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Thread: Question re Norn Iron

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    Question re Norn Iron

    This is a genuine question - not an attempt to start a row or wind people up.

    I was pleased to see the North get a result over England in the footy. However -as a Northern Irish Catholic, I have a real problem identifying with the team. For me the main reasons are :

    - God save the Queen being used as the anthem.
    - The Ulster flag being used as the official flag.
    - A sectarian element to the fan base.

    Now - I know that many people will say that GSTQ is the national anthem for the north, but the Scots and Welsh have opted for their own anthems instead of it. Given how polarising anthems are in the 6 counties, I would've thought the IFA Community Relations guy would've looked into/addressed this by now. It seems to me ridiculous to have GSTQ as the anthem of a team that you then want/claim to represent both communities in the north. The IRFU recognised this by introuducing Ireland's Call (though Amhran na bhFiann is also played in Dublin). Why isn't the IFA capable of using a neutral song that has something to do with Northern Ireland itself ? One that all fans can rally around

    On the flag - fans will obviously wave ehat they want/like - but again, the IFA itself seems to be blind to the polarising effect of using the unionist version of the Ulster flag. This is much harder to address than the anthem issue, as you need some sort of flag for a team, so I'm not sure what alternatives would be.

    As for the fans - much progress has clearly been made in eradicating ouvert sectarianism from the terraces, and this is to be welcomed. And tha fans at the game on Weds were nothing short of superb - really put the Republic's fans to shame. However -the sectarian instinct of a number of Norn Iron fans still remains. For a substantial section, supporting the north is viewed as an exercise in celebrating their limited version of a protestant/Unionist Ulster. A good friend of mine from Belfast just happened to be on holiday in Malta with his Australian girlfriend last month when the north were playing out there. He only realised the team were playing a game there when he walked into an Irish bar to hear 'The Sash' being sung by, as he desribed them sarcastically "the great Northern Irish fans...". I want nothing to do with a team that attracts substantial numbers of people who view see supporting the North as an opportunity to assert a limited vision of the province. I can't see how this well ever stop though.

    I'm not looking to stir-up a political debate here. I'm merely stating that, as a catholic and a nationalist, I actually feel pushed-away from supporting Northern Ireland by the IFA's insistence on using symbolism that identifies the team firmly with one community over another. I only know of one Northern Catholic who is an 'active' northern Irish supporter (i.e. travels to away games etc). I know of one or two more who go to the odd game in Windsor, but that is more out of a love for football. Meanwhilw, I know of a large number of Northern Catholics who actively follow the Republic, and who would echo my sentiments above re not feeling comfortable with the symbolism used by the IFA, let-alone the attitude of some of the fans.
    Until such items are addressed, I believe the North will never truely represent the entire 'country'.

    So once again - congratulations to the North on a superb result and atmosphere in the game against England. Let's hope the IFA develop a sense of political awareness and institue the above changes that will enable northern Catholics/nationalists like myself from feel fully involved in the party.
    Last edited by dcfcsteve; 12/09/2005 at 12:16 PM.

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    My understanding is that NI play under the Union Jack rather than the Ulster flag. These are the official flag and anthem of Northern Ireland. Surely it is up to the "government" of NI to come up with a new flag and anthem although I imagine Danny Boy would go down well particularly in Derry.

    As for sectarianism - can you provide some examples? I went up to the Azerbaijan game and there was no sectarian singing/comments and not a Rangers jersey in sight. There was one in a bar beforehand but he made it clear he was staying to watch his team on tv (and he didn't mean Scotland) I hadn't been to a NI senior home game for almost 11 years (4-0 Nov 94) and it was totally different.

    Have you been to any game srecently?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gspain
    My understanding is that NI play under the Union Jack rather than the Ulster flag. These are the official flag and anthem of Northern Ireland. Surely it is up to the "government" of NI to come up with a new flag and anthem although I imagine Danny Boy would go down well particularly in Derry.
    Gary - GSTQ and the Union flag being the 'official' symbols of Northern Ireland is frankly irrelevant. If the team is attempting to represent the whole of the province, then they will find themselves unable to do so whilst such one-sided symbolism is in-place. The IRFU didn't have any problems recognising this by adopting 'Ireland's Call' to be used instead or alongside Amhran na bhFiann - regardless of what the official anthem of a Dublin-based organisation should be. The Welsh and Scottish FA's didn't have to run to Tony Blair to use Flower of Scotland/Hen Wlad Fy Nhadou and the Saltaire/flag of St David for their 'nations' - so tell me why should Northern Ireland be so different ??

    Quote Originally Posted by gspain
    As for sectarianism - can you provide some examples? I went up to the Azerbaijan game and there was no sectarian singing/comments and not a Rangers jersey in sight. There was one in a bar beforehand but he made it clear he was staying to watch his team on tv (and he didn't mean Scotland) I hadn't been to a NI senior home game for almost 11 years (4-0 Nov 94) and it was totally different.

    Have you been to any game srecently?
    As my note stated - ouvert sectarianism at the games appears to have been successfully tackled. However - there is undoubtedly still a section of Northern irish supporters who sing sectarian songs whiilst on away duty. I gave you an example from Malta (and please don't try to assert that The Sash isn't a sectarian song, as we all know that it's more than just a folk song). Gerrit (a regular poster on here) was also at the Azer game, and remarked on how he saw a lot of Rangers and Hearts jersies amongst the fans (though I don't necessarily perceive that to be evidence of sectarianism myself, but you mentioned it in your note). Coincidentally - you will hear chants regarding 'Ulster' (e.g. 'Stand-up for the Ulstermen etc) in the stadiums at Northern Ireland games. I don't consider this 'sectarian (though if you take the literal meaning of the word, it is) nor do I find it offensive - but it is indicative of the one-sidedness of the support, as very few Catholics/nationalists talk in terms of 'Ulster'.

    And no I haven't been to any matches, as should have been fairly clear from my note. As stated - I don't feel able to identify with a team that uses such one-sided symbolism.

    And in case anyone thinks I'm just being a nationalist WUM - I don't have a problem supporting the Ulster rugby team, and have been to see them on a number of occassions - home and away. They tend to focus more on the red hand symbol, rather than the unionist version of the Ulster flag, and they don't have GSTQ at games (or at least not the ones I was at). Much less danger of being greeted by renditions of The Sash or The Billy Boys as well.

    The euphoria of the result against England brought this all home to me, which is why I've posted about it now. I was happy with the result, but didn't feel able to fully get into it all. It really felt like looking through the window at someone else's party, which caused me to ponder on why I felt that way and what would change my perception.
    Last edited by dcfcsteve; 12/09/2005 at 2:18 PM.

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    I would agree with anthem & would seem very good idea & relatively easy to change.

    Don't understand issue with flag as do not the GAA also use that as symbol for the wider Ulster - not just 6 counties?

    Sectarianism is hard for authorities to eliminate as only have juristiction inside the stadium. Will always be some muppets. Sure seen 5-10 fellas in Murrays after Republic match singing 'RA songs after France match.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete
    Don't understand issue with flag as do not the GAA also use that as symbol for the wider Ulster - not just 6 counties?
    Presume GAA don't use the crown bit. Probably have yellow background instead of white too. Hardcore probably swap flag of St. Patrick for St. George.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete
    IDon't understand issue with flag as do not the GAA also use that as symbol for the wider Ulster - not just 6 counties?
    The 'red hand of Ulster' flag is a Stormont-induced derivation from the original flag of Ulster - which is the red hand on a red cross with yellow background.

    I can assure you, the GAA do not use the unionist-version of the Ulster flag.....

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    I learned something new today.

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    I was actually looking for Rangers jerseys as they were very obvious in 93 and 94 to a lesser extent. I didn't see any - North Stand upper deck. One Manyoo and one green Liverpool top with the vast majority of the fans in green shirts. A few IL tops also obviously.

    The IRFU represent rugby on the whole island and thus cross political boundaries. They also use GSTQ for home games in Ravenhill btw albeit there haven't been any since 1954. GSTQ and the UJ are the official flags of NI. I agree they are off putting to somebody of a nationalist background

    I agree the Sash is not an appropriate song and is perceived as sectarian although I'm not sure if any of the lyrics are. However if singing sectarian songs in a bar before games is a mark of sectarianism (and I agree) then we have a lot to sort out ourselves as such practice is now tolerated on RoI away trips. Guys were quickly told to shut up in the past. I tried that myself in the English pub beside Ueno station on the night of England v Argentina on tv in 2002 and got told where to go by a group of Belfast spides in the colours of a British club team. They came out with some disgusting stuff. Thankfully they haven't tried any of it at games yet to my knowledge.

    We could do with getting rid of the shirts of another British club team from Lansdowne Road ourselves.

    FWIW I had attended 5 previous NI homes games at Windsor - our three in 88,93 & 94 and Denmark 90 and Lithuania 92. I never felt threatened at any of them even after being "outed" however the atmosphere at our games was pretty tense and there was plenty of sectarian singing. Furthermore red/white/blue were the pre-dominant colours of the home fans whereas now it is green. The Sash and the Billy Boys would have been regular songs thne but not now.

    I suggest you go along and experienc eit.

    I've only been to Ravenhill once but felt free to openly wear Munster colours and cheer for Munster however my recollection is that the Union Jack is flown there too although I could be wrong. Home fans were great btw.

    You do I assume know that we are actually the partitionist team. There are differing accounts as to what went on in 1922 but the F.A.I. broke away and formed a seperate associaiton and indeed the IFA tried to organise on an All Ireland basis up until 1950.

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    Moved to Off Topic for the moment.

    Quote Originally Posted by pete
    I learned something new today.
    Me too.

    adam [size=1]/reads all about flags[/size]
    Last edited by dahamsta; 12/09/2005 at 6:02 PM.

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    DCFC Steve,Even though I've found this board very interesting,I'm not a contributer and also not trying to wind you up, however you say that you have a real problem identifying with the N.Ireland team on the grounds of the anthem,flag and sectarian element of the fan base.Well for the same opposite reasons (as a southern Irish protestant)overtime I have withdrawn from identifying with the R.of Ireland team.

    I attended my first international in 1978(R.of Ireland v. England) and was regular at Landsdowne Road until 1992 even attending the World Cup in Italy in 1990.Firstly the "national anthem" with the words "Saxon foe".Well,It's easy to know who it's aimed at.
    "The tricolour flag"(even though it's original origins were noble) it has been hijacked and sullied by the sight of it on coffins at IRA funerals being carried by Mr Adams and Mr.McGuinness.
    "The sectarian element"In Landsowne Road overtime,I've heard all the 'Ra chants,seen the union flag burned,booing Rangers players etc., the Fields of Athenry being sung by
    Celtic jersey brigade etc.In the pubs if there's a sing song usually there's a few 'Ra songs thrown in.Then you get a funny look if you know nothing about the G.A.A. It all leads to a mono-cultural identity.On the F.A.I. website history link there is the reference to the I.FA. bias towards Belfast"protestant" clubs.Why mention the "P" word at all.Therefore without compromising my heritage and culture I too also feel alienated from supporting the national team of the country I was born in.

    How can an identity be created which we all can coexist together ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by motorcycleman
    "The tricolour flag"(even though it's original origins were noble) it has been hijacked and sullied by the sight of it on coffins at IRA funerals being carried by Mr Adams and Mr.McGuinness.
    Just on this, the national flag is hijacked in pretty much every country there is. In Britain its the far right, but should the actions of a majority ruin a national emblem. Plenty of better people are also proud to use the flag for much greater reasons...


    In the pubs if there's a sing song usually there's a few 'Ra songs thrown in.Then you get a funny look if you know nothing about the G.A.A. It all leads to a mono-cultural identity.
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    I have lived in Dublin for a while, now in Belfast, and have seen both national teams a few times. I will try to make a neutral point, as I obviously have a personal bond with both North and South.

    - I can understand the problem Steve has with the anthem. I also find it very weird TBH. When I asked a few fans why they do not play Danny Boy, some said it'd be a good idea, some said that it's ridiculous and that Wales and Scotland are a shame to the British feeling. So it seems to be a point where even fans of Northern Iron are divided. I'd say they would do not bad move by selecting an own anthem. Danny Boy would be a good choice IMO.

    - the flag: it is the official flag of Northern Ireland as displayed in every encyclopaedia, tourism board, etc. The flag leans more towards the Unionist side, but the flag is a government thing, and NI is under British rule, so not totally unlogical they have this flag as official flag. I don't really see the need for an alternative as well, because the hand on the flag clearly associates with Northern Ireland.

    - The Union Jacks seem not to be the IFA's flags, or am I wrong here? It seems the majority of Union Jacks is just brought by fans.

    - I won't judge on "Ulster" because after 13 months on the island I cannot judge fair enough on which feelings the term represents in both communities. I have followed the advice from few board members here though and didn't use the names 'Ulster' and 'Six Counties' anymore (wasn't it Steve who told me in order to stay neutral it's best to just use 'Northern Ireland' ?)

    - I think when it comes to the very vast majority of Unionist fans both sides should make a step towards each other.
    I think it is a bit sad that the majority of Nationalists here either supports only GAA or either supports only the Republic. Nothing wrong by supporting the ROI as well, but a bit of interest or well-wishing towards the North would be a good move. By only supporting the ROI they are indeed also a wee bit sectarian.
    I think the Nationalists should show more interest in NI football team and come to Windsor whenever possible, and the Unionist fans have the duty to make them feel welcome.

    - the Rangers/Celtic thing is a problem at both sides of the border. I am disgusted sometimes by how many Rangers jerseys I see in my new hometown, even when I went to see Glens and Linfield some wore a Rangers tracksuit instead of the one from their own team...
    In the ROI the problem is less present in the EL where most fans wear their own team's colours, but I must say I also find it sad to see so many Celtic jerseys at Lansdowne instead of EL jerseys.
    So my conclusion: both in NI and ROI there is a serious problem with "barstoolers" and Old Firm jerseys, and both in NI and ROI it is sad to see people sitting in front of a TV in a pub while you walk towards a local stadium. I have not seen a single Old Firm game while on the island, in Dublin I went to EL games, and now here I am going to IL games. Just as fun, and the happiness when the team score seems more honest. All the respect to the genuine Celtic and Rangers fans on the island, but I can't help disliking both of the Glaswegian giants for how much politics are involved in both these clubs. Inverness all the way for me now

    Maybe the IFA and ROI should try to get the Rangers/Celtic elements out of their national team games, as it clearly offends many people (just look at the nr of topics on that here). They could use this trick: every ROI or NI game, everyone entering the ground in a shirt of a local team gets a free drink and fish-n-chips.
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    Quote Originally Posted by motorcycleman
    Firstly the "national anthem" with the words "Saxon foe".Well,It's easy to know who it's aimed at.
    Yes it's aimed at the English......not at Irish Protestants (who have included Wolfe Tone etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by motorcycleman
    seen the union flag burned,
    Surley you don't take this personally.....your not British are you.

    Quote Originally Posted by motorcycleman
    the Fields of Athenry beign sung
    What on Earth is wrong with this An Anthem about the Irish struggle during the famine! True most were Catholics but this song says nothing against Protestants.

    Quote Originally Posted by motorcycleman
    How can an identity be created which we all can coexist together ?
    When people stop taking offence at things that arn't meant offensivly.


    There is a distinct difference between songs for example; the Sash is about the Orange order-a strongly anti-Catholic organisation, the billy boys is about murdering Catholics "we're up to our necks in Fenian (Catholic) blood"........and Fields of Athenry is about Irish struggling to feed themselves. Spot the odd one out?

    I know everyone try's to be politically correct and everything but soemtimes you've jsut got to admit things arn't so balanced and any isolation of Republic of Ireland Protestants in soccer has never been half that of Northern Irish Cahtolics.
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    I still disagree on the Sash being sectarian. No doubt about the Billy Boys, the sung is disgusting. But the Sash is just about being proud of being British. Nothing different than being proud of being Irish/French/American/etc and not per definition anti-Irish (unlike the Billy Boys)




    Also, I wanna make a wee remark: I tend to use not "Protestant/Catholic" but "Nationalist/Unionist".
    Sure the nationalist=catholic and unionist=protestant is not always right. There are atheists who have no religion but still have a nationalist or unionist feeling based on purely political motives. And I have met catholics in Belfast yet who still prefer to be under British rule because the government does more for the people they say. Probably there's also protestants who feel culturally more Irish...

    I mean, the troubles are so often associated with religion, while every single Northerner (both Nationalist and Unionist) I've met so far told me it's much more than just religion.

    BTW, I have a Muslim colleague. I'm sure he'll have an opinion on Unionism/Nationalism, while he would be offended by either prostant and catholic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerrit
    I still disagree on the Sash being sectarian. No doubt about the Billy Boys, the sung is disgusting. But the Sash is just about being proud of being British. Nothing different than being proud of being Irish/French/American/etc and not per definition anti-Irish (unlike the Billy Boys)
    seriosuly mate do a bit of research on the orange order......or just watch the news tonight. It's nto about being proud to be British-i'm sure the soldiers whot he orange order attack with iron bars and petrol bombs are proud to be British.....and they wouldn't sing the sash.
    The orange order is an anti-Catholic association. That is indisputible. Last night showed undoubtbly that they are still thugs. Thugs that most British are digusted by.
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    I don't want to get into the discussion itself - fascinating as it is - but since I did some reading earlier, a note of pedantry:

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerrit
    - the flag: it is the official flag of Northern Ireland as displayed in every encyclopaedia, tourism board, etc.
    According to Wikipedia - thanks Dodge - it ceased to be the official flag in 1972, which would make it simply a de facto flag. Presumably the official flag would be the Union Jack now, or possibly none at all.

    adam
    Last edited by dahamsta; 12/09/2005 at 6:17 PM.

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    Steve,

    As someone from the same background of yourself I can probably tackle a few of your queries.

    In recent years there is a much lower proportion of Rangers/Hearts etc shirts at Northern Ireland games than you would see Celtic shirts at Rep of Ireland game. Like Gary Spain in recent games I have looked out specifically for them and while there is a token few sprinkled round the ground, there are certainly far fewer than you would Celtic tops round Lansdowne on a match.

    I agree with you on the anthem, but ask yourself how many fans from our side of the fence would go if they changed the anthem and the flag. Most opened minded fans of a Nationalist personality have already ventured to a game or two and the rest would merely seek another excuse if these perceived "barriers" were removed. In the same way as Willy Anderson made the effort to learn Amhran na bhFiann when he played rugby for Ireland, the anthem is an issue if you make it one. To be fair to the support there are regular threads on OWC about an alternative anthem and at least the fanbase are willing to debate the issue.

    As you mention, the flag is a huge issue political. Witness clowns like Nelson McCausland and his attempts to get "The British and Irish Lions" changed to "The British Lions". The political landscape as it is, with the extremists in the ascendancy I can't see any change in that issue in the middle to the long term.

    As regards the support I reckon it is a case of pot kettle back. Of course there are a proportion of the Northern Ireland support who are no credit to their nation. The same could be said of a proportion of the ROI support. Witness the modifications to the Fields of Athenry to include references to the RA, Sinn Fein and the like. At recent games I have asked people just to sing te original version and have been met with a shower of expletives. The irony of the fact that this was delivered from Celtic shirt wearing(no having a go, just stating fact) was not lost of me. Of course the scene your friend encountered in Malta was repellent but as Gary mentioned there is a trend for political incorrect tunes on ROi away trips at times. The bar all the Derry support frequented in Cyprus blasted out the rebel tunes, does that make our support sectarian?

    The atmosphere inside Windsor these days is a cracking day out. We were at the Serbia game last year and some of our lads had Derry City gear on, surely a recipe for disaster. However we had nothing but banter from the rest of the crowd before and after the game with many people asking us when we were coming back into the Irish League. I don't expect that this would be the 100% reaction but given you can get abused in Lansdowne for wearing an eL jersey we are in no position to give out about others
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    I have to fully agree with every word dcfc steve says, i fully understand how he feels, being a Northern Irish Catholic myself. I have always felt like this about the NI team and it is so frustrating. I do wish them well, and I always look out for their results and would watch them if on tv, but I also feel out of place as a supporter. It's frustrating because it is my homeland, it is my region.

    I could never feel like a 100% passionate supporter of theirs unless some changes are made as steve mentioned. The anthem would be a immense step at least. Danny boy would be great, it is quite an emotional melody. It is a disgrace that in this day and age, the IFA have done nothing to make any changes. Maybe if the team became more successful(eg back to the days of the early 80's) there would be more nationalists interested in the team and would call for change. Maybe one day , but we know how stubborn certain elements of society in NI can be.

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    I agree with some of what you say Gerrit. I think it would be a fantastic move if the FAIlure could get rid of all the Celtic jerseys out of lansdowne road. maybe a campagin could be started ?

    As for the Sash, it IS sectarian IMO. The orange order sing it and nationalists find it very sectarian.

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