Football Eligibility: An Issue for the Misinformed and Those Seeking to Deny National Rights?

The matter of the eligibility of northern-born Irish nationals to play for the Football Association of Ireland was raised again recently at a panel discussion on sport and reconciliation during the 50th plenary session of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA). It was co-chaired by Frank Feighan of Fine Gael, who told us that the “trend… deserves careful consideration”.

This dispute has long been resolved, however, with football’s governing body, FIFA, providing ample clarification as to the correct application of their rules on eligibility (currently articles 5-8 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes) after thorough consideration up until the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled conclusively on the matter in 2011 and in rejection of the Irish Football Association’s vindictive and restrictive position at the time in the case of CAS 2010/A/2071, IFA v/ FAI, Kearns & FIFA.

Interestingly, the IFA had expressed acceptance of the situation whereby Irish nationals from the north could opt for the FAI after a meeting between Jim Boyce of the IFA and Bernard O’Byrne of the FAI in 1999. By that time, lower-profile players like Derry-born Mark McKeever and Belfast-born Ger Crossley had opted for the FAI, and, I might add, before the passing of the Good Friday Agreement (which is often cited in error as having paved the way in principle for the present situation). The association only deviated from that position in 2007 after higher-profile players like Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson opted for the FAI.

A total of seven players have formally effected a switch between the IFA and FAI since the right to switch once to another association for whom a player is eligible was introduced universally by FIFA in 2004. Prior to this, players who represented an association at any level became irrevocably cap-tied. The IFA have also benefitted from the introduction of a right for players to switch once; Alex Bruce formally switched from the FAI to the IFA and is not the only case of a player switching to the IFA from another association.

Participants and attendees at the discussion such as Trevor Ringland, Sammy Douglas of the DUP and Frank Feighan all repeated common misunderstandings in support of their shared preference for northern-born players to play for Northern Ireland.

Ringland told us that the rules were not being applied correctly whilst Douglas told us that it was a matter of “poaching”, as if to deny the players concerned of their agency. The reality is that the FAI legitimately facilitate fully-eligible Irish nationals who are willing and good enough to play for their country.

Feighan told us there was “a very real danger that both international football teams on the island might come to represent almost exclusively Nationalist and Unionist communities”. The respective teams broadly represent different traditions already as a result of the socio-political reality in the north.

It is not because of the eligibility issue that Irish nationals in the north identify with the FAI. The reason they support and declare for the Republic of Ireland football team is because they identify with the independent Irish national identity that is officially channelled through independent Ireland and, in turn, the FAI.

If Feighan is referring to the composition of the Northern Ireland team possibly becoming all-unionist or all-Protestant, this is simply baseless scaremongering. Players from Catholic and nationalist backgrounds (many, like Niall McGinn, who openly support the Republic of Ireland) continue to play for IFA teams for various reasons.

In fact, Claire Adams informed us that “the number of young Catholics playing in [the IFA’s] elite squads majorly outnumbers those in previous years”.

Since the Kearns case, the IFA have adopted a refreshing proactive and forward-looking approach whereby they now acknowledge that player choice is fundamental to this matter. At the BIPA panel discussion, Claire Adams of the IFA stated:

We want to develop our young players. We have a responsibility to show them what Northern Irish football wants to do and where we want to go. Michael O’Neill, since he’s come into the [managerial] post, has made great efforts in moving right across the country to talk to young people, to explain what Northern Ireland want to do with their football – what the IFA want to do – but I think we really need to show them what we can offer. A lot of it does come down to personal choice, but, what I would say is, the Irish FA’s focus right now is to develop the best players and the best people that we can and, hopefully, that will be enough for them to decide to stay on with us.

Rather than harbouring hopes of restricting the choice of dual citizens, it is clear that the IFA are now open to the choice these players have and see it as the association’s responsibility to convince eligible players that their best interests lie with them.

For a more detailed analysis of the discussion on the eligibility matter at the BIPA, see here and here.

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    My self-interest is in seeing a healthy, happy and prosperous Northern Ireland – and in sport, a good NI team that is supported by everyone.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Northern Ireland is the place, though, Daniel. We all signed up to it in 1998. We’re supposed to be all committed to trying to make it the best place it can be for all, and working together, not walking away from each other. Football is surely part of that.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Hi Daniel,
    The one thing that we cannot do is undo the past. What has happened on this island will never be forgotten. Everyone here has long memories and the stories of the bad, other side will be passed onto the future generations while they sit on their parents knee. The best that we can do is to try to make the other side feel as if they belong.

    I can live without a flag being flown and an anthem being played at Windsor Park for NI games. It will not dilute my sense of Britishness, if it happened. In fact, I long for the day that Northern Irish fans take pride in being Northern Irish and embrace an anthem and flag that no one can be offended by. It is the way forward ( in my opinion).

    I appreciate the fact that your understand that rugger fans from this part of the island feel “short changed” by the IRFU. I would go further and say that many feel that Irish rugby does not fully recognize them as truly Irish and patronises them. There is a sense that unless you wrap yourself with the tricolour and give your allegiance to this flag then you are a lesser Irishman/woman. The sad thing is the green, white and orange flag could have made a great unifying flag if a UI was to happen. It’s too late for that to happen and we need to stop pretending that it’s the flag of everyone on the island. If a genuinely inclusive UI was to happen, then the orange and green could/should be used in any new flag but it cannot/will not be the present republican flag. My own thoughts would be orange and green bordered by St. Patrick’s blue. Until that day happens (if it happens) let’s make the other traditions feel as if they are equal and as important as ourselves. Unfortunately, hard line loyalists and hard line republicans do not have the sense to see this,

  • submariner

    Perhaps you should apply this argument to the IFA rather than banging on about Nationalist players defecting are somehow betraying the cross community harmony that you imagine the IFA team is.

  • james

    Certainly. It is to the credit of the rugby fraternity that they rise above that, but I agree that the Irish do somewhat let their end down. Rebranding the British Lions as the B&I Lions, if it were needed, should indeed be reciprocated by a more inclusive ‘Ireland’ team if that is what we must have. Quid pro quo. Why not call it ‘Ireland and Northern Ireland’?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I do

  • Alan N/Ards

    SK, Have you missed the embarrassment of the unionist rugger players when the Irish anthem is played? It’s also not very cross community. It’s time to move away from the playing of non cross community anthems at Windsor and the Aviva. Let’s unite the fans and players instead of embarrassing a minority of them. Let’s be a little bit like the United Irishmen (on both sides of the border). I’m all for inclusion. Anthems should unite people, not divide them. Bring it on.

  • sk

    You’re right, Alan. If only the the IRFU could come up with a new anthem, commissioned by someone like Phil Coulter. Something about, I don’t know, the four proud provinces getting together or something?

    I don’t know, someday maybe.

  • Alan N/Ards

    My mistake. I must of have had a dream in which the Soldiers Song was played at The Aviva last month. I obviously thought that it had happened. Doh!

  • sk

    “Why not call it ‘Ireland and Northern Ireland’?”

    Catchy!

    Perhaps the IRB should rename their tournament the “Seven Nations” at the same time, as a nod to Northern Ireland?

    Now that I think about it, “IRB” sounds a bit republican too, doesn’t it? That’s gotta go…

  • james

    My point exactly. Why not just stick with the British Lions?

  • Under the present article 7, it would appear. FIFA seem to interpret “territory” in that article in line with area over which Irish nationality law applies. In my opinion, IFA would certainly have a case for challenging that interpretation, based of a literal reading on the article.

  • From where did this four-year investment in 2011 come?: http://www.irishfa.com/news/item/6387/major-funding-boost/

    What percentage of the IFA’s money is of public origin? What about SportNI, local councils as well as Stormont?

    Who owns the property on which young players around the north are trained?

  • Glad to see you’ve finally admitted your priority isn’t the unconditional togetherness you loftily expect of nationalists.

  • It’s a place, sure, but nationalists – whatever about the political/economic preferences of some – don’t have to let its border confine their cultural and national outlook. It’s only a line on a map to me. My country doesn’t end at the border. The GFA did anything but negate the national identity of nationalists; in fact, it explicitly endorsed the notion of nationalists looking beyond simply the northern quarter of their island nation for their native cultural cues. We’re not walking away from you. We’re walking forward with you; we’re just on a different path. Unionists must accept and appreciate that, especially those like yourself who are so keen to press upon us a general need to commit to the terms of the GFA in the hope of aiding cross-communal understanding. Or do you just like to commit to the terms that suit your agenda? You’re welcome to engage with us and our side of the story if you’re really bothered.

  • If you don’t mind me asking, why exactly did you choose to live in what was then, according to you, a sectarian cesspit?

  • Have you any self-awareness at all? Who has been crying the tears of victimhood on the eligibility issue and moaning about “poaching”?

    You’re the only one making an issue of difference here. I’m fine with respecting your difference, but you don’t seem keen to pay me the same respect without looking down upon me.

    Your ceaseless moralising is tiresome. Why would southerners be embarrassed? Ireland fans, north and south, are almost universally in favour of northern lads lining out for us. James McClean enjoyed a standing ovation on his debut, such was the pleasure of the crowd to see him realise his boyhood dream:

    Have a watch of this for the view of Tadhg na sráide:

  • Why do you assume he’s trying to excuse himself? We don’t need any excuses.

  • You don’t think your politics are shaping your opinion on issues like this? Pull the other one.

  • Forward-thinking post, AG, although it was the CAS who referred to a denial of rights; not just me. 😉

  • Davros64

    A bit rich coming from you, given yer own literacy issues!
    😮

  • Davros64

    Or the man who would eat the whole of Ulaidh, given the chance,ie.FU!

  • Davros64

    ‘Poaching’? What an eejit…

  • “Crucially however, this is seriously compounded by Nationalist opinion that seemingly rejects any expression or representation of ‘Irishness’ that does not subscribe to a De -Valerian idyll.”

    From where are you getting this “Nationalist opinion”? De Valera’s long gone. There’s a lot more to Ireland than his ghost. Were you aware that the visa pages of the current Irish passport feature Ulster-Scots poetry by James Orr?

    “Yet in contrast, the unmitigated and uninhibited pride that Irish sports fans (and citizens) take in the celebration and promotion of their state, culture and traditions – rarely if ever – sees any admonishment for the blanket waving of the Irish Tricolour.”

    Y’think? It has been a feature of this very discussion.

    “And at the sharper end of things, from those Northern Nationalists who relentlessly seek cultural domination and the eradication of British culture from Northern Ireland.”

    Seeking equality – a genuine nationalist goal – isn’t the same thing as seeking privilege.

    “Put simply, if Ulster Protestants did not already feel significantly different to their neighbours, then difference would most certainly be thrust upon them.”

    Difference would be imposed upon “the chosen people” by the United Irish? Hmm… Who played the Orange card again? Historically, the sense of difference has very much been as a result of how Ulster Protestantism has positioned and defined itself. Plenty of Protestants in the south share no such sense of alienation.

  • Davros64

    Ha, for the soccer team, yes!

  • Double standard on my part? Who said I’d be demanding the sacking of an IFA rep for singing a loyalist ballad? I wouldn’t be bothered by it. Raymond Kennedy was a member of the Orange Order. I couldn’t care less.

    Anyway, I suggested that Delaney probably should have resigned/got the sack.

  • Documented at 45:43 here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xrdv3x_green-is-the-colour-episode-1_sport

    The FAI (then the FAIFS) proposed, at a meeting in Liverpool in 1923, that the associations unite with a single selection committee made up equally of members from Dublin and Belfast. They also proposed games be played alternately between the two cities. The IFA had no time for such ideas. The associations met again in 1925 for discussions, but there was no movement then either. They nearly agreed on a compromise deal in 1932 until “a minor technicality about the number of seats on a committee ended up in a shouting match”.

  • Kernaghan was born in England too.

    Offered him money?…

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you’d need to ask them. But I think they were embarrassed because they had no gripe against Northern Ireland and didn’t want to be seen to be messing us up unnecessarily. The embarrassment was over the poaching / behaviour of the FAI, not the decision of some players to play for the Republic, which is fair enough.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the good thing about online conversations is you can go back and check exactly what people said. And it seems I didn’t describe Dublin as that, not would I. I enjoyed my time there and I liked the people very much that I got to know.

    An apology for that last comment would be nice, please.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Glad you’re committed to the GFA, Daniel. It’s a fair settlement and recognises the rights and identities of all.

    You say you’re not walking away from us – but with respect, what you describe does seem more like going away from us rather than towards us.

    Even if there were a united Ireland you want in the future, the problem in Northern Ireland won’t go away. The key to a better future for the region is and always has been relationships between the two communities in Northern Ireland. I worry that some Irish nationalists think changing sovereignty is somehow going to solve things. But it’s always going to come down to how the two peoples in Northern Ireland get along.

    It’s hard work and not always joyful – but it’s important we commit ourselves to that. Looking for answers elsewhere, either in the Republic or on the British mainland, only gets you so far. This is about us, ultimately, not people in Limerick or Dundee, important though other places in these islands are to our respective identities.

  • What behaviour where they embarrassed by exactly? Any player who wishes to play for the FAI has to make that decision himself.

  • Apologies, I misinterpreted this phrase of yours:

    “But yes, the ROI is pure as the driven the snow on the old sectarian front.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes, you did. Apology accepted.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There was a tv documentary on while I was there about it. FAI guy was an arse in it. Like I say, a lot of people into football and with no axe to grind against NI were/are uncomfortable about it.

    It is a genuine dilemma for a lot of thinking people, not the straightforward issue you present it as. It’s only straightforward if you have an animus against Northern Irish football (or against all players who want to play for the Republic).

  • Whether you realise it or not – and I genuinely don’t think you do – you patronise nationalists. Not everything nationalists do has to be viewed as a reaction to unionism. Really, we can do things independently as well simply to celebrate ourselves and that need not be perceived as an inherent insult by unionists. We’re walking beside you and into the future, like I said; we’re just on a different path. I wouldn’t express condescension towards you for what I could describe as your “walking away from a shared future for all on the island of Ireland”. I wouldn’t try to impose upon you what I think is important for you, so I don’t need to be told what you think is important for me. You’ll decide what is important for you and I’ll decide what is important for me. That’s not me being antagonistic. It’s just me asserting a positive and progressive independence whereby we can hopefully both respect one another’s respective aspirations. I have no problem with yours. Stop suggesting there’s a problem with mine.

  • In case you missed a pretty significant part of what I’ve been doing here, I’m a thinking person myself. 😉

    You referring to Noel King at 01:30?:

    I was pleased with Noel’s forthright, assertive view and I have no axe to grind against NI. Why do you assume I do?

    RTÉ (like much of the mainstream media not bothering to do their research on this issue) were guilty of spreading some misinformation in that feature.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If it seems like talking down, I apologise. I just don’t think a lot of the more forceful nationalism I read on here, and I’d include yours, is as enlightened or liberal as it thinks it is.

    I have no problem with your aspiration for a united Ireland, nor should anyone. But I do we think we have hit the nub of the issue here, in NI politics as well as football: I worry that some nationalists (and I’d associate this with SF, not SDLP) seem to only want a shared place in an imagined future in which they are on top, not now, as equals.

  • From where are you getting this “Nationalist opinion”? De Valera’s long gone. There’s a lot more to Ireland than his ghost. Were you aware that the visa pages of the current Irish passport feature Ulster-Scots poetry by James Orr?

    Of course I accept that the modern Irish state is no longer a wholly proto-Gaelic, ‘comely maidens dancing at the crossroads’ hegemony. However, it’s not as far removed from this as you might like to think. Especially in rural areas. You don’t shake the influence of this kind of symbiotic church/state carve up in just 100 years. Keep an eye on the celebrations for the 1916 centenary and the occasional high profile anachronism regarding pregnancy termination and religious education.

    Yet in contrast, the unmitigated and uninhibited pride that Irish sports fans (and citizens) take in the celebration and promotion of their state, culture and traditions – rarely if ever – sees any admonishment for the blanket waving of the Irish Tricolour.”

    Y’think? It has been a feature of this very discussion.

    I am referring to the unbridled, celebratory use of the tricolour IN ROI (at sporting events & elsewhere). No one questions this. And that’s as it should be. Yet, wave a Union Jack or an Ulster Flag in NI (or much of GB) and you’ll be labelled an extremist,
    fundamentalist or quasi-fascist.

    Seeking equality – a genuine nationalist goal – isn’t the same thing as seeking privilege.

    Equality…fine by me. But…

    Surely you can’t claim that there doesn’t exits an on-going game of cultural brinkmanship by SF and other elements of Republicanism in trying to undermine the province’s Britishness wherever possible. And to do so via the ‘Trojan Horse’ of equality as Gerry would have it!

    Difference would be imposed upon “the chosen people” by the United Irish? Hmm… Who played the Orange card again? Historically, the sense of difference has very much been as a result of how Ulster Protestantism has positioned and defined itself. Plenty of Protestants in the south share no such sense of alienation

    Southern Protestants play little or no role in political life and any legacy of a historical Britishness is avoided like the plague. One thinks of the old saying, ‘keeping your head down like a Larne RC’…much the same thing I’m afraid. However, I accept many Southern Prods embrace their Irishness in a way that Northern prods cannot. I think you are underestimating the strength of support for partition in ROI. I have lived here for 22 years and I can assure you…not only are Ulster Prods viewed as significantly ‘different’ than citizens of ROI…so are Northern Nationalists/RCs! Sorry, but that’s the way it is!

  • And, hey, maybe your brand of “moderate” unionism isn’t as enlightened or liberal as you’d like to think it is either… 😉

    My outlook is very much in line with the GFA. I don’t know why you would assume it slides into the territory of desiring your cultural/political subjugation. What is it that causes you this worry?

  • Tochais Siorai

    More likely we are heading for the day when there will be an Irish (inc the diaspora & NI Nationalists) team and an Ulster British team.
    .
    Most players on both teams will probably be athiests or agnostics.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Tochias, That was the standard up into the early 70’s. I can actually remember a NI fan ( who was Scottish) giving off about the Ireland chant. The troubles really put an end to the Ireland chants. It’s such a shame.

  • A proto-Gaelic/De Valerian utopia with the non-native English tongue as a legally-equal but wider-used official language and no endowed state religion whilst affording the Church of Ireland “recognised” status? I’m not sure it adds up. In ‘Protestants in a Catholic State: Ireland’s Privileged Minority’, Kurt Bowen spoke of how the great majority of Catholics (“Nationalist opinion”) in the south, whilst distinguishing between northern and southern Protestants, regarded the latter as integral members of the republic. He found that the Protestant minority met with relatively little overt discrimination or open persecution, and, when it did occur very rarely, the state certainly did not countenance it. The well-researched and respected duo John McGarry and Brendan O’Leary support Bowen’s general approving view that “the Republic’s treatment of its Protestant minority, outside of the constitutional ban on divorce and abortion – which were opposed by some rather than all Protestants – stands up remarkably well in comparison with the treatment of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, and favourably with the treatment of minorities in some other states”.

    Regarding religious education in the south, Bowen wrote: “In practice, the state went out of its way to protect the minority’s religious rights by creating special rules intended to keep small Protestant schools open and by insisting that no child could be required to take religious instruction without parental agreement.”

    What should I be looking out for exactly during the upcoming 1916 centenary celebrations?

    “I am referring to the unbridled, celebratory use of the tricolour IN ROI (at sporting events & elsewhere). No one questions this. And that’s as it should be. Yet, wave a Union Jack or an Ulster Flag in NI (or much of GB) and you’ll be labelled an extremist, fundamentalist or quasi-fascist.”

    I would suggest it’s to do with the perceived historical power relationship. Rightly or wrongly and not ignoring your allusion to the tricolour’s bloodied orange third on account of its connection with militant republicanism, the Union flag and Ulster Banner are widely seen in the Irish context, both internally and externally, as flags of the imperial/planted oppressor whilst the other – the Irish tricolour – is seen as the flag of the resisting, plucky oppressed; “the fighting Irish”.

    Also, to be fair, Ulster loyalism, with which, in the public consciousness across these isles, the Ulster Banner is more associated than the tricolour happens to be associated with militant republicanism, is, undeniably and unashamedly, a bedfellow of some rather nasty, supremacist and extreme reactionary/rightist perspectives. Mainstream republican politics have always been more left-leaning, egalitarian (even Marxian) and less ethnic in nature. At least in principle!

    Ulster unionism too tends to be more socially-conservative than the more secular politics of Irish nationalism. For example, the gay marriage debate in the north’s political sphere is cleanly divided along “sectarian” lines. In the more “progressive” areas of these isles, or the areas at least generally perceived as such, the view is that there’s a very fine line between this social conservatism and what some might perceive as “political incorrectness”. I don’t quite think political Irish nationalism shares the same stigma, but feel free to expand on this with your own thoughts.

    “Equality…fine by me. But…

    Surely you can’t claim that there doesn’t exits an on-going game of cultural brinkmanship by SF and other elements of Republicanism in trying to undermine the province’s Britishness wherever possible. And to do so via the ‘Trojan Horse’ of equality as Gerry would have it!”

    Well, it’s no secret that SF’s ultimate aspiration is a united Ireland, but the mainstream nationalist/republican vision certainly does not seek to exclude those who cherish their Britishness. Gerry was speaking of getting the better of bigots; not getting the better of those identifying as British. Equality – political and economic – is evidently one of SF’s fundamental goals.

    “Southern Protestants play little or no role in political life and any legacy of a historical Britishness is avoided like the plague. One thinks of the old saying, ‘keeping your head down like a Larne RC’…much the same thing I’m afraid. However, I accept many Southern Prods embrace their Irishness in a way that Northern prods cannot. I think you are underestimating the strength of support for partition in ROI. I have lived here for 22 years and I can assure you…not only are Ulster Prods viewed as significantly ‘different’ than citizens of ROI…so are Northern Nationalists/RCs! Sorry, but that’s the way it is!”

    I’m not necessarily saying you’re wrong, nor am I setting out to wholeheartedly dispute what you say. Rather, I’ll merely contribute to the narrative with a second perspective. 🙂

    Protestants make up no more than five per cent of the population of a pluralist republic that sees its representatives selected by a system of proportional representation, but, whatever about their lack of political clout in contrast to earlier times when they enjoyed special social propelment and a disproportionate level of influence, I don’t think you could say they’ve been economically lacking for such a tiny minority. They’re not that absent from public-cultural life in the south, are they? David McWilliams and Bono are two notable Dublin Protestants that immediately spring to mind. I’m sure we’d be immediately aware of prominent others too if religion was as much a matter of public note in the south as it remains in the north.

    The vast bulk of the usable farming land around the Laggan district in Donegal, where I grew up myself, remains Protestant-owned and managed. Elsewhere, southern Protestants remain a class with money. The political goals of southern Protestants aren’t particularly or fundamentally at odds with those of the broader population either, so I don’t think you could argue they are unrepresented or in need of public Protestant faces to represent them. Southern society isn’t segregated like northern society is. The reason the former distinctions are no longer as evident and pronounced is not necessarily down to an encroachment upon Protestant rights (which have been, of course, protected by a codified constitution along with the rights of other minorities), nor is it down to the disappearance of Protestants from the landscape of public influence; it’s because they’ve assimilated/integrated and because greater numbers of Catholics now also enjoy the same privilege, affluence and prosperity that a greater proportion of Protestants always had. The southern middle and upper class is no longer the exclusive preserve of Protestants. And what about Douglas Hyde, Erskine H. Childers, Garret FitzGerald (of Ulster Protestant descent), Martin Mansergh, David Norris…? You’ll find Protestant representatives at modern council level too.

    The heritage of the Ulster-Scots community receives support and recognition, although those politicians from it (Basil McCrea, Maurice Devenney and Willie Hay, for example) choose to devote their civic efforts to the northern statelet. Orange parades, by and large, pass off peacefully and without tension in the south despite the theological and triumphalist anti-Catholicism of such affairs. We should remember there is an equal third of the national flag devoted to Protestants. Historically, I think it would be unfair to suggest that the southern state was anywhere near as regressive for Protestants as the northern statelet was for Catholics. Protestants have always made a big contribution to Irish life and, thankfully, still can and do.

    I’m very well aware of southern contentment with partition and of how they view us “nordies”. My own identity and that of my paternal Tyrone familial line is very much northern, but the origins of my maternal side of the family are in Connacht and Munster, whilst I lived in Dublin myself for four years after a youth and adolescence of straddling the Donegal-Derry border on a daily basis. Well, I’m technically a “southerner” by Donegal birth, but from personal experience, I would suggest that southern contentment with partition is stronger the further away one gets from the border. I would put it down to distance – or seeming irrelevance – rather than a strict adherence to some line on a map, the other side of which is deemed “foreign”, and I suggest it’s primarily rooted in a sense that the north is “just too much bother”; an aloof “sure leave them to their ways” sort of attitude. Of course, there are the active post-nationalists too, but southern voters still and will support declared republican parties in very significant numbers.

  • The FAI’s Wikipedia article states the following (with reference to Sean Ryan’s ‘The Boys in Green: The FAI International Story’): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_Association_of_Ireland#Split_from_the_IFA

    “Attempts at reconciliation followed: at a 1923 meeting, the IFA rejected an FAIFS proposal for it to be an autonomous subsidiary of the FAIFS. A 1924 meeting in Liverpool, brokered by the English FA, almost reached agreement on a federated solution, but the IFA insisted on providing the chairman of the International team selection committee. A 1932 meeting agreed on sharing this role, but foundered when the FAIFS demanded one of the IFA’s two places on the International Football Association Board.”

  • Dan

    Yes…..seems some are determined to foist their own little political statement on proceedings

  • Daniel, many interesting and valid points that you make. We could go on ad infinitum batting views back & forward! Instead, I would refer you to a book I’ve just edited; ‘The Contested Identities of Ulster Protestants’ (Palgrave Macmillan). The central premise of this is that these communities do not easily fall into one easy homogeneous bloc. And as such, the affiliations/associations sometimes subscribed to in regard to common cultural reference points are not-for example-in the sole ownership of one strand of Unionism/Loyalism/Protestantism.
    As for being Protestant and Irish on the island of Ireland. You present this community in the context of minority rights and protections, etc. Well I’m from the Shankill road and had a Grandmother from Stranolar, Co.Donegal. So guess what….I’m just as Irish as you, Gerry Adams or Enda Kenny! That I choose to see my Irishness in the context of my Britishness (ie, Scots/Welsh, etc,) does not in my eyes dilute this. I simply don’t buy into the zero sum game of mutually exclusive identities. Therefore, I shouldn’t have to have legislation to protect my rights or a constitution that is unrepresentative of my religion and culture. So I will continue to support Ulster & Irish Rugby, N.Ireland, Linfield & Rangers and will allow neither Irish Republicans or rabid Loyalists to undermine my British Irishness.

  • Thank you for the recommendation.

    I was referring to Protestants in Ireland as a minority religion rather than a minority nation, although I do think Ulster Protestants, generally-speaking, are often very keen to declare themselves a distinct nation or people, whether that’s because they wish to pull away or because they’re being pushed away, or perhaps a bit of both, I’m not entirely sure. But I will look into the book you’ve suggested; it might shed some light.

    I often describe my own identity as the independent Irish national identity (that happens to be officially channeled through Ireland), whereas I would view the identity you have just described as a British Irish identity; that Irishness being a regional or sub-national (rather than a national or independent) identity. I hope you wouldn’t find that unwarranted or culturally-overbearing of me to clarify what I feel I’m observing. I, by no means, would ever wish to deny you the right to identify however you wish, nor would I seek to deny you the right to identify as Irish if you wish. I acknowledge your Irishness. In my view, you are Irish, but I think we subscribe to different strains of Irishness. Our respective identities can certainly fall under the one umbrella though. Would you tend to agree or would you dispute my observation?

    Do you genuinely feel that the Irish constitution is a document inadequate to protect your rights and culture? Which aspect(s) of it exactly? It has its faults and I might well concur on the aspects you find problematic (perhaps its outmoded definition of the family, for example), but I don’t think I’d go as far to say it would be culturally alien to me as an agnostic atheist (lapsed Catholic). Although it does recognise certain popular religions – and not just Catholicism – and has the “holy God” spiel in the legally-meaningless preamble, it’s a fairly standard secular republican document in principle and can be amended with the will of the people. The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution was established in 1996 to keep it under constant review, so it’s not as if its terms are ever necessarily set in stone.

    You mention your grandmother from Stranorlar; without wishing to assume, was she an Ulster-Scot, by any chance? I think Irish nationalism and republicanism broadly welcoming the Ulster-Scots community under the Irish umbrella is a truly progressive thing. There is obviously work to be done there, but I don’t see why we should mock the Ulster-Scots traditions, as if they pose some sort of threat to how we define ourselves. We should embrace them; all our ancestors were influenced by the experiences and inter-mingling of the Gaels and Ulster-Scots in Ulster. My own dialect is, no doubt, influenced by Ulster-Scots, so it’s part of my heritage too. I find it all very fascinating and there’s no reason to be ashamed of our shared past.

    I mentioned it in another post here, but I would be supportive of official recognition for the British identity of those of the Ulster-Scots community in the Laggan district of Donegal. I know Willie Hay (from Milford) spoke of this in the past and his personal difficulty with it. I don’t know if it would be workable or practical, but I think it’s something that the two governments could look into. Those Ulster-Scots in the Laggan were caught the “wrong side of the border”, as it were, post-partition, just like the nationalist community were caught the other side, yet the nationalist community have always had official recognition of their independent Irish national identity since the unilateral passing of the Irish Citizenship and Nationality Act 1956 (that was later bilaterally-acknowledged through the GFA in 1998). I’m all for recognition and acceptance in the now and, from there, maybe we can work on uniting the entire island some day through consensus and accord. Although I appreciate that may not be atop your list of priorities at present.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Your attitude to the Northern Ireland football team.

  • Why does that bother you? You seem to want something from me that is absolutely none of your business. At worst, you can accuse me of apathy. There’s no obligation upon me to have any sentiment for your team. Being honest, your team doesn’t bother me. In fact, I’ve been happy enough to see yous do so well recently; fair play. I don’t wish you any ill will. The only thing that has bothered me in recent years has been the IFA’s intrusive attempt to prevent northern-born Irish nationals from playing for the FAI and NI fans accusing nationalists of bigotry and treachery, but we can move on now since the IFA’s position has changed for the better to acknowledge choice.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s regarding NI as “youse” not “us”. It’s your choice to do so and at an individual level I’m not quibbling with your absolute right to make that choice. But I’m pointing out there are negative consequences for the health of NI society in it. That’s not to dictate your choice, of course not – there’s a trade off between your individual rights and the collective good and it’s yours to make. I say the same thing about expressions of British identity – it’s people’s right to make them, but I’d urge them to be done in ways that don’t damage society. That is frequently ignored also. I’m not pretending that walking away from NI football is the only example of this kind of failure of cross-community spirit. Sadly, there are many of them. I just don’t think it’s the way forward, for either community.

  • But wouldn’t you describe the team I support in the same terms? I don’t think your view of “the way forward” or this “collective good” is actually as collective as you like to imagine. It has no interest in engaging, or uniting even, with the three other quarters of the island, and I could just as easily say how negative/unfortunate that is and how it worries me, but you’d rightly feel I was patronising you. The only reason I keep bringing it up is because you’re still failing to appreciate the glaring double standard of your expectations and accusations.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    My point was just that Northern Ireland is the part of the island where the populations are mixed and people need to work out how to get along. How we relate or not to the good people of Cork or Glasgow or Liverpool is not the issue we face.

  • Davros64

    Hmm, sounds like a contradiction in terms or having your cake and eating it!
    Plenty of Irish Protestants are happy to be just, er, Irish…

    The Britishness is an irrelevance in this context, you can be one or other but not both!

  • That’s funny…the GFA and my two passports would suggest otherwise This might come as a shock to you…but Ireland pre-dates 1922!

  • Davros64

    Did I say it didn’t?
    The Irish have been there for centuries anyway, unlike some…