Sunday, 20 October 2013

"A shared future. As long as WE get the bigger share..."

There's been a spot of hullaballoo as of late:

Jamie Bryson arguing against any changes in Loyalism lest it become more 'cuddly'
How Jamie sees 'New Loyalism'...

Various politicians digging their heels in against any changes to grammar schools or the segregated school system.
Apartheid: Generally thought of as a bad idea.
Except in Northern Ireland.

And now former Derry GAA player Joe Brolly defending the right of GAA clubs to name themselves after whomever they please.
Kevin Lynch: Stuff happened him
Then he happened other people
'Good bloke' or 'terrorist', he's still a sensitive topic.
Why not handle it sensitively?

It makes me wonder, who exactly are we supposed to be sharing the 'future' with?
 Are we just to be part of the Leonard Cohen song?

As long as the Loyalist band scene clings to its darker drunken side then it'll be sharing with no one apart from like minded folks in Scotland and Liverpool.

The apartheid that we have in Northern Ireland's education system does a good job of making sure that we don't share a lot of space, sports or culture during our most formative years.

And now a sportsman/sports commentator, though speaking of his own accord and NOT for the GAA comes out with this little bombshell:
"It's nobody else's business - it's as simple as that," 
"People can either like it or lump it."
 "That's the way societies and communities work. Kevin played hurling for Dungiven and for Derry, and the hurling club was named for that reason. We're very proud of him.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is jolly well that. Seemingly.

It is yet another example of people not willing to put their money where their mouth is with regards to making Northern Ireland an easier or better place to live.

As we are all boringly aware, nearly everything can be a bone of contention; what church you go to, how you say the letter 'h', what football team you support.
A big deal or cause for suspicion can be plucked from the most minute detail.

We all know this.

Yet when our backs are up and we're on the defensive about something then we adopt a more cold black & white tone:

An Orange march through an area where it's not wanted becomes "men walking the Queen's highway to their place of worship"

Flying all manner of flags to mark out the tribal territory becomes "an expression of culture"

Naming clubs after men who did some pretty awful things becomes " nobody else's business".

With all three examples it is a case of being simultaneously 'true' and 'utter bollocks'.

It's a common tactic in the grim North to be all reasonable, emotional and plea for empathy when one is asking for something.
The normal response to this is a cold logical rebuttal that removes emotion from the scenario.

I wish that both sides would stick with their principled empathy based arguments and stop changing their faces depending on whether  they are doing the pleading or the refusing as is the case currently.

The GAA has put a lot of emphasis on its cross community work:

So, on one hand 'good'. Well done. Hat's off. Nice one Cyril.

On the other hand, the aforementioned 'bollocks'.

We all know what the main obstacles for Protestants are:

* The perception of Nationalist and Republican imagery, reverence and symbols.

* The sometimes too-close-for-comfort association with Republicanism and Republicans. Or, as many Protestants prefer to label some hallowed dead Republicans - "murderers"

* Rule 1.8, the flying of the 'National Flag'. The national flag to Unionists in the UK is the Union Flag.
 End of.
Not up for discussion.
You know this. I know this.
The wee Roma gypsy fella who used to play the violin with funny gramophone horn in Belfast city centre knows this.

You cannot extend your hand in friendship to the Unionist community with this arm-lock to follow immediately after.
Wee Roma Busker: Knows his flegs

I lambaste, plead, cajole, beg, whinge, grip, argue, bore Unionists and Loyalists to wise the bap when it comes to the offensive and unnecessary imagery and pageantry that some of their number endorse and fly with aggressive pride at some of their parades.

I ask again and again how would it be the detriment of Loyalist culture if paramilitary trappings were removed, if songs about killing Catholics were taboo and if Chapels were treated with respect.

Naturally, I am met with silence.

By a similar, but not so aggressive token I would ask the same of the GAA:

Nationalist Perception

Unionist Perception

Their main priority is sport and the community.

How would it be detrimental to the sport and any community in Northern Ireland (as saying there are only TWO communities grows ever more false with each passing day) if they could maybe keep the Tricolour in the broom cupboard in the event of a few non-nationalists joining a club or even coming to watch a game?

What harm would there be to community relations if Unionists weren't under the impression that they'd be forced to stand for/sing the Soldier's Song?

Sharing a space means exactly that, sharing. Not dominating.
 The worst flat-mates are those who impose their way on others.

The GAA: Awful flat-mate?

50 years of a Unionist 'way' was too much for a lot of people and it all erupted in the late 60's.

Surely there must be people within the GAA who remember what it was like not to be treated as an equal?

Yet, here we find that there is not much support within the GAA ranks for treating others as equals.

For there is no other way to interpret it, clinging to the Tricolour and Soldier's Song in an environment as sensitive/paranoid/bitter/mental as Northern Ireland or 'the North' if you so desire (yes Chris and John, I said it) is about domination.

Perhaps not so much when there's no Protestants in your village to dominate but for those Protestants who would perhaps give it a go, well, this makes it almost an impossibility.

From my own point of view it's why I took up Shinty when I moved to Scotland, it was the closest thing to hurling that I 'could' participate in.
I even tried to join the University's GFC some years later but the club fell foul of University requirements.

There's a lot of head in the sand and defensiveness in the GAA regarding their way of doing things.

I for one thank Joe Brolly for at least speaking as if he were a defiant Orangeman speaking 'logically' about men walking the Queen's highway to their place of worship.

It shows that not all GAA follower's are so concerned about the shared future, well, at least about sharing it properly.
I can't write Mr Brolly off completely:

His final paragraph sticks out:
 "The reality is that the two cultures remain firmly segregated and sectarianism is rife. An invisible wall separates the two communities’ schools, sports, religions and social lives. The sooner the GAA spreads into the Shankill, Tigers Bay and Lurgan, the sooner we’ll have a civilised society. "

Great sentiment, now explain where the Tricolour has a place in such a plan/outreach?
Indeed, where do religiously separated schools come into in such a civilised society when one 1/2 of the education system has hegemony over the sport in question?

But, the apartheid of our schools is a different topic.

If people want the nonsense to stop then they have to be willing to go the whole nine yards, not just cherry pick.

The GAA has to accept that its Nationalist ethos is incompatible with many Northerners.
 It's fine to think of Ireland as one nation when you're dealing with Northerners from South Armagh, West Belfast, West Derry or whatever.

Things are a bit more complicated once you spread outwith these zones.

What's good for Kerry is not necessarily good for South East Antrim.
South East Antrim: Not the same as Kerry

The one size fits all approach failed in Northern Ireland Mk I.
It'll fail equally (or rather has failed equally) in a pan-Irish GAA approach.

The Unionists did nothing to make the Union appealing to the Catholic community.
Now they are paying the price.
Whist nationalism may not pay the overall price for the GAA's failures that's not to say that peaceful society won't pick up the tab.

Many Nationalists and Republicans will argue that in the name of equality that Belfast City hall should fly the Tri-colour alongside the Union Flag.
I accept this argument though with a slight amendment (on the principle of equality) in that a 3rd flag to represent the 'Northern Irish' Nationalists should be flown too.
Everyone has a bite of the sour cherry then.
By the same token though, I would ask should the GAA, in the name of equality, acknowledge Sinn Fein's valid argument and reciprocate accordingly by flying the Union Flag at clubs? (or a similar gesture?)

                                                                 "No!" you say?

NO!: Some people just don't like mixing...


 In that case refer to the earlier conclusion of "utter bollocks" and speak no more of trying to improve the situation of Northern Ireland for you don't mean it.

Making sacrifices for peace doesn't mean that only Unionists have to wise up their act or that no longer blowing people up is enough of a 'sacrifice'.

Sacrifices have to be made by all.

That includes the GAA, Nationalists and the wee Roma gypsy with the funny violin thing.

British AND Irish: WTF?!!!!

ADDITIONAL: I forgot to mention, it's not necessarily 'their' money that they would be putting where their proverbial mouth is, the GAA receive millions of tax pounds.
Surely that makes it everyone's business?

ADDITIONAL: Some input from Twitter: "how about no flags at GAA games except of course the counties flags that r playing. That would make most sense to me" - Cheers GOH!


  1. I have read your post as a fan of yours. I am a member of the GAA as is my six year old daughter who attends Holy Cross Girls in Ardoyne. I have to take issue with some of what you have said. My own club is named after a protestant, the ground was purchased from a protestant, I have played alongside protestants in the club, when it was burned down by protestants, it was rebuilt with the help of protestants and reopened by a protestant (Jack Boothman). No one has ever asked me my religion, no one has ever displayed a flag with IRA on it at any match or sung any party tunes at games I have attended. I feel that you have fallen into tarring all clubs with the same brush. Perhaps you would be better asking how many more would play (ALL) our games if changes were made (like renaming the ONE club named after a combatant in the troubles) or if the tricolour wasn't flown (generally for bigger matches - same with anthem) and what part those who lead the protestant community could make to dispelling some of the myths about the GAA. Other than that keep up the good work.

  2. Hello Wendal11

    I truly didn't mean to give the impression that I believe IRA adorned flags are flown with gay abandon in GAA clubs.

    The picture of the chappie with the IRA-tricolour is merely an exaggerated depiction of how some more unionists perceive it.

    There are a lot on the unionist side who look for Republican trappings behind every rock, a bit like a modern version of McCarthyism & communists.

    Granted, these nutters will never join the GAA regardless of what changes are made but the unfortunate thing is their rantings do hold some water and influence others.

    If changes were made it'll become easier for middle-of-the-road types like myself to point out to fleggers, ranters and ravers that they're talking nonsense;
    e.g. any time some one pipes up about how "nationalists don't tolerate our right to march" I simply point out the 12th parades in Magherafelt, Derry, Carnlough and Rasharkin. naturally I'm met with silence.

    However, the flying of the tricolour would be seen as a bridge too far for many Unionists, even if it was only once a year. If some compromise could be reached it would benefit the GAA and perhaps broader society in general.

    As for what Unionist leaders could do?

    Well, put their money where their mouths are for a start.

    Sometimes Robinson says the right things but then doesn't follow through.

    With regards to dispelling the myths, I'm personally very interested in that. I'm working on a project that aims to do such a thing.

    I'd be mighty grateful if you could point me in the direction of some one I could approach to find out what the official line is from the GAA (e.g. flegs) and how this actually pans out in reality .