Recently we had the disgraceful but in some ways predictable behaviour of some fans (but at least it was a minority) at the Northern Ireland versus Republic of Ireland match during the playing of the National Anthems. I was always taught that no matter how you feel about a country, or its government’s policies, you should always respect the national anthem.
However, at the same time – why do the Irish Football Association still continue to use God Save the Queen?
This is the British national anthem, not the Northern Irish national anthem, and as such should only be used when it is a GB (and NI) team competing, such as the Olympic Games or World and European Athletics or Swimming championships or in motor sports events such as F1 or WSB when the competitors race with British racing licences.
Yet, still two of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom still insist that it is also an English and a Northern Irish National Anthem. It isn’t.
What is the IFA afraid of? Are they afraid of the DUP and TUV finding yet something else to moan about. No doubt they would probably start announcing that it was the end of the world, because apparently any break with the ‘precious union’ is the road to a united Ireland. Unless of course the break with the ‘precious union’ is to do with abortion rights, marriage rights or corporation tax.
Is this all they can come up with? If we started to play a national anthem, suddenly Northern Ireland is heading down the road to a united Ireland? But then again unionists and loyalists have always seemed to find that any change to their situation a disaster, no matter how trivial it may seem to the rest of the world.
But would changing God Save the Queen to Danny Boy (or a different NI anthem) for the Northern Ireland football team really bring about a united Ireland, or break the union? I don’t think so.
Take Scotland for example. Their football, rugby and hockey teams have been using their own anthem for decades. It used to be ‘Scotland the Brave’ but has now become ‘Flower of Scotland’. There was a BBC documentary series on tv a few years ago with Neil Oliver called ‘A History of Scotland’.
In the final episode he talked about the famous Grand Slam decider at Murrayfield in 1990 when Scotland defeated England. This was the first time that ‘Flower of Scotland’ was played and Neil Oliver pointed out that this really lifted the Scottish players and supporters.
However, England continued to use ‘God Save the Queen’ ‘as if England and Britain were one and the same thing’. Of course they are not. And Northern Ireland and Britain are not ‘one and the same thing’ either.
Yet, despite this, it seems that Northern Ireland can never have its own identity. It can only ever be a British identity even though Scottish unionists – and there must be plenty as they voted against independence – have no problem with Flower of Scotland representing them. Why do Northern Irish unionists have such a problem with this? I would say that there is more chance of Scotland leaving the union than Northern Ireland.
I also remember a few years ago at a Welsh Conservative conference when they closed it by singing ‘Land of My Fathers’. This is best remembered for John Redwood, who was the Conservative Welsh spokesperson at the time, nodding his head and pretending to sing along. However, what always stuck me, and which nobody else picked up on, was the fact that these were Welsh Conservatives from the most British and Unionist of parties not singing God Save the Queen but singing the Welsh national anthem.
So again, if the Welsh national anthem is ok for Welsh Conservatives (and therefore, presumably Welsh unionists) why is the Northern Irish national anthem not ok for Northern Irish unionists?
Of course the strange thing is that unionists and loyalists never have any problem waving the Northern Irish flag at Northern Ireland matches, instead of the union flag. What’s the difference? Surely if they have no problem with the NI flag then they should have no problem with a NI anthem?
I also think that it is ironic that unionists and loyalists may think that playing ‘Danny Boy’ instead of ‘God Save the Queen’ at Northern Ireland football matches may be risking Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom, when surely by this thinking the very essence of a separate Northern Ireland football team is also doing just that. ButI never hear any complaints about this.
I also think that playing Danny Boy (if that is what it is to be) would make it more acceptable for nationalists to start supporting the team a bit more so we don’t have the inevitable ‘no surrender’ being shouted out by some people when God Save the Queen is played.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be Danny Boy, but this seems ready made and has been used by the Commonwealth Games team for many years and I’ve never heard anybody complain.
It’s also ironic that unionists and loyalists will refer to Northern Ireland as a country and indeed ‘our wee country’, but surely if Northern Ireland is to be defined as a country then at the very least it needs its own national anthem.
We can then say to the world ‘yes, we may be a small country but we come from a country with a great history, culture and heritage going back many hundreds of years with the ancient province of Ulster and this culture includes us having our own national anthem as well.’
This article was submitted by a reader, ‘Danny Boy’.
This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.