How Would Rory McIlroy Vote?  And why that’s important.

336px-Rory_McIlroy_watches_drive_flight_(portrait_orientation)Predicated as it is on avarice and greed and standing as a monument to the necessity for mandatory wealth re-distribution, the most useless supplement of the year reappeared last week.

The Sunday Times Rich List likes to rank all the people in the country who have more money than you. And expects you to pay for the privilege of reading about them.

Not surprisingly, a certain young County Down sports celebrity –always keen to reassert his affinity with his place of birth – appeared near the top of the list.

And this got thinking me about whether Rory still has a vote in the Northern Ireland elections and if so…then who would he vote for?

To be sure, Master McIlroy would not constitute a typical Holywood resident. But given his ‘rags to riches’ journey and lower middle class catholic origins, the SDLP might consider themselves a shoe-in for his ‘X’.  Alliance too, might feel confident of his support.

Of course, not all Protestants are Unionist in their political outlook and Loyalist in their Monarchist support. Similarly, not all Catholics are Republican or have Nationalist aspirations.

Yet we know that the tendency for commentators and observers to lazily group the two main traditions in Northern Ireland into convenient, homogenous blocs, contributes to the recurring impasse of two-party rule by reinforcing these stereotypes.

Such speculation regarding Rory McIlroy’s political allegiances is hardly uncommon conjecture. And given his past experiences you can bet that he wouldn’t be answering questions of this nature, in the unlikely event that someone from the press actually asked him.

He has learned the hard way.

In  2012, this young, mild-mannered – lower middle class, Controlled Grammar school educated – County Down man, (Roman Catholic by religion for those interested in such matters) inadvertently reminded us of the depth of significance that the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland still place on national and cultural allegiance. In a wide-ranging interview with Sportsmail, the then 23-year-old – whose Northern Irish roots made him eligible for both British and Irish representation – had spoken candidly about this dilemma.

“Maybe it was the way I was brought up, I don’t know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland. And so I have to weigh that up against the fact that I’ve always played for Ireland and so it is tough. Whatever I do, I know my decision is going to upset some people but I just hope the vast majority will understand.”

Whether his aspiration to empathy was realised is a matter for conjecture.

However, for a significant number of opinion formers in the media and on social networking sites, they most assuredly did not understand. And golfing superstar Rory McIlroy learned a salutary lesson in regard to the place that sports and cultural allegiance hold in the collective national psyches of both traditions in Ireland, North and South and within Great Britain.

What was perhaps most depressing about the subsequent outpouring of vitriol, jingoistic tub-thumping and rash editorial comment, was the unforgivably thoughtless filicide of a new and emerging post-conflict generation in Northern Ireland. One uncomfortable with the traditional religio-political stereo-types foisted upon them and refreshingly honest in their opinions based on their own lived experiences.

McIlroy enjoyed a largely middle-class upbringing, provided by the herculean efforts of his working class parents, who sought to create a non-sectarian environment for themselves and their son. Enjoying a religiously mixed social and educational setting and growing up in an area relatively free from social unrest, ensured that young Rory was able to take pleasure in the interests and enthusiasm of his peers.

Supporting the Ulster Rugby team, following Manchester United, representing Ireland in his chosen field – whilst declaring for team GB in the golfing Olympics [1]  – were all passions that he pursued without the encumbrance of believing that he had to belong to one side or the other.

Rather than lamenting him for his political naïveté, the popular and sporting press should have been lauding him as the successful face of an emerging, post conflict Northern Ireland. Someone who fought shy of the minefield of nation statehood and undoubtedly saw himself as first and foremost, Northern Irish.

But this is not a designation that is easily accepted by Nationalists/Republicans, refusing as they do to recognise the artificially constructed ‘statelet’ of Northern Ireland. (Despite accepting political office in its governmental institutions).

Living and working in the Irish Republic for some twenty plus years now, I was appalled at the irresponsibility of journalists, broadcasters, social commentators and casual acquaintances alike, who decried McIlroy for daring to describe himself as  ‘British’ and declaring for ‘them’.

The incident was a timely reminder of how the whole panoply of representative life on this island remains mired within the history and perceived culture of the two main traditions. And how ‘ownership’ of successful high profile individuals and their achievements can be used as a celebration or affirmation of national and community identity.

In short, Rory…don’t open those postal ballot papers. You’re well out of it in Florida!

Dr Thomas Paul Burgess is Senior Lecturer at the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork. His new novel ‘White Church, Black Mountain’ is now available. He is also the co-author of ‘The Contested Identities of Ulster Protestants‘.

[1]He famously revised this decision and declared for Ireland at a later stage and no doubt in deference to the furore that had emerged.

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  • Janos Bingham

    What in this day and age marks out a “middle class upbringing” in Northern Ireland?

  • chrisjones2

    As hes resident in Monaco why should he have a vote? And could he be bothered?

  • Nevin

    “Controlled Grammar school educated”

    Perhaps TPB should have checked the non-controlled Sullivan Upper website:

    Sullivan Upper is a co-educational, inter-denominational, voluntary grammar school. .. The school’s aims remain very much as they originally were: to provide the best possible education for all pupils, regardless of race, sex, background or religious denomination.

  • barnshee

    “Yet we know that the tendency for commentators and observers to lazily group the two main traditions in Northern Ireland into convenient, homogenous blocs, contributes to the recurring impasse of two-party rule by reinforcing these stereotypes.”

    CHhange that to ” to accurately group the two main traditions”

  • Barneyt

    With deserved anonymity I expect

  • Zeno

    A 48 inch Widescreen TV with the full sky sports and movies pack means you’re working class or unemployed.
    A 26 inch old TV the size of a fridge with basic sky pack means you’re middle class.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Brilliant observation. If it’s original Zeno, quote of the day!

  • Sergiogiorgio

    The lad earns tens of millions. He’s the best golfer on the planet. The worlds media adore him. Do you reckon he gives a tinkers cuss about the narrow minded, cynical wankers he’s left behind in NI. Our ignorance is only eclipsed by our arrogance that we mean a thing to anyone outside this craphouse.

  • dodrade99

    Probably for Lady Sylvia like most people in North Down.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t know who he’d vote for or anything about Monégasque politics.

  • Janos Bingham

    There’s a social science PhD in those two lines. Well done Doctor Z.

  • Zeno

    Thank you.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Another 59,963 words needed, three (I think) bound copies, and an external assessor (I’ll do it).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not so long ago it used to include books, Zeno, but now……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you, Dr Burgess, for a most interesting series of observations. Something that is seldom noticed anywhere is just how many young Catholics in the wee six who are distancing themselves from SF think of a link with England as just another piece of the landscape, with a period of work in London or Cambridge in new technology or media no differently seen to looking out middle class jobs in Dublin. Those actually seeing the link with Westminster as a positive boon are still not a big group and usually they are conservatives with a small “c”, from families both working and middle class who were themselves disgusted with the acrimony and legacy of violence evident in both highly subscribed wings of political opinion here. Such people think of England (I’d feel rather naively myself) as an honest broker. I even know of someone from the younger generation who gives political funds to the DUP. He feels they are good for business, I try and dissuade him, but…. I should note here that my own more rather more radical politics would be highly critical of what I’d see as a pendulum swing simply from one set of problems to yet another, but I’d think the same of a United Ireland led by the current political establishment, or those next down the conveyor belt.

    The existence of this group, even in the face of clear proofs of ongoing Loyalist distaste for Catholicism, says a lots about the Unionist communities’ devastating miscalculation in supporting Ronnie Bunting Sr and Ian Paisley in 1968, when NICRA attempted to interest the state in ironing out the creaking old injustices of the long years of partition. This is what brought some of the more far sighted younger Unionists into NICRA then, as the trend to “Unionism lite” was already evident amongst some educated Catholics even back in the 1960s and it should also have been noted by any serious local administration not determined to see all Catholics as inherently “disloyal”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m told (by my “rich” Antipodean relatives, one of whom lived there until recently) that Monaco and the Riviera is simply one big “nouveau rich slum” housing estate for those who have prospered (in both sectors) since the Thatcher/Reagan insider “revolution”.

    No one actually enjoys it, I’m told, but I imagine at least poor McIlroy has enough anonymity amongst these people to avoid the kind of abusive behaviour anyone with any kind of celebrity usually encounters here, at home. The “outpouring of vitriol, jingoistic tub-thumping”, etc, extend well beyond the media, into a very receptive audience and many throughout the community here have been well conditioned to display automatic envy responses to anyone different in any way whatsoever. It seldom stops at wealth…….

  • Carl Mark

    he does have a A level, so who knows what the future holds!

  • mickfealty

    That’s the second time on a second thread you have basically posted the same idea John. Have you decided to stop thinking and just spam us? 🙂

  • chrisjones2

    being resident there doesent actually mean you have to actually live there

  • mickfealty

    I prefer to think of it as “gently chided” myself… 🙂

  • Kevin Breslin

    He should be able to vote there

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh I know. A lot of people I know who have been rather more successful than myself in the film world move about the world to avoid being in any place longer than would qualify for them to pay tax. But a lot of Monaco “residents” live in the south of France part of the year. Haven’t been there for years now, but the photos I get sent say it all, ‘one big “nouveau rich slum” housing estate ‘!