Belfast Football Reception Likely In Spite Of Drum Beating

Tomorrow night, Belfast City Council will vote on a motion which aims to mark with a reception the qualification of both Irish international football teams to the European Championships in France.

The development is an historic first. While the Republic of Ireland have now qualified for three Euro Finals (1988 and 2012 before now), this summer will represent the first time that fans of Northern Ireland will get to enjoy seeing their team play at this level.

Both teams have also qualified for three World Cups, but never before have both Irish teams qualified to the finals of the same international tournament.

A nice gesture, aimed at congratulating the two teams who, between them, earn the loyalties and support of the overwhelming majority of football fans in the north of Ireland. Dublin City Council has already voted in favour of a similar reception being held in the city.

Who’d have thought there’d be an issue?


Enter the PUP’s Billy Hutchinson.

According to the loyalist leader, a decision to invite the Republic of Ireland team (or let’s be honest, likely a representative few players and manager) to a Belfast City Hall reception could spark a return to loyalist protests a la the flag protest.

Here’s what the PUP leader had to say on the matter (courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph)

“I warned them over removing the flag, that it would lead to protests should they go down that road,” he said. “It will be the same again.”

I’m sure you’ll agree, an impressive piece of drum beating by the one-time senior UVF man and, surprisingly, the party’s candidate in North Belfast for the forthcoming Assembly election.

But Billy wasn’t finished.

No. Billy had more to say, this time about the prospect of the Derry-born James McClean being in attendance for the reception.

Again from the Belfast Telegraph:

In a reference to Republic of Ireland and West Bromwich Albion midfielder James McClean, the PUP leader said that Premiership players who refused to wear the poppy wouldn’t be welcome at City Hall.

When asked about his comments on James McClean, Mr Hutchinson said it was disgraceful that a Premiership player “earning £40,000 or £50,000 a week” for an English team then refused to wear a poppy.

Let’s dwell on that for a moment.

The leader of a loyalist political party, attracting a fraction of support from within the unionist community, is warning that a Derry-born footballer is not welcome at Belfast City Hall.

In and of itself, the comment is ignorant, arrogant and indeed wholly reflective of the ingrained sectarian supremacist mindset of the loyalist leader. After all, it is Billy’s party which competes with the DUP for the title of the party most closely associated with the Twaddell Camp and similarly futile campaign to return Belfast to a city where the Orange writ ruled supreme.

Firstly, Billy seems to not realise that, in a city with considerably more non-unionists than unionists (as reflected in successive council elections), the call to invite the Republic’s team to a formal civic reception is one that is beyond his capacity to prevent- at least in a democratic sense.

Hence Billy’s decision to threaten a return to the illegal flag protests that led directly to young working class protestants earning criminal records and led to further alienation within a working class protestant community crying out for responsible leadership.

The comment that anyone not wearing a poppy would not be welcome at Belfast City Hall is worth reflecting upon too, as it reveals the narrow sectarian vision of a party which, with no sense of irony, incorporates the term ‘progressive’ in its name.

But Billy is not alone.

Enter the Ulster Unionist Party’s Jim Rodgers.

Jim’s not happy.

Jim believes that the Republic of Ireland has “stolen many of our good young players” and that this should somehow serve as a reason to veto a reception for the team.

Jim is no stranger to controversy- witness his ‘No Pope in Belfast’ pitch from March 2014- but this remark reveals a mindset which is utterly contrary to any notion of a shared future.

Let’s be clear about this.

No football player has ever been ‘stolen’ from Northern Ireland by the Republic of Ireland, and arguing otherwise betrays a deeply disturbing mindset which seeks to claim ownership of people, ignoring the right of a player to represent the National side of choice.

I won’t revisit the now settled issue of player eligibility, but for those interested, Daniel Collins provides a comprehensive analysis of the issue in an Irish context here.

Ironically, the only modern player to have represented both Irish international teams at full international level is Alex Bruce, who left the Republic of Ireland to play for Northern Ireland after having represented the Republic in two friendly matches.

Similarly, the last time both Irish teams shared a pitch for an international fixture, only Johnny Gorman (representing Northern Ireland) had played previously at any level for the other Irish side.

You’ll note the reference to ‘modern’ player as, for decades after partition and the formation of a second Irish association (the FAI), many players continued to represent both Irish sides at international level, including Jimmy Dunne, who continues to hold the record for goals scored in consecutive games at the highest level of domestic football in England in spite of Jamie Vardy’s impressive run this season.

Given the numbers at Belfast City Hall, it is clear that a reception of some sort will be voted through tomorrow night. In which case, I’d like to suggest that the reception be held on March 13th.


Well, it was on that date in 1887 that the Irish international football team (there was only one back then) succeeded in winning their first ever match (at the 16th time of trying), defeating Wales 4-1.

The venue for that match was the then Oldpark Avenue home of Cliftonville Football Club, the ‘Cricky’ fields, currently being transformed into the first dedicated Gaelic football pitch in north Belfast as well as the site of the newly built Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagain (where is Tom Elliott anyway?)

Hope and history rhyming as the descendants of Canute lash angrily and ever vainly at the incoming tide.



  • chrisjones2

    So oursuns are not tainted by meeting themuns?

  • Dan

    I’d go with the gold harp on a green background as ernekid suggested or the irish presidential standard which is the gold harp on a dark blue background. Personally I don’t like irelands call – I’d prefer something like the minstrel boy.

  • John Collins

    I always feel that you are an objective and fair contributor to Slugger. However for all his faults you should not compare De Valera with Gerry Adams. Dev, while no favourite of mine, was less anti Protestant than he is often said to be, especially compared to other Southern politicians. For example he did not bring in legislation banning divorce, he resisted the idea that Roman Catholicism should be a state religion as sought by the RC Hierarchy ( nobody is barred from occupying any position in the South because of their religious affiliation), he did not on election pledge ‘filial devotion’ to the RC Arch Bishop of Dublin and when he returned to power in 1951 he outwitted McQuaid and had most of the provisions of the ill fated Mother and Child Scheme implemented in spite of His Grace. It could also be said he did not declare a Republic, in a fit of pique or otherwise, which made possible reunification more difficult. He also took a strong stand in condemning the boycotters in the infamous Fethard case. So overall I think he was much more open to Protestant concerns than Adams would ever be.

  • Gingray

    Absolutely – I know many older nationalists who had no trouble supporting NI in 82 and 86. But for people my age the abiding image of NI, is the manager encouraging anti catholic singing, and then the association doing sweet fa about it.

  • John Collins

    (1)Who else has ruined the Irish Flag?
    (2) Has anybody ever disgraced the Union Jack?

  • chrisjones2

    …..and a great Tribute to the Badge of the Ulster Defence Regiment

    though their lady was slightly better endowed

  • John Collins

    Well some of us do not think Irelands Call is a fine Anthem. I honestly think it does nothing for me when I hear it played. Give me the Marsellisse any day or Flower of Scotland.

  • Gingray

    Hmm, point taken.

    I do not see there being one size fits all form of Irishness, but I would personally define Irishness as being born on the island or having a close association with the island.

    This can cross cultures and nationalities and political beliefs.

    In terms of the team, I should have been clearer – the Northern Ireland football team was not a place that ever felt open to someone like myself who felt Irish, and it is a feeling many I know share. I think it is a team that is British first, Northern Irish second and Irish third. That can be seen through the symbols chosen, be they flags or anthems.

    For someone who is Irish first, this was not appealing. The symbols of the Ireland team, while not ideal, are more in line with what I am after.

  • John Collins

    Absolutely brilliant Chris- dead on

  • Gingray

    John Collins
    Any organisation which displays the flag while committing acts which are not in line with those supported by the proclamation (cowardice in particular). So violent republicans have ruined it to my mind.
    But also by its very existence, a free Ireland with its own flag will annoy unionists ruling in a one party state with a substantual minority preferring the green white and orange, and they will turn that flag into a symbol they hate.

    In terms of the Union Jack, I am sure they have, I dont really care tho, its not my flag.

  • mickfealty

    As they say in gardening, one year seeding, seven years weeding. I sense that the IFA (and many of the NI supporter associations) have accepted that the business of weeding is a permanent duty if the team is to make progress again with broadening the fan base.

    Michael O’Neill has worked some wonders in that regard. Just a shame that topping the group confers no more of an advantage than scrapping through at the death, but the truth is that there has been a minor cultural renaissance in play since Laurie Sanchez’s time.

  • Gingray

    Yes, but this is not gardening – its more important than that …

    Without a doubt NI have been playing fantastic football, but most fans dont just support a team because they are playing well.

  • Neil

    It’s a newish crossing, been going about a year or so. More expensive but handier to most places than Cork.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I have no problem with nationalists/republicans supporting the ROI team. Your last paragraph explains that perfectly so I can understand why they do it.

    I support the all island rugby team but I don’t support them because of the flag and anthem. I support them in spite of them. As a rugby fan I long for the day when they are no longer used and I don’t believe this makes me less Irish but in the eyes of some people it probably does. It is unfortunate that some people believe that unless the Tricolour and Irish anthem are used at international games, it devalues their sense of Irishness. The same can be said about many NI fans and the use of GSTQ.

    Maybe, there will come a time when all of this island reconciles (and becomes one country) but people need to realise that other peoples definition of being Irish might not be the same as theirs. How do we square that circle?

  • Good piece, Chris, and cheers for the mention!

    It is their democratic right to voice disapproval, of course, but it is still rather depressing to see that a protest will actually be going ahead outside Belfast City Hall tonight:

    For anyone interested, I compiled some thoughts of my own on the matter, including some commentary on the objections of Rodgers, Hutchinson and Jamie Bryson, here:

    A joint invitation is entirely appropriate on account of the fact that a very significant portion (between a third and a half) of the native northern population – Irish nationals and not a foreign or immigrant population – actually identify with and support the Republic of Ireland football team. Indeed, the manager of the team, Martin O’Neill, along with senior first-team or squad members like James McClean, Darron Gibson, Marc Wilson, Shane Duffy and Eunan O’Kane all hail from the north themselves.

  • Gingray

    Remember tho, that for the south in particular, having to fight to get free from the UK, after the population had made their views known in successive elections, meant that they had to do a lot of those gimmicks to help establish the state.

    I have no objection to the changing of anything, but ultimately whatever is used for “Ireland” must strongly reflect a degree of irishness. There can be other elements too of course.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Mea Culpa. Bon voyage.

  • Alan N/Ards

    “I have no objection to the changing of anything, but ultimately whatever is used for “Ireland” must strongly reflect a degree of irishness. There can be other elements too of course.”

    Once again, we go back to how we define irishness. How do you “strongly reflect a degree of irishness”?

  • Alan N/Ards

    I don’t mind Ireland’s call. Not a big fan of Flower of Scotland and I’m also not a fan of GSTQ.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I could live with the gold harp on a green background.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I would beg to differ regarding no one being barred from occupying any position in the south. He was most definitely opposed to a protestant librarian being given a job (over a catholic librarian) by a county council in the south.

    His speech (which predated Craig’s speech) about Ireland being a catholic nation went against the ideals of the United Irishmen and made unification a lot more difficult.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ok but the Anthem is not contructed around your singular preference

  • Tochais Siorai

    Supporting a football team, club or international is more than anything, for better or for worse, the feeling of belonging to a tribe and as we know (in the absence of a UI team), most Northerners from a nationalist background generally feel more comfortable with the Republic…….

    1. The RoI represents the idea of an independent Ireland as opposed to a province of the UK.
    2. NI ‘Their Symbols’ Union Flag, GSTQ
    3. RoI ‘Our Symbols’ Amhrán na bhFiann, Tricolour.
    4. Personal or anecdotal experience of Windsor in the past.
    5. If you see Ireland as one country then the RoI covers most of it.
    6. ‘Our Wee Country’
    7. A feeling of being part of the wider Irish community / nation (incl the diaspora & 2nd & 3rd generation). Not something you get standing beside the lads with the Scarva Loyal flag.

    Take your pick.

  • Gingray

    Well there are a few symbols and things which are distinctly irish, but I would imagine the best approach would be to have a constitutional forum should the need arise.

    It would be impossible to reflect every view, similar to Scotland or England.

  • John Collins

    Thanks Alan. I have sailed to Roscoff and Cherbourg from Rosslare and Cork, but I was unaware one could sail from Dublin.

  • LordSummerisle

    As a Belfast rate payer I begrudge it. There I said it. Will the Dublin rate payer have to pay for a civic reception for the NI team ? There I said it.

  • chrisjones2

    …yes and you will get agreement on that of course and it wont be just seen as another way to pretend unity is imminent and stick it up to unionists as SF would never do that

    Trolling is so undignified Robin, dontcha think?

  • chrisjones2

    “Political leaders have a responsibility to support events that prote reconciliation”

    Like naming play parks after sectarian murderers?

  • John Collins

    That is true, but those two events took place early in his career and the content of my contribution above gives a more balanced picture of Dev. Adams in his mid sixties is still blatantly anti Protestant as his ‘equality’ contribution proves. I might also add that I think that it is absolutely reprehensible that the Sovereign in GB or their Spouse, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or in effect the Prime Minister cannot be Roman Catholic. It was particularly telling that Tony Blair only announced his conversion on the day he left his Prime Ministerial post. Of course it should also be remembered that the good clerical and administrative positions in the major Protestant firms in the ROI were the demesne of Protestants only during the early years of the Southern State. Gay Byrne’s brother was the first RC clerical officer in Guinness’s and his appointment did not take place until 1953.

  • John Collins

    Well there is never any problem when GSTQ is played in the Aviva Stadium, or even Croke Park.

  • John Collins

    No Robin. Nothing to do with politics. I would not join any political party in a fit and the party I like least of all is the one you support. I dislike Irelands Call for the sole reason that it is so totally uninspiring

  • chrisjones2

    “home nations being treated as equal to nations within FIFA for historical purposes.”

    Dont you mean financial reasons?

  • Gingray

    Um, no. Fifa, Uefa and England would gladly see the back of the home nations.

    It’s purely historical with the 4 home associations making up half of the 8 member International Football Association Board that determines footballs rules

  • NotNowJohnny

    I have to confess that I really struggle to understand this point of view despite having heard similar views put forward a number of times over these last few days, including by Jim Rodgers who, while claiming to be a lover of football, didn’t appear to have any understanding of FIFA’s regulations or the law as regards nationality.

    May I suggest the following reasons for not inviting England (the reasons for not inviting Scotland should be obvious).

    1. Most Northern Ireland citizens are not eligible to play for England. This contrasts with the position of whereby almost all Northern Ireland citizens are eligible to play for the ROI should they choose to claim Irish nationality (which anyone born in NI is entitled to claim).

    2. None of the current England squad was born in NI. This contrasts with the position of the current ROI squad of which a number were born in NI including the manager.

    3. This is not the first time England and NI have qualified for a major football tournament. It is in fact the 4th and therefore there is nothing particularly unique about it. As far as I am aware England were not invited to mark the occasion any of the previous three times.

    4. Inviting England to Belfast may seem a peculiar thing to do in the eyes of Englishmen. Much of what goes on in Northern Ireland appears peculiar in the eyes of Englishmen and there is little to be gained by engaging in behaviour which would reinforce these peculiarities.

    5. England would likely not accept the invitation.

    6. Few citizens of Northetn Ireland are likely to be supporting England first and foremost at Euro 2016. This contrasts with a significant number of NI citizens (and Belfast ratepayers) who value their Irish nationality above any entitlement they have to UK nationality and consequently will choose to support the ROI first and foremost at Euro 2016 rather than NIor any of the other UK teams participating.

  • Robin Keogh

    To you it is uninspiring

  • Robin Keogh

    Ya but u just insist on doing it constantly anyway.

  • chrisjones2

    Bad habit!!!

  • Croiteir

    The claim was it was too Belfast centric and wouldn’t play enough games in Dublin

  • Alan N/Ards

    That’s a bit like Irish rugger team and the IRFU.

  • mickfealty

    I do get all of those reasons Tochais. The only real solution to that ache to belong to somewhere else is to find a way to bring to soccer what Rugby, Cricket and Hockey have had since their foundation.

    But I don’t sense any serious yearning for that on either side.

    Meantime the IFA team has the prime logic of home advantage and a multi denominational team which (at least for now) is fair and representative of all people who live in Northern Ireland. The FAI team, not so much.

    So long as the IFA and the NI supporters keep playing the straight bat they have for the last ten years or so and pulling out a few more campaigns like the recent one it’s all ahead of them like the proverbial wheel barrow.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I’m not a big fan of the royal family and would lose no sleep if it disappeared tomorrow. I am also opposed to anyone being turned down for a job because of their religion.

    An elderly family member worked ( he was a journalist) in Dublin in the late 40’s, early 50’s. We have discussed (on a number of occasions) his time in the south. While he held a number of the politicians ( who he had dealings with) in high regard, de Valera was not one of them. His editor had many run ins with dev and McQuaid which at times were quite nasty. I’m sure de Valera had many redeeming features and I don’t want to blacken his name (as I never met him) but he will probably always be a bogeyman for unionists.

  • Thomas Barber

    “Why exactly would the IFA feel “duty-bound”? Aren’t they free to decide their own anthem, irrespective of whatever anthem England use”

    Maybe because they are playing for their individual constituent parts of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they are not playing for the entity known as the UK which the British national anthem covers it kind of gives the impression that Britain has four chances to win the world cup. Would it be legal or right for every state in America to play for America in any World cup and they all played the American national anthem.

  • Mike the First

    Certainly Mick.

    For one thing, it’s not wanted by Northern Ireland supporters, and (I would argue) most of those involved in the local game. As for ROI fans, while many may support in principle an all-Ireland team, in practice their appetite is sated with a team they call “Ireland”, playing under the Tricolour and Amhran na bhFiann (symbols which would actually be lost under an all-Ireland team), and able to choose Irish nationals from NI.

    For another: identity and choice. Some of those who advocate strongly for players from NI being able to opt to play for ROI (as is indeed the case) point out what they see as “the right of a player to represent the National side of choice” to use Chris Donnelly’s words above; yet they (and I’m not including Chris here) then hypocritically seek to deny that choice by advocating an all-Ireland team. The existance of a Northern Ireland team enables Northern Irish people to play for their country. Daniel Collins, cited by Chris in the OP, and who I’ve disagreed with in the past on here, puts it very well here: “There exist reasonable Northern Ireland supporters too, believe it or not, and most will simply say that they wish to maintain their team as a symbol of their distinct (Northern) Irish identity or as a means of emphasising it. They are entitled to emphasise their identity, which tends to be a regional, sub-national or supplementary British one, just as we Ireland supporters are entitled to emphasise our independent or island-wide national one.”

    And finally (but arguably most importantly). Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are separate countries. And even if anyone wants to take issue with that statement, who can deny that there’s an international border running through the island of Ireland? Therefore the question is surely, why on earth should NI and ROI be allowed to combine into one international team, even if they wanted to? It would be against FIFA rules, and against all the existing principles of international football which are designed for competition between either sovereign states, or in some cases autonomous territories within those sovereign states. Not lumping together geographical areas across international borders. It would be an incredibly dangerous precedent for FIFA to permit – imagine some of the smaller Pacific island nations, for example, deciding that perhaps they fancied a combined team.

    This was noted by the IFA and FAI during talks in 1980: “The problem of reconciling the concept of an all-Ireland team within the rules of FIFA was also mentioned as an obstacle, with FIFA rules prohibiting the formation of one team for competitive purposes where a political border exists between two countries”. (‘The Irish Soccer Split’, Cormac Moore, 2015)
    And this brings me back to the hoary old chestnut you were repeating above. This was invented decades ago by Derek Dougan, and repeated ad nauseum by all and sundry ever since. In particular Dougan claimed the IFA president Harry Cavan ensured Dougan was never picked for NI again after he organised an unofficial all-Ireland team for a friendly in 1973. Complete nonsense, as Moore’s book shows very well. Unnoticed by the footballing public until its publication last year, talks on an all-Ireland team between the IFA and FAI actually continued through the 1970s (eventually coming to nothing by 1980), with Harry Cavan speaking in favour of the concept at the IFA AGM in 1979.

  • Mike the First

    Hard to know why this sort of idiotic comment even merits a response.

  • mickfealty

    Very good! Thank you!!

  • Mike the First

    NI don’t use the Union Flag.
    Why is this claim repeated so often?

  • Mike the First

    “But for people my age the abiding image of NI, is the manager encouraging anti catholic singing”

    That is simply untrue. And a terrible slur on a great man.

    And rather poses the question – how can people have an “abiding image” of something that didn’t happen?

    (The hoary old chestnuts really do get quite an airing on these football threads, don’t they…)

  • Mike the First

    “Any time some apparatchik from the PUP tries to claim that their party is non-sectarian you can simply show them these remarks from Billy Hutchinson in response.”

    It would be somewhat easier simply to point to Hutchinson’s track record as a sectarian savage who murdered two young men simple because of their religion, and still refuses to acknowledge that what he did was wrong and apologise for it.

    “Personally I wouldn’t be against an All-Ireland soccer team. It works for Rugby and nearly every other sporting organisation on this island”

    Another oft-repeated statement in debates like this, but is it true? As far as team sports go, rugby, hockey and cricket have all-Ireland teams. Football, volleyball and netball have Northern Ireland teams. Any others?

  • Mike the First

    You’re welcome!
    BTW Moore’s book is an interesting read if you can get hold of a copy – lots of “new” information in there from original IFA, FAI and Leinster FA sources. Some frustrating points of Southern-centric-ness (referring to the Irish Free State’s Olympic debut in 1924 as Ireland’s first international encounter, in a book that extensively covers [IFA] Ireland’s international record back to 1882 for example), and a somewhat frustrsting automatic assumption in the conclusion that an all-Ireland team is by definition desirable, but very interesting, informative and well-researched.

  • Gingray

    Strangely Gerry Armstrong reports the same story, but let’s just pretend he was a great man and ignore the sectarian baiting.

    Read Gerrys biography sure?

    Auld Billy conducting the fans singing the sash and billy boys, I get why it’s quietly forgotten about.

    I agree with Gerry Btw and he has done great work to broaden the appeal of the Northern Ireland team in communities that switched away.

  • Mike the First

    There is absolutely nothing in that article saying that Armstrong accuses Bingham of “conducting the fans singing the Sash and the Billy Boys”.

    And it simply did not happen.

    Where did you pick up the idea that it did from?
    Chinese whispers, like the other hoary old chestnut “the bouncy is based on the murder of Robert Hamill” (which I’m actually surprised hasn’t featured on this thread…yet).

  • Mike the First

    As an aside, Armstrong was Bingham’s best man for his second marriage in 1986.

  • Gingray

    Not sure why you are mentioning the murder of Robert Hamill, but each to their own.

    Armstrong mentions in his biography about how bad things had got by 1993, specifically singling out the antics of Bingham.

    I get that many Northern Ireland football fans would rather ignore some of the vile practices a minority of fellow fans indulged in, much in the same way the IFA quietly tolerated those same sectarian abuses.

    Thankfully a lot has changed, but pretending that sort of behaviour didn’t happen is a bit see/speak/hear no evil, even for you Mike 🙂

  • Roger

    Well Thomas do people in Northern Ireland regard themselves as British (the biggest number do) or Irish (far less) or Northern Irish (almost as many). So how can you choose one tag and call them “Irish”. I never suggested the team be called a “British” team either by the way. I prefer to simply call the team what it is, the “Northern Ireland” team and avoid attributing a nationality to it.

    Beyond that, there’d be something more to talk about if you were referring to imaginary countries called Southern Scotland or Northern Wales or Eastern England…

  • Roger

    The Welsh will get upset, although I suppose they are legally part of England..

  • Well, whatever about giving off impressions, they’d still be representing the territory of Northern Ireland whether or not they used an exclusive anthem or the anthem of the UK.

    Anyhow, if they’d feel in some way morally bound to action by the evolving circumstances, fair enough. I just thought it unusual language to use as it’s not as if they’d be under a legal obligation. Not that it really concerns or bothers me either way; Northern Ireland aren’t my team. Just observing and passing comment.

  • It can also be plausibly contended that the team going by the name of the Republic of Ireland (because FIFA decreed they be named so, rather than permitting either the FAI or IFA to use “Ireland”) is actually a ‘de facto’ all-island team anyway on the basis that Irish nationality law, which renders persons eligible to play for the team, in accordance with FIFA’s eligiblity regulations, has island-wide application. Indeed, James McClean, Darron Gibson, Marc Wilson, Shane Duffy and Eunan O’Kane – all present or recent squad members – hail from the north.

  • The original spirit that motivated the establishment of the FAI back in the early 1920s was not partitionist in nature.

    Something I wrote a while back here which is somewhat relevant, Mick, so may interest:

    “To assume there was such a [partitionist] spirit would be to misunderstand the events of the day.

    The FAI was originally set up in 1921 (indeed, before the island was politically partitioned), not technically to split from the IFA, but to actually replace the IFA as the national all-island association. It was reported in August of that year that the organisation was the “Football Association of All-Ireland [and] as its name indicates, will have jurisdiction over all Ireland, and it is expected that clubs will affiliate from all provinces”. Indeed, the Falls District League of mainly-nationalist west Belfast (which included clubs like West Ham and Alton United, who won the 1923 FAI Cup) affiliated with the new Dublin-based association along with other northern clubs from the predominantly-nationalist settlements of Derry and Downpatrick.

    It was only when the Dublin association came to seek admission to FIFA, the international governing body of football, in 1923 that the FAI’s jurisdiction was limited to the 26 counties of what was then the Irish Free State and it adopted the name ‘the Football Association of the Irish Free State’. In effect, formal and official recognition was dependent upon a compromising on ideals; the association would not have been admitted to FIFA had it insisted on maintaining a 32-county, all-island jurisdiction.”

    My contemporary imagining of the FAI’s team isn’t as a paritionist entity either. I see it as representative of the all-island Irish nation, which is not confined by territories or jurisdictions. National identity transcends political boundaries. It’s an internal feeling rather than necessarily rooted to an external geographical location. Furthermore, the island-wide applicability of Irish nationality law and presence of northerners in the team suggests the team is anything but exclusively-southern or partitionist.

    Of course, people can imagine their representative teams, symbols and identities differently, but that’s as far as I and many other FAI-supporting northern nationalists are concerned anyway.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Yes, Windsor has improved dramatically in recent times and seems to be well on the way to becoming a more ‘neutral’ environment like, say Ravenhill. However, whilst the IFA team itself may indeed be representative of all people in NI that is only one aspect of the equation, everything else about it screams Britishness and Unionism. The FAI team has representation and support from the four provinces, the two jurisdictions on the island and the diaspora. It’s makes for a vibrant mix and one that is on the whole, simply more attractive to nationalists.

    For myself I’d ditch the symbolism etc in the morning to have an all Ireland team but many people, even a lot of RoI supporters are comfortable with the current set up. They like staying within the tribe.

  • Mike the First

    Every thing else about it screams Britishness and Unionism?

    Ever noticed the jersey in Irish emerald green? Ever noticed the badge made of a Celtic cross and four shamrocks?

    If not, why are you blind to this Irish symbolism?

    And if you have, aren’t you effectively lying just to make an unfair partisan criticism?

  • Tochais Siorai

    OK. Replace ‘Union Flag’ with ‘Ulster 6 county flag’ or whatever you wish to call it. The point remains the same.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Ah go easy on the lying stuff. The badge / jersey is a historical inheritance and it’s association with Northern Ireland, the IFA, Windsor Park et al means it has become a Unionist symbol in itself over time in a similar way to the antipathy most Ulster Protestants have for the tricolour’s Orange third despite its original intention.

  • John Collins

    Pint taken Roger. Of course Fishguard, Pembroke Dock and Holyhead are all Welsh ports.

  • Davros64

    Yawn to this whole ‘discussion’.
    So most unionists are their usual paranoid, embittered selves, but fair play to those who accepted this for what it is, a slight gimmick but at least celebrating the probably unique one-off that this is.

  • Mike the First

    If the point remains the same, isn’t it funny how often the anti-NI brigade like to trot out the untruth about the Union Flag.

    Evidently they (and you) feel it has some significance, even though it’s untrue.

  • John Collins

    Well he had problems with various newspapers that is why he founded his own paper and as I say I am no great admirer of his either. He may have loathed what he would have seen as institutional Protestants. Limerick was the great county of mills in the 1800s in the South, before cooperative creameries took off. In Bruree, Dev’s home parish, there was a mill owned by a man called Ryan, which employed 300 people. Ryan. a Catholic, was bankrolled by a Protestant milling company in Limerick city called Bannatynes and when Ryan backed a local tenant in a disputed eviction, by the local landlord John Gubbins, Bannatynes withdrew their collateral from Ryan and he went broke and the 300 men lost their jobs This needless to say did not do much for good relations between members of either faith locally. He was strongly influenced by the Land League Priest Eugene Sheehy, a firebrand who condemned a collection for the Pope from the pulpit and also publicly ridiculed the idea of his church offering prayers for Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, on the throne, in 1887. This man was the first priest in Ireland jailed for Land League activities. His arrest. and the respect he enjoyed among his parishioners, is highlighted by Clifford Lloyd in his iconic book ‘Ireland under the Land League’. In this book the level of bitterness between Landlords and tenants in the Killmallock/ Bruree area is well highlighted by Lloyd.
    I think the experiences of Dev’s youth may have clouded his attitude towards what one might call Institutional Protestants in later life, but overall some Fine Gael politicians like W.T Cosgrave, and John A Costello and even the Clans Sean McBride were far more dyed in the wool RCs. Having said that what happened in his youth should not have influenced him in his dealings with anybody in later life.

  • Mike the First

    Quite the circular argument you’re making there. NI only use British and Unionist symbols. Except for the very Irish emerald green colour of the jersey, and the very Irish Celtic-cross-and-shamrocks badge – but they don’t count because NI use them, so they’re “Unionist”.

    (Has anyone told the ROI team that an emerald green jersey is Unionist? Has anyone told Celtic FC the shamrock is Unionist? Has anyone told the GAA the Celtic cross is Unionist?)

  • Mike the First

    You’re moving the goalposts now.

    I didn’t say such sectarian behaviour didn’t happen. I was there at NI matches, arguing against it (see no evil, my arse…)

    I pointed out that claiming Billy Bingham conducted sectarian singing was completely untrue, and is a myth that you’ve imbibed and repeated.

    I mentioned the Robert Hamill murder because a persistent myth, still often repeated, ties “the bouncy” to it. People repeat this myth as fact simply because they’ve heard other people doing so.

  • Tochais Siorai

    The point does remain the same if you’d engage with the issue itself. My points above in my response to Mick (No.’s 2 & 3) were how people (especially in NI) generally feel more comfortable with their own symbols e.g flags and anthems.

    So your point is what? That the Union Flag has no official place at NI matches? OK. And the flag used is what? One that is possibly even more ‘Unionist’ than the UF. And the anthem? If NI supporters want these then good luck to them but it doesn’t do much to encourage cross community support for their team.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Happens all the time where one group takes the symbols of another and redesigns them or blends them into their own culture or society e.g. locally the red hand of Ulster is a good example. We’re just over Xmas – look how Christianity took this and other aspects of Paganism to suit their agenda (which is why we have to listen to blather about Christmas being about Jesus) etc etc

    But I’ll let Celtic and the GAA know anyway. I’ll leave John Delaney to you.

  • Gingray

    Sorry it just doesn’t square – you have introduced the murder of Robert Hamill and linked it to some vague myth, it’s quite sick to see you casually belittling the murder of a man at the hands of a loyalist mob.

    I get that you and other loyalists can’t recognise that your big men, in this case Bingham, can commit evil.

    That’s ok – the rest of us in the real world know what he did.

    I can’t wait to see your next myth buster – obviously it will be a Catholic myth as supporters of Northern Ireland don’t tell fibs.

  • Mike the First

    What’s completely sick is you accusing me of “casually belittling the murder of a man” because I pointed out there’s a persistent myth linking the bouncy song to that atrocious act. It’s repeatedly thrown up to smear NI fans and others (just google bouncy song Northern Ireland if you don’t believe me) and is simply untrue, but just repeated anyway, just like your Bingham story. Now you’re trying to smear me. Unbelievable.

    I’m not a loyalist – far from it. Not even a unionist voter. Drop your preconceptions.

    What you claim of Bingham simply didn’t happen. Ask yourself how you “know” it happened. You didn’t see it “happen”. Despite the fact that the game was live on TV, you’ve never seen footage of it “happening”. It’s simply an article of faith for you that it “happened”. Now ask yourself why – why are you so keen to believe, without any factual evidence, a story that would be so uncharacteristic of NI’s greatest ever football manager? Could it be the latter 5 words?

    What actually happened was that Bingham simply gave a “let’s be having you” type gesture to the crowd as NI attacked, amidst cheering, roaring and shouting. As nearly all managers have done at some point, particularly in important or tense games.

    The ROI press after the game (and popular legend since) conflated entirely legitimate hostility and indeed verbal intimidation towards the opposition is very much part of football culture (particularly in derby games – I’m talking about booing, whistling, “England rejects” chants, the Judas-baiting of Kernaghan) and the entirely illegitimate sectarian chanting of a significant vocal minority, plus the also entirely illegitimate racial abuse from a smaller minority towards McGrath and Phelan.

    So for these people it was a short step to claiming in the immediate aftermath that Bingham was “whipping up sectarian hatred”. Those in the ROI were sore at him over his (legitimate) “mercenaries” comment; the anti-NI brigade up here resented his leading NI to success in the 1980s and were gagging for an opportunity to smear his reputation and legacy. So by Chinese whispers or by malice, the story then became the full-blown myth you’ve repeated, that Bingham conducted singing of the Billy Boys/the Sash.

    As to Armstrong’s book, I haven’t read it, but if the article you linked to is anything to go by, he considered it unwise of Bingham to have gestured to the crowd at that particular match. Debate that point if you want, I’m happy to and I disagree, but don’t libel Bingham by spreading a false story about “conducting the Sash and the Billy Boys”.

    God knows this place already has enough grievance myths, on all sides.

  • Gingray

    Are you the unlamented Zeno in disguise?

    Look, you are the person who linked loyalist NI fans singing sectarian songs, with a loyalist mob trampling a catholic man to death. You did this to introduce the concept of a myth, in order to belittle both stories. It is sick beyond the point of contempt, other than defending the Unionist big man, for they could do no wrong, I am not sure what your point is.

    Given that the BBCNI coverage at the time FAILS to mention the sectarian chanting or the racial abuse that you can still hear on youtube, or focus on the crowd, why would you expect them to point out the manager encouraging this behaviour? It was 1993 – BBC still gave us a full day of orange parades, and pretended that we all loved our glorious cross community football team.

    But here is one for you – in 1993, at the time, the sectarian chanting happened. The racial abuse happened.

    What was the response of the IFA? No comment.

    What was the response of the manager? No comment.

    What had the supposed middle of the road Belfast Telegraph to say? No comment.

    You can scan through the archives of the Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter if you want.

    Oh and Bingham was asked about his encouraging the fans while they sang sectarian songs – unsurprisingly, no comment.

  • Mike the First

    The NI support is pretty well divided on the anthem. I’m very strongly in favour of an NI-specific anthem.

    As for the flag – much greater attachment to that I would say. It would be a wrench for me to see the Ulster Banner replaced – I instinctively see it simply as the flag of my country. My first memories of it are actually the Mexico 86 wall charts and albums. But I’d be prepared to do so – if our idiot politicians can ever agree a new flag for NI.

    BTW the IFA isn’t unique in using the Ulster Banner, far from it – it’s the flag used to represent NI in the sporting arena. The NI Commonwealth Games teams use it, the NI volleyball team uses it, the NI netball team uses it. Even the professional golf tour uses it for Northern Irish individuals.

    I’m still interested to know why you said NI use the Union Flag. Why did you assert something as a fact when you clearly didn’t know the truth behind it? Where did you get the idea from?

    And this idea that the NI team uses the Union Flag is one that’s repeated a lot, so clearly (a) the anti-NI types think it’s a potent idea, and (b) they don’t check their facts when looking to attack NI.

  • Mike the First

    Bingham didn’t encourage the fans while they sang sectarian songs.

    And now you’re moving the goalposts – onto “he didn’t speak up against it”, rather than “he conducted it”. Are you acknowledging the latter isn’t true?

    As for the TV coverage (it was broadcast on RTE as well by the way) you also seem to be admitting that you’ve never seen any footage of Bingham doing this supposed “conducting”. You mention YouTube – again, exactly my point: plenty of footage of the game on YouTube, none of this supposed “conducting”. So where did you get the idea from – it was the proverbial “man in the pub” wasn’t it? (Just like those who repeat the bouncy myth…which is my point on comparing it to that myth, lets repeat again…)

    So at most you seem to be accusing Bingham of not speaking out against sectarian chanting. He was an old-school manager who probably didn’t even see it as his place to get involved in sections of the crowd singing offensive songs. Like Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley on Liverpool fans singing about Munich. Or various well-respected English managers in the dark days of racial abuse. Or present-day players who largely wouldn’t dream of speaking about, sectarian, homophobic, or other offensive chanting. Or indeed Martin O’Neill in the present day who doesn’t feel it’s his place to speak publicly about the FAI president glorifying a terrorist in song. None as bad, mind you, as the ROI players and coaches back in that era who on their way to play NI in Belfast merrily glorified a terrorist in song on their team coach…(funny how rarely this features in the narrative)

    As for the IFA – it was their place, and they were way too slow, and they were criticised by fans including myself in the 90s for being so. First efforts I remember them making publicly were in 2000.

    So if you want to have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of a manager not getting involved in speaking out against offensive chanting back in the early 90s, by all means let’s do so.

    Let’s leave aside the completely fact-free smearing of one of the greatest ever figures in Irish football, though.

  • Gingray


    Thankfully you have switched off from defending the loyalist mob now. Cheers for that. Much appreciated.

    No goalposts moved – enough evidence and reports exist to confirm that your here was the band leader in chief that night.

    I get that you cannot accept that, in the same way you cannot accept that Bingham the man never once commented on the sectarianism that was prevalient in a vocal section of the Northern Ireland fan base. Nor did he condemn the racism.

    You think he is a great man.

    “Evil prospers when good men do nothing.”

  • Mike the First

    Where have I “defended the loyalist mob”?? What on earth are you talking about? And I mean, give me actual evidence to back up this sick smear – Billy Bingham may not be here to defend himself, but I am, and I’m sure as hell not going to sit back and take baseless libellous crap thrown at me.

    While we’re on it, give me your “evidence and reports” about Bingham. Take your time now.

    Repeating a lie or a myth doesn’t make it any more true.

  • Gingray

    You are the one here who first mention Robert Hamill – linking sectarian loyalist Northern Ireland fans, with the mob murder of a Catholic. Its just odd, and indeed sickening.

    I have already provided newspaper reports and indeed comments from a man who was Bingham’s best man saying his actions that night was pretty low.

    Its ok tho, you have already accepted that Bingham, a man you claim as the greatest Northern Ireland manager in the history of football, also refused to ever condemn the sectarian actions of the Northern Ireland fans he was accused of encouraging.

    What a legend. A true Northern Ireland great.

    See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil.

    But conduct the fans while they do …

  • Mike the First

    I’m not sure why this is so difficult for you to understand. I gave the “bouncy song originates in the murder of Robert Hamill” canard as an example of a persistent myth about NI team/fans that’s still trotted out to this day by the anti-NI brigade, regardless of the facts. Like the Bingham myth, it’s the old “I heard it from a man down the pub” story in origin.

    Can you explain to me how that’s “defending the loyalist mob”? If you cant, then retract your sickening and libellous smear on me. It’s utterly baffling, and I can only assume you made that wild accusation out of sheer prejudice without properly reading what I’d written. Do you have the good grace and courage to retract that baseless slur?

    You have not provided any newspaper reports even claiming that Bingham “conducted the Billy Boys and the Sash” – you linked to one newspaper article from nearly 23 years after the event criticising his behaviour in a non-specific way, and have said that Armstrong criticised it, without providing a quote.

    As I have already said, if you want to have a debate about whether it was wise to give the “turn up the volume” gesture to cheering fans getting behind their team on the attack, in such a tense atmosphere where a minority had sung offensive chants, let’s do so. If you want to discuss managers not speaking out about offensive chanting in that era, then let’s do so. But instead you’re still smearing Bingham with groundless nonsense you picked up from the proverbial man in the pub about “conducting sectarian songs”.

  • Gingray

    Well you will be happy to know I am not part of the anti NI brigade you loyalists are so paranoid about.

    I just have bigots and crass sectarianism. You have no idea how disgusting it is when certain sections belittle the murder of catholics by linking to these myths. That’s on you buddy. Sickening.

    No man in the pub about the Bingham claims, well known fact, from people in the game and media reports.

    I see you can find no evidence of him condemning the sectarian behaviour prevalent at the time.

    What a great man.

    What a hero.

    What a coward.

  • Mike the First

    I’m not a loyalist. I’ve already told you that. Why do you feel the need to apply that label to me? If you want to know what I think of “loyalists” in this context, have a read of what I had about Billy Hutchinson on this very thread. Hint: I called him a “sectarian savage”.

    I’m not the one who belittles the vile murder of Robert Hamill by evil scum by linking it to a football chant. I’m actually doing the complete opposite – I’m pointing out that the murder has nothing whatsoever to do with the chant. The bigots who throw up this imaginary link to try to score sectarian points over football (for God’s sake) are the ones you’ll want to direct your ire at then. Do you find them sickening? I sure as hell do. Join me then.

    Now, for the third time at least – where have I “defended the loyalist mob”? Put up, or retract and apologise.

    It’s not a “well-known fact”, any more than any other “dogs in the street”/”man in the pub” myth is. They’re all “well-known”. Like these, this is just an article of faith for you, and the lack of evidence doesn’t matter. You still can’t share a single piece of evidence of this “conducting”. Here’s a link to help you broaden your outlook on how a fairly reasonable discussion on this might go:

    As for the “coward” piece – the goalposts move back again I see.

    Bingham will be in good company as a “coward” in your book along with the likes of Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy (the manager and captain who tolerated and indeed encouraged pro-terrorist singing on the actual team coach) or Martin O’Neill (NI captain in the 80s, and indeed the ROI manager who didn’t speak out about the FAI president singing a song supporting a sectarian terror gang). And Alex Ferguson, who didn’t appear to have a problem as a Rangers player either with chants or the fact that Catholic team-mates were somewhat thin on the ground.

  • Skibo

    Chris, I don’t think you really believe that yourself. If both sides backed the policy of holding a referendum then democratically the SOS would have to accept it and hold the referendum. Problem is Unionists know accepting the fact of holding a referendum gives life to the belief that eventually is will be yes.