congregated in a joint expression of cultural unity as well as beating lumps out of each other on the pitch.

    Do you suggest foreigners can’t play games as well? Or is it just the select few you choose.

  • LordSummerisle

    What a load of tripe.

  • aber1991

    “You have no idea what GAA stands for aber”

    I have been a member of the GAA since 1962. There is only one thing on which its members and supporters are united – an interest in gaelic football or hurling – and sometimes both. Scór was started in 1970 and only some members of the GAA are interested in it.

    “In the south they use gaa organisation to jkeep in touch with rural communities”

    Who is “they”?

    P.S. The GAA does not promote athletics and has not done so at any time in my memory.

  • eiregain

    “The GAA does not promote athletics”

    Ok we perceive different realities.

    kind of like that black and gold dress.

    I’m done dude, you will die off and we will move forward.

    “Initiate disengagement protocol”

    [Clicking noises , followed by a door slamming]

  • MainlandUlsterman

    a bit harsh, Turgon? I agree with you on the ‘quiet voices’ – the vast majority of people opposed violence including some fairly aggressively strident people on both sides. They too are entitled to credit for promoting peace and opposing violence, not just those in the middle. And you’re right that all-Ireland sport isn’t necessarily something we need; if we want it fine, but if we don’t also fine, I can’t see any big deal either way.

    Where there are all-island joint NI-ROI teams like in rugby, Ringland’s right to sounds a critical note: “The symbolism around some of those sports has to be looked at to make sure those all-island games are properly representative.” Rugby’s made an absolute pig’s ear of symbolism and I’m always surprised how tolerant most NI rugby fans are towards the disrespect shown to NI and its players and fans at Ireland matches in Dublin (their anthem played but not ours, their flag flown but not ours). That needs to be sorted.

    But we’re still waiting for the Republic catch up with its Good Friday Agreement commitment to accept the British national identity of a large section of Irish people, fully – and that the union flag and British national anthem is part of Ireland and, logically should surely be honoured whenever a British person represents the island, in the same way as the Republic’s flag and anthem are when someone with that allegiance represents the island.

    The GAA’s words are welcome and I hope it is matched by a genuine respect not just for Protestants but for Britons on the island and for the chosen sovereignty of Northern Ireland.

    Reading the GAA constitution, it must be said, that attitude isn’t much in evidence and it seems there is still some work to be done in decoupling that sporting organisation’s ethos from a purely Irish nationalist view of the island. for example, it talks repeatedly about “the Nation” as if it were self-evident which nationality they were talking about. I’m assuming it’s not me as an Ulster Brit, but it does beg the question, why would I be excluded from playing this sport? It seems a very odd idea to tie sporting participation to national allegiance quite so blatantly, for an all-island organisation on an island where there are two nationalities.

    The ‘Basic Aim’ for example states: “The Association is a National Organisation which has as its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity in a 32 County Ireland through the preservation and promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes.”

    Which “national identity”? And why only that one?

  • Practically_Family

    Rugby’s made an absolute pig’s ear of symbolism………their flag flown but not ours). That needs to be sorted.
    This is kinda what I was referring to in my initial reply and I believe what Trevor was angling at, partially at least. And frankly… “tolerant” is a good description, the flags and anthems are tolerated, little more. You seldom see it on telly but should you ever be at an international in Dublin you’ll note a small but significant number of green shirted people sitting during Amhrán na bhFiann. They don’t boo or slow clap, but nor do they stand or sing. Frequently they will stand for the opposition’s anthem, when playing England they’ll SING the opposition’s anthem. Their fellows from the Republic and of a Northern nationalist or disinterested persuasion will ignore the affected slight. It’s just how it is.

    When the matter is raised at an official/political level, which last occurred in 2007, the IRFU line is a diplomaticly worded version of “Yeah but… Nah, we’re changing nowt” and in fairness to them, they have little room for manoeuvre on many flag/anthem issues, the current compromises are looked at disdainfully by many already.

    I wouldn’t expect to see another full international at Ravenhill anytime soon. (Actually anywhere other than Aviva due to contract, but y’know what I mean.)

    The same niggles occur in the provincial level game concerning flags and the like. The appearance of the Ulster Banner at Ulster games, rather than the yellow/red 9 county flag is often remarked upon. And “explained” away by the fact that the flag is the same colour as the home kit.(when it’s not met with a “mind your own business there’s a good chap”). Equally the Sunburst appears at Leinster matches, in the possession of extra keen Irish language fans And sure it’s in the colours of the kit…

    We “tolerate” each other when issues arise. When they don’t we’re all mates. There’s nothing that can be “sorted” on the symbolism front that won’t exacerbate the issues and their frequency.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I hear you and I do understand. It works in that no one is coming to blows over it. But still it’s not right, is it. And I think the IRFU needs to stand up to the bigots on behalf of the fans and, FFS, *their own players*, whose national flag is deemed unworthy of flying at matches. They need to say to these people, if you want Brits in the Ireland team and in the Ireland crowd – if you want a genuinely all-island team – then you treat their flag and anthem the same as that of other fans and players.

  • John Collins

    How would this anthem thing work? When Ireland would be playing England GSTQ would have to be played twice and how would English people feel about Irish people ‘using’ their Anthem against them. The situation would get even more confusing where Welsh and Scotch teams were involved. Forbidden from using their own proper National Anthem, they have to endure it been played as the Anthem for some players who had no alliegence to her Majesty

  • Practically_Family

    It would have (a little) potential if Northern Ireland had an offical unique, distictive flag and anthem of it’s own. Although being honest, at this stage, I doubt even that would make an inroad.

    As regards what MU has said above, were the IRFU to attempt to force the issue… I think the result could well be unfavourable to players/fans/clubs from NI.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Surely the ideal solution is to stop playing Amhram na bhFiann for the internationals in Dublin as the team, and its supporters, are not all from the Republic. As the Irish rugby team predates both NI and the ROI, would it not be not better to have an anthem which unites and inspires everyone. A united Ireland anthem which will offend no one.The same can be said of the IFA. They need to ditch GSTQ for an anthem which will offend no one.

    At the last rugby world cup, the IRFU used the Tricolour and the nine county Ulster flag to represent the team. I would have preferred the Cross of St. Patrick to represent NI. The British -Irish players and supporters of the team appear to have no voice at IFRU HQ. I can remember Paddy Wallace saying a number of years ago, after an Ireland v England game in Dublin, that he jokingly said to a southern team mate (during the playing of GSTQ) ” do you mind if I sing my own national anthem”. That says a lot about the divided loyalties on this island.

  • Alan N/Ards

    The IRFU agreed to the playing of Ireland’s Call at away games. Mind you, they accepted Ravenhill as an away venue a few years ago. There surely is a better compromise, regarding anthems, than they have at the moment. Playing two anthems at the Aviva is really silly. Give us one anthem that everyone can claim as Irish. Surely can’t be that too hard to do. This is the island of saints and scholars after all. Can we not work out a compromise?

  • Practically_Family

    It’s the ideal from one perspective, certainly from mine. Not at all ideal from others, there is already a fair degree of objection to the use of Ireland’s Call, so make of that what you will.

  • Alan N/Ards

    If there is opposition to the playing of a non offensive anthem like Ireland’s Call what hope is there for a peaceful (re) unification of this island?

  • Practically_Family

    Most (interested parties) consider that we have reached a compromise. That’s the point. From the point of view of arguing the issue, it’s going nowhere for as long as NI has no representative emblems or anthems of its own. A decision on which I would not hold my breath generally.

    As regards Amhrán na bhFiann in Dublin… Amongst people who actually follow the game, I know people from over the border who would be happy to see it dropped, but no more of them than people from NI who want to see it stay.

    Overall, as I said initially, in terms of people who play the game, buy the tickets to watch or otherwise boost the coffers of IRFU, it’s the elephant in the room about which we do not speak. And almost everyone I know in the game is happy with that.

  • submariner

    Alan why the cross of ST.Patrick it has no link to the ni state?

  • Alan N/Ards

    I believe that it’s an all Ireland flag that unionists should be able to embrace. After all, it’s part of our national (UK) flag. The Tricolour is the all Ireland flag that nationalists/ republicans embrace. As the Irish rugger team is an all Ireland team then both flags can /should be used. As far as I’m aware the Irish Bowling team uses the Cross of St. Patrick.

  • submariner

    But the cross of ST.Patrick is not the flag of either part of Ireland and is just as controversial as the Tri Colour

  • Practically_Family

    Which is where the objections to Ireland’s Call & the use of the IRFU flag originate from.

    (That and the fact that a lot of people of all persuasions think Ireland’s Call is twee tattery, I quite like it)

    There are people for whom this is a very nationalist (in the general sense) issue. It isn’t for me, or many in truth, but it happens.

  • Alan N/Ards

    When all of Ireland was in the UK the Cross of St. Patrick represented the whole island on the Union flag. The official flag of the 6 Irish counties still in the UK is the Union flag. So surely the Cross of St. Patrick represents those people ( like myself) who regard themselves as British and Irish.

    The Irish people who see the Tricolour as representing them when the all island team is playing need to accept that there are many who don’t share that view. I’m not asking for the Union flag to fly at rugby games in Dublin – just the Irish part of it. Nor am I asking for the British national anthem to be played at Ireland games to represent unionists. I just want an anthem and emblems which I can embrace.

    Can I not be as Irish as you if I don’t embrace the flag and anthem of the Republic? What is needed on this island is a spirit of generosity ( from both traditions) and who knows where we could end up if it people were prepared to do be generous. Anyway, I will be cheering Ireland on against Wales on Saturday, and I’m looking forward to hearing Ireland’s Call being song with gusto.

  • John Collins

    I find it a little ironic that in the country where William Webb Ellis was born and reared the current National Anthem is not acceptable to be played, even for home games. This thread, and I am not being mischievous here,( as if I would), also brings into question the manner in which English rugby teams have claimed GSTQ for its own when it is the National Anthem of the entire UK.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    good call, Alan

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Good ideas – I don’t mind how they do it in future, as long as everyone is treated equally. We need to call time on the Republic’s “ownership” of all-island sporting symbolism. It’s supposed to be a partnership.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think it would be a good thing for people in the Republic, as a learning exercise, if the British anthem were played – the penny might drop for a few people there about what parity of esteem really means and that their own attitudes to symbolism need to move on. But equally, if they take all the symbolism out, including anthems, that would be fine too, though a less bold, transformative step.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think that’s right. The Ulster rugby fraternity see this as a dirty issue and don’t want to go near it. So they get taken advantage of

  • Tochais Siorai

    Maybe one anthem is the way to go but please not the dreadful dirge that is Ireland’s Call. Also, Unionists seem to forget that there is already a big compromise. AnBhF is not played at all at away matches i.e at more than half of Ireland’s games. So it makes up half of Ireland’s ‘anthem time’ at home games and none at away games. Considering its the anthem of 80% of people in Ireland that’s a fair concession to those from a Unionist background.
    .
    Re your flag idea, no problem with that if Unionists prefer the Patrick’s Cross flag rather than the Ulster 9c flag. Probably a better idea as its an all-Ireland (unionist) flag the same way as the tricolour is an all-Ireland (nationalist) flag.

  • Practically_Family

    Anyone who is serious about the notion of changing the current current flags and anthems setup should approach their local rugby club in the first instance with their ideas for change.

    Assuming they can garner an element of support there, the thing to do would be network with other clubs, north & south of the border and petition the IRFU to make the changes upon which they have agreed.

    I look forward to hearing the proposals.

  • Practically_Family

    English “ownership” of GSTQ is a bugbear of mine also. Surprisingly (maybe) it seems to annoy a percentage of English sports fans too.

    I’d love NI to have it’s own anthem, even if only for sporting purposes. But FFS, NOT Danny Boy, it’s funereal.

  • Practically_Family

    Northern Irish rugby fraternity.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    What about the wider viewing public who aren’t members of rugby clubs? The ‘grass roots up’ approach sounds more like kicking it into the ‘long grass’ to me.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    if you will!

  • Practically_Family

    It’s an important distinction in this instance.

  • Practically_Family

    Something about the piper and the tune, I think.

    There is no desire to change the anthems or emblems attached to Irish rugby emanating from D4. So if there’s a movement for change, it’ll have to come from the grass roots.

    But as the argument is effectively to not play the Irish national anthem nor fly the Irish national flag in Ireland… It might be something of an uphill battle even if you can get some sort of concensus on the matter.

  • Alan N/Ards

    John, I totally agree with you regarding GSTQ and the English sporting teams. I would also add the Northern Ireland football team to that list. The British national anthem should only be used for an all GB or UK team. The Irish national anthem should only be used for teams which are representing the ROI. I fully support the ROI football team using their anthem. But rugby, hockey etc are all Ireland sports in which participants are both Irish and British – Irish. I wonder do the players and fans at away games feel less Irish when Ireland’s call is use as the teams anthem? I can honestly say that I feel included as an Irishman when Ireland’s call is used and the team flag is the IRFU flag. But I do feel like an outsider when AnBtF and Tricolour are used to represent the team.

  • Practically_Family

    “But I do feel like an outsider when AnBtF and Tricolour are used to represent the team.”

    Amhrán na bhFiann And the Tric are never used in isolation to represent the team though, at least not by IRFU. Some broadcasters aren’t as careful.

    Having been through this at some length in the past (can you tell?) If you take the team out of the equation entirely, in the presence of the Irish president protocol still calls for the flag & salute (6/8 bars of AnBtF) anyway. :/

  • John Collins

    Alan
    Well awkward and all as I am I tend to find that line of argument reasonable and hard to counter. However give me time and I might come with some other crooked angle

  • Alan N/Ards

    Play the salute but use Ireland’s Call for the team anthem on its own.

  • John Collins

    P_F
    Actually the Presidential Salute is based on a tune first penned by Robert Dwyer Joyce of Glenosheen Co Limerick, who also wrote the Boys of Wexford. It was written in the 1820s and has nothing to do with Peader Kearney’s Anthem.

  • Practically_Family

    Well it certainly sounds like it!

  • Practically_Family

    Why?

    This debate always reminds me of the reverse of the “there should be just one football team in Ireland” one.

    While there are doubtless, genuine advocates out there, the majority of people you meet who espouse the notion actually just want the Northern Ireland team to cease existing.

    Equally I find the people who make the most noise about the “equality” of the emblems used in Irish rugby invariably just want the Irish ones to go away.

    Present company excepted of course because obviously we’re just all about fairness.

    I’m labouring the point here, but if we possessed a dsitinctive flag and anthem of our own then the case for equal representation would be easier (possible?) to make.

  • John Collins

    Well I thought the same until I found out otherwise. Apparently Dwyer Joyce ,who was a renowned academic and collector of Folklore as well as a song writer, was home on holidays in Glenosheen. When he attended mass in the local church of a gloriously fine Sunday, in what was otherwise a very wet year, the priest encouraged the people to forget about abstaining from servile work that day. He said they should do whatever work was required, due to the fact that the weather was otherwise so bad. Joyce repaired to the bog in the mountain to help at saving the turf and at lunchtime, as Joyce and the other people took some ‘quality time’, after their humble mid day meal, a girl called Moynihan entertained the assembly, by singing an old Gaelic lay. Joyce was struck by the beauty of the song and proceeded to set it to music. Thus was born the Presidential Salute

  • Alan N/Ards

    Like yourself I assumed that the salute and anthem were the same tune. Apparently John disagrees. The salute to the republics President is one thing but pretending that the republic’s anthem is the anthem of the whole team and of all the supporters is wrong. During the playing of the anthem the cameraman walks down the Irish team and shows the Northern Irishmen not singing and looking uncomfortable.

    I remember the days when the all island team had to turn and face the Tricolour during the playing of the Irish anthem. The unionist players had no option but to do that.

  • Tochais Siorai

    WW Ellis born & reared in Ireland? Urban Myth, no?.
    GSTQ might be the national anthem of the UK but Scotland & Wales don’t want it.

  • John Collins

    Most definitely not Urban Myth. He was born and reared near Tipperary town and attended Erasmus Smyth’s school in the town. His grandfather was a landlord in Abbeyfeale and his people are buried in Glensharone COI Cemetery. A housing estate in the town is called after the Ellis family

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the just need to understand it’s not a pure Republic of Ireland team and not a pure Republic of Ireland occasion. I’m not sure they all do see it that way.