How many civic receptions does it take to make an NI controversy?

I used to enjoy soccer. I still do, on most occasions. But in the context of Northern Ireland (or Glasgow) its hard not to tire of its endless potential to create enough political toxins to kill a bull.  And here comes another one

An SDLP motion is to go before Belfast City Council next week proposing the two teams are honoured at a groundbreaking City Hall event.

However, Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers questioned the motives behind the proposal and said he would prefer “a reception for the British Isles teams which would include England and Wales”. It is the first time in football history that both teams have qualified at the same time and under managers who are both from Northern Ireland.

The motion is being proposed by the SDLP’s Declan Boyle, who said it was “a genuine and long-overdue attempt at inclusiveness and reconciliation”. He added: “I’d be surprised if anybody could vote against it.”

Ah, Mr Boyle. What can I say? Aside from noting that yesterday most of the Sinn Fein Assembly party present was driven (reluctantly in some cases) by the Assembly Chair Mitchel McLaughlin, to a standing ovation for Peter Robinson at his last First Minister’s questions.

There is of course nothing wrong with the idea in essence, not least since the Co Derry O’Neill is a former captain of Northern Ireland, but if the SDLP are serious about selling themselves as partners, a wee word with the UUP to see if it was a goer might have been useful.

Further progress for progressive nationalism could prove to be very slow indeed… [Cheer up, at least it’s not a #Fleg. You can’t eat those, remember? – Ed]



  • Nevin

    You missed the one in Ballymena, hi, where one councillor from a nationalist party allegedly opposed a reception for representatives of the Northern Ireland team – and then turned up in councillor robes! It’s all very confusing.

  • Greenflag 2

    Even when they’re winning they’re losing . They’ll never grow up 🙁

  • Is it possible that MLAs could resolve this type of stuff between each other using the new-fangled electric telephone, instead of via the media, to avoid dragging otherwise positive stories down to this level.

  • Mike the First

    Silly, gimmicky grandstanding from the SDLP.

    That new leadership is already looking tired and out of decent ideas…

  • Mike the First

    The SDLP?


  • Robin Keogh

    It just shows again the level of ridiculousness unionists will go to in order to block an idea simply because it comes from nationalism. Its a good idea to bring the two teams together in a spirit of good will and fair play. Trust Unionism to have a problem with it !

  • Reader

    What’s Dublin doing?

  • Lorcs1


  • Greenflag 2

    I was referring to Mr Rodgers seemingly mild case of paranoia . And his party’s insatiable appetite for shooting themselves in the foot whenever an opportunity presents itself . Boorish is as boorish does and in the matter of boorishness these guys are world champions 😉

    As regards the comment

    ” if the SDLP are serious about selling themselves as partners, a wee word with the UUP to see if it was a goer might have been useful.”

    The SDLP have learnt the hard way that selling themselves to the UUP is about as useful politically as climbing on a crucifix and asking the UUP not to hammer in the nails with too much pleasure 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    Why should they stop using mental telepathy . It seemed to work from 1920 to 1969 then it failed . It did’nt do to well in the 1974 to 1998 period either . I think they miss the oul mental telepathy -It was such a success i.e . You didn’t have to talk to those other f ******rs at all at all !

  • Zig70

    Good point. A lot was made of the two teams qualifying together on RTE.

  • Zig70

    Yep, Teaming up with the UUP would be dumb, they’d be too stubborn to shoot at the other net after half time.

  • Barneyt

    Thin line between consultation and seeking permission though. Would jack charlton have been honoured in london alongside englands manager in 90 and 94. Dont think so. I see the peculariarity that NI fans might see. However i can see the inclusivity argument given half of NI support ROI and i hope many would celebrate NIs remarkable achievement with even less resources than below. Dublin may respond…ye never know. This kills the all ireland soccer team debate does it not?

  • Talking to each other via press release instead of picking up the phone isn’t far off mental telepathy!

    When I saw this story spreading beyond NI online I have to admit I cringed.

    A pipe-dream I know, but it would be entertaining if both associations declined an invite.

  • Greenflag 2

    Naw . By half time most of the UUP players would have been red carded 😉 . Any SDLP players still on the field for the second half would be on a hiding to nothing -for nothing . A six man Derry City versus a Real Madrid first eleven . . No marks for result predictions

  • Greenflag 2

    Indeed and is (via press release ) probably worse .

    You should be used to cringing by now 😉

    Yes it would be entertaining . I can just see the headline .

    IFA and FAI along with rest of Ireland and Britain can’t understand motives of NI politicians yet again 😉


    NI unionist politician claims soccer ball is too green !

  • Robin Keogh

    ….or FAI and IFA tell Stormont to FO

  • Kevin Breslin

    Answer’s simple … Host them make Dublin pay. Win win

  • mickfealty

    Mike’s point is worth dwelling on, before you boys head off on a man playing spree. ‘Winding up the Prods’ has been done before (never quite to death), and we already know that it’s providing a very limited electoral pay out.

    If the SDLP lose the seats next May that some bright spark in Colum’s campaign publicised in the press by and large it won’t be to SF, but to unionists or to Alliance. If that is where your key weakness is then this is the opposite of good politics.

    Alliance in particular must be going ‘nom, nom, nom’…

  • Greenflag 2

    NI could do worse than Alliance winning seats from the SDLP, UUP , and even the DUP . A week is a long time in politics but six months is an eternity . Anyway young Eastwood has just started so its early days yet to comment on his leadership style or skills . Its NI politics not the Premier League 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    The Foreign Office does’nt get involved in sporting matters 😉

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Ah yes, all nationalists must doff caps and tug forelock to the Unionist overlords. Buck Rogers and his ilk are all so damn predictable. Flegs, flegs, flegs, yawn, yawn, yawn.

  • mickfealty

    Of course. But not is it like the old Division 4: they can get relegated to the Conference, albeit weak link by weak link…

  • Mike the First

    Having a go at “unionists” and “unionism” on the back of one UUP councillor’ comment about a silly stunt from an SDLP councillor – you’re just gagging to make a sweeping attack on themmuns, aren’t you Robin? Your prejudice couldn’t be plainer.

  • Mike the First

    So who are this “they” who are “winning” and “losing”, Greenflag? The UUP? How’s that now?

  • Galena

    Both Martin & Michael were born just a few miles apart – If it wasn’t Belfast City Council we were talking about i’d say I didn’t see what the problem was.

  • Ciarán

    Maybe on your planet inviting *both* national football teams and holding an inclusive event is just an exercise in ‘winding up the prods’ but to nationalists this is very much a progressive and a positive recognition of a success that we can all celebrate. The fact that you think nationalists should have to pre-clear such a seemingly simple proposal with unionists speaks volumes about the progressive position of unionism and their clear inability to take any decision no matter how mild that might be considered out-reach. I mean seriously… Wales and England.. really??? really???

  • Daragh

    ‘Winding up the Prods’?! You really think an inclusive event would be ‘winding up the Prods’. I believe you genuinely think this but sadly this thinking reflects the view that there is no ‘parity of esteem’ for Nationalists if they have to ask permission to lift their heads above the parapet and celebrate their team’s success in the same way Unionists can as a right.
    A joint function like this could set the tone for next summer’s tournament between the fans and ensure good humour and mutual respect endures on both sides.
    Not according to you however, because obviously Nationalists are just trying to ‘wind up the Prods’. Nationalists should be just happy with keeping their heads down.

  • Nevin

    The SDLP is in the same groove as the Irish government ie emphasise the ‘Irish’ and airbrush the ‘British’. Unionists, on the other hand, emphasise the ‘British’ and mainly ignore or oppose the ‘Irish’. I say mainly as one of my Unionist councillor friends is a strong promoter of the ‘Irish’ brand – but that’s because it’s a nice little earner!

  • Neil

    Jim Boyce, a former Irish Football Association president and Fifa vice-president, said politicians should keep out of sport.

    “I have tried consistently to stop politicians from making comments about sport because, sadly, when some of them open their mouths the wrong thing comes out,” he said.

    “It is a great achievement by both countries to reach the finals of the Euros. If someone wants to honour the achievements of people in sport, then surely people should put aside their political differences, whatever they may be.

    “Don’t forget that Martin O’Neill, one of the best players we’ve ever had in Northern Ireland, is manager of the Republic.”

    Meanwhile, Gerry Armstrong applauded the proposed joint reception and expressed dismay at the political row.

    “I think it’s a great idea and whoever came up with it should be applauded,” he said.

    “Unfortunately politics in Northern Ireland tends to get in the way. Politics and sport never mix. We proved that in 1982. We brought the two communities together through football and that’s the way it will be come next summer.”

    If inclusivity is “winding up the Prods” then I suppose that explains quite a few things. Let Unionists (politicians – elected by your community Mike, therefore your representatives) continue to behave in the usual fashion. Not an inch ’til they have the power to take it all.

    In due course Unionist representation on Belfast City Council won’t be able to do much (declining Unionist vote share in every election since 1973 bar one), so make sure and be as ungracious and uncharitable as possible now while you cling to the dwindling remnants of your power and then when the taigs eventually get to the position you have been in for many years they’ll probably be as kind to you as you were to them.

    Unionists/Loyalists now hold 23 seats to Republicans/Nationalists 26 with Alliance (the party Loyalists tried to burn out of Belfast showing their typical nous for long term thinking) on 8 holding the balance of power.

  • Nevin

    Cheer up, Mick, not all council receptions are toxic or feature football. Here’s a recent one with a strong Irish flavour that includes unionist councillors, though not many women: “Following in James’s and Molly’s Footsteps, Ireland Style”.

  • Mirrorballman

    I think it’s a great idea and long overdue. There are as many ROI supporters in Belfast as there are NI supporters. Lets have a council for all citizens.

    I’d also support Dublin doing the same thing. Hopefully in early 2016 as part of the centenary celebrations. Imagine both the Irish teams together being applauded by all the citizens of the capital. Would be great…

  • Greenflag 2

    There is no debate to kill . Fans of either and both teams are happy to see their teams qualify. The UK has three teams qualifying ( England, Wales NI ) Ireland has two teams qualifying ( Ireland and NI ) . Meanwhile world champions Germany have only one team as have all the other qualifiers . Scotland alas have none . Now maybe if Scotland was partitioned they might do better eh :)?

  • Mike the First

    Jim Rodgers isn’t my representative, and I would say most football fans in NI who know of him think (to put it bluntly) that he’s an arse.
    Any actual fans I’ve seen commenting on this (both NI and ROI fans) think it’s a silly piece of pre-election grandstanding by Declan Boyle, by the way.

  • Mike the First

    The nature of this motion as a simple headline-grabbin stunt by by Councillor Boyle can be seen in its complete impracticality.

    When exactly does he imagine that the ROI squad will gather in Belfast? These are professional footballers living for the most part in GB. They’ll be together in Ireland maybe a couple of times before Euro 2016, but wasting valuable preparation time on a 200 mile round trip on a coach to Belfast? Really?

  • Reader

    Daragh: ‘Winding up the Prods’?! You really think an inclusive event would be ‘winding up the Prods’.
    Jim Rodgers is not complaining that the event is inclusive, he is complaining that it isn’t inclusive. My guess is that an event that is inclusive enough for him would be too inclusive for you.
    Am I right?

  • Nevin

    This issue isn’t limited to Belfast, Galena, as the example that I’ve given about MEABC in Ballymena shows. CCGBC in Coleraine is now following the Ballymena example.

    The proposed closure of state care homes and the recently announced closure of several private ones have been in the news but this key issue has yet to attract the attention of a Slugger blogger.

  • Robin Keogh

    No mike in fact half of me is in fact a themmun. I am simpky pointing out what is plain to any reasonable person, the fact that you jump to defend the indefensible says more about you than my opinion does about myself.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ah so any effort to attempt at bringing people together is now a winding up the prods exercise?

  • Nevin

    Greenflag, you’re in a confused state! You’re (deliberate?) mixing-up of political and geographic labels is noted.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Getting on with life…

  • Greenflag 2

    This is sport Nevin . Own goals are allowed so Unionists can play too. As far as the world is concerned two Ireland’s are playing which is a once in a century phenomenon unlike with the West German /East German or North Korea /South Korea more frequent simultaneous qualifications

    The next dual qualification may reappear with Halley’s comet in 2061 but long before then we may just have the one team -what a bummer eh ?

  • Croiteir

    Yes – seek permission

  • Mike the First

    Nope, you jumped in to attack “Unionists” and “Unionism” out of prejudice, not “reasonableness”.
    For example – show me where I’ve “defended” anything about this, much less “the indefensible”.

  • Mike the First

    Go on then Greenflag. Show us how much you actually know about football. Tell us about these “more frequent simultaneous qualifications” in the case of West Germany and East Germany.
    (Hint: you won’t need to count past one)

  • 7 percent global minority

    Not really true in this case. Unionists are merely emphasising the Northern Irish. Nationalists ridiculously trying to push the all Ireland agenda in an absurd manner. Unionists willing to include both the British and Irish dimension with Republic, England and Wales but realise just how impractical and abnormal the whole notion of inviting teams from other regions is.

  • mickfealty

    No. Re-read the piece above Robin? Strikes me some people still think that reconciliation is some kind of exclusively binary process of negotiation and oneupmanship. In fact it requires foresight, resilience and plain hard, thankless work

  • Robin Keogh

    No Mick I disagree completely. We have to start looking at simple initiatives like above as opportunities rather than challenges. The SDLP have put forward an idea, a pretty harmless one at that, but its instantly turned into a contentious issue for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever. Ridiculous. Efforts to bring people together in a spirit of friendship and celebration are sincere and if they are seen as an attempt to wind up the prods its a crying shame. If recognising the success of both Irish football teams at a reception in Belfast is really the sort of thing that winds up the prods, heaven help us if the pope ever decides to drop by.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And some genuine public spiritedness on behalf of the whole community, if that’s not too confusing or difficult a concept.

  • Greenflag 2

    Well they’re one team now and it seems to work for them but its probably just luck . I do not pretend expertise in the matter of international soccer tournaments but it seemed to me that there were more meetings – I’ve a great memory for forgetting remember ! And there were but at Olympic level – If it had’nt been for the Austrians it would have been ZWEI World Cup qualifications which is one mehr than eins .

  • Nevin

    Greenflag, your jibe was, er, political!

  • Granni Trixie

    Point is, it did cme across as just that. If genuine, why not sound out your opposite numbers behind the scenes first off? That way a spirit of generosity is more likely to prevail.

    Think of examples of this in the field of the arts: Michael Longley got the Freedom of Belfast after SDLP, DUP and others did just that- and this week we saw that Seamus Heaney and CS Lewis portraits, now hanging in Great Hall, are the result of cooperation behind the scenes.

  • Greenflag 2

    Naw Nevin it was a perfectly struck corner kick from the left wing which the attacking centre forward headed towards goal but which then Rick O’Shead off the crossbar and bounced off the defending right back’s rear end , and left the goalie grasping at air as the ball ended up in the net . That tied the game . So all round no winners and no losers and everybody is unhappy again . Next game coming up shortly no doubt -we can expect a similar result no doubt .

  • Greenflag 2

    Patience the man has hardly been elected.

  • Nevin

    Greenflag, perhaps it was that blow on the head that caused you to mix-up these political and geographic labels!

  • babyface finlayson

    I think Granni is quite correct on this

    If a party is doing something like this for the optics then they just go ahead and put it out there. If the other lot accept it that’s a coup and if they don’t well ..’we tried to reach out didn’t we?’

    On the other hand if people want to make genuine gestures they talk to all relevant parties first in case there are unforeseen problems. Just good sense.
    Of course Unionists are painting themselves in a bad light with their response, but, like Millwall supporters, they don’t really care

    To use a bad analogy, when the Queen’s honours are being dished out, I believe the recipients are quietly contacted first to see if they would accept or not.

    Why can’t we all be more like the Queen, God bless her.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    2 Ulstermen have taken 2 different teams to the finals.

    If the other team was The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or Togo or somewhere I doubt there’d be as much of a kerfuffle.

    But when a squad of ‘themuns’ (English or otherwise) are involved then it’s back to the trenches…

  • T.E.Lawrence

    The Millwall Brick !

  • babyface finlayson

    Don’t be giving them ideas!

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I think its fairly reasonable to have an event for both Irish teams. Things don’t always have to be on a UK wide perspective. What is the event anyway? Visit the Christmas Market? A yoga class? A rave?

  • Greenflag 2

    What mix up ? What blow ? I was a spectator .Terrible game a draw . SDLP 1 – UUP 1

    It would be good for NI if the Alliance Party were to outvote both SDLP and UUP and reduce both the latter to rump status . Now that could be win for NI.

  • Nevin

    “Now that could be an upset !” is what appears in my notification, Greenflag. Alliance has ONE councillor in the new 40-member Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council ie almost disappeared from view. At its peak it had 3 out of 22 in the former local council.

  • Robin Keogh

    I take your point and it is indeed valid. However, i think something as innocent as inviting two sporting teams to dinner in Belfast should not need the same level of front smoothing as say something like awarding a politician a prize or commemorating an historical event or some such example.

  • Greenflag 2

    Nevin –

    The fact that the good people of your local bailiwick choose to prefer the past over the future assuming of course that any of them actually think there could be or there actually is a difference between past and future never mind the present is a matter which I’m sure concerns you . For others the reaction will range from complete indifference to so what , Deja vu for the umpteenth time .

    The world moves on even if the Causeway Coast and parts thither stay put in the political basalt columns that solidified about 60 million years ago .

    As you know I’m a believer in the now almost discarded theory that Northern Ireland’s politics can never truly change for the better until NI no longer exists as a state. . But as that is not guaranteed and may be a long or short way off we are left to indulge and comment on the manifold contradictory idiocies which the province manages yet to generate 25 years after the GFA ‘Agreement ‘ This current fracas is just one of the more ludicrous and funny ones which of course was a prompt for what I thought was jocularity but then some folks are deficient in humour which is closely correlated with a deficiency in intelligence they say.

  • Daragh

    Watch how you go Reader, because yourself and Jim Rodgers are protruding out from behind that carefully placed fig leaf.

    There is as much chance as David Ford becoming the next First Minister as there is of Wayne Rooney and the lads clearing a date in the calendar for some tea and prawn sandwiches with Jim Rodger et al at Belfast City Council.

    On the other hand, the ROI team may very well accept the offer given the number of fans they have in the North and the fact that potentially a quarter of the squad travelling to France will come from Ulster.

    The reason Jim Rodgers said that England and Wales should be invited was to water down any potential ‘parity of esteem’ that Nationalists may have felt and it was the only possible objection he could raise (not inclusive enough) without sounding like a bigot.
    But then you, just like I, knew all this so I am not really sure why you bothered to post about it.
    So I say, invite them all, but please don’t then try to cancel if only one other team accepts the invite.

  • Granni Trixie

    At one time I would have agreed with you. The decision to hold a joint celebration ought to have generated good feeling and generosity. But given signs suggesting we are going backwards and have increased our capacity to politicise just about anything, we need to recognise that baby steps are the way forward. This is not a ‘normal’ society.

  • Greenflag 2

    Heres the Germans celebrating another soccer victory or something . The song seems oddly familiar . Hint SF may have heard this old song before . Perhaps the lyrics could be changed for the mass exodus to France next year for both sets of fans ?

  • Nevin

    This is all quair crack, Greenflag, but politicians and civil servants from your bailiwick play the partisan card in our bailiwick, including the present. Sleaze in your neck of the woods aroused my curiosity about possible gombeenry here; I didn’t have to dig too deeply!

  • Robin Keogh

    I cant disagree with that

  • Reader

    But Daragh, then the obvious tactic for an SDLP that is – or wishes to be seen as – inclusive is to invite E and W and see what happens. As you point out, the risk is minimal, and the benefits potentially immense at every level. Not least, a team to support in the knockout stages.
    Anyway, I note your suggestion is to accept Jim’s proposal. With that sort of cross-community support who knows what may be achieved?

  • Reader

    The Ravenhill brick uses a broadsheet, not a tabloid.

  • Daragh

    Haha Reader, I like your optimism, but E&W are never going to come over and will view the invite as a nuisance from the crazies across the water.
    The SDLP invite to the ROI is reasonable and actually has a chance of acceptance, although I am sure there will be elements involved in the FAI who also would rather not.

  • Greenflag 2

    Don’t dig too deep Nevin or you’ll end up in the Antipodes in this place

    Sleaze alas is everywhere . One partial solution might be capital punishment for large scale financial capital crimes against individual human beings and society. But our politicians would’nt go for that for they would justifiably fear they would be among the first convicted to be hanged .

    Seriously though I’d never use the word ‘possible ‘ in your example above . Based on my knowledge of how the world works and how it does’nt particularly in dysfunctional polities everywhere -the word ‘probable ‘ might be more apt .

    In societies where the path to prosperity is mainly via government hand outs , grants , contracts , jobs etc then gombeenism flourishes . Throw in lax financial regulation and absent rigorous oversight nd scrutiny of public monies expenditure and pretty soon you end up as Puerto Rico , Zimbabwe or Greece .

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I love the reply Reader – It’s been a long time since I played the Raven and Woodstock Circuit. Great and Lovely People !