Monday, January 30, 2006


Monday Madness - Sam Maguire silliness

All-Ireland champions What a load of nonsense we have been subjected to over the fact that the All Ireland champions Tyrone paraded the Sam Maguire trophy before Celtic's clash with Dundee United on Saturday at Parkhead, Celtic's ground.

Scottish Conservative politician Bill Aitken MSP even went so far as to call for the Sam Maguire to be banned from Glasgow Celtic's ground this weekend.

The stupid bigot then had the audacity to brand former Irish Republican Brotherhood activist Sam Maguire a 'terrorist'.

I support Tyrone County Board Chairman Pat Darcy's call for the unionist community to see Gaelic games in a sporting context and to disregard their hang-ups over names. The county GAA chairman has called for an end to verbal attacks on the GAA by politicians, particularly those from the unionist persuasion, simply because many clubs are named after republican and nationalist historical figures.

"Every year we have certain unionists politicians in the county taking issue with the flying of Tyrone flags during the championship," said Mr Darcy. "Club names is another point of issue.

"Gaelic clubs were founded in Irish traditions. Both cultures have names that are associated with their traditions. That's the reality and we should all get on with it. We should accept it and stop making an issue of it.

"Take Craigavon, for example. It is named after a man considered as someone who discriminated against a section of the community for years.

"Windsor Park is named after the British Royal Family, as is the Royal Victoria Hospital. We all have to tolerate these names.

"We have to accept that these are places that exist. Politicians should do the same rather than criticise GAA clubs. It's just an excuse they give for not participating in Gaelic games."

Mr Darcy is quite correct. Windsor Park is named after the Royal family, which one half of the North's community does not support and Craigavon is named after one of the most disgraceful, sectarian individuals to have ever lived in Ireland, James Craig. Yet nationalists get on with it.

Furthermore, the simple fact is that Celtic is a club with strong Irish roots. Brother Walfrid, an Irishman from Sligo who established the club to alleviate poverty in Glasgow, suggested the club's name be 'Celtic' to reflect the club's Irish and Scottish roots. With that being the case, for the Sam Maguire to be paraded before Celtic fans, many of whom will be from Ireland anyway, is perfectly acceptable. Donegal, Armagh and Galway have all brought Sam Maguire to Celtic Park in the past and when Celtic won the European Cup in 1967, they brought to trophy to Dublin where they presented it before Irish president Eamon de Valera.

Celtic's crest - Can you believe they have Irish roots?
Hmm what's so Irish about Celtic I wonder?

West Tyrone Ulster Unionist MLA Derek Hussey, a critic of the GAA in the past, said that Mr Darcy has to understand that many of his constituents have strong views on the GAA.

The UUP politician said, "The greatest difficulty arises when names are associated with those who have been associated with more recent terrorism in Northern Ireland. There is also concern with the ethos that the association has had in the past with regard to the security forces.

"Club and pitch names within the GAA quite often are related to personalities who have a preeminence within what would be regarded by some within the unionist community as republicanism.

"I realise there would be appear to be a gradual sea of change within the association in general on issues such as participating and ground use. But we live in a society that is slow to change," added Mr Hussey.

In fairness to Mr Hussey, at least he's setting out his stance in a respectful manner without resorting to hysterical hyperbole like others.

Even so, Mr Hussey has to appreciate that Irish people are entitled to be proud of their Irish Republican history and that we don't take kindly to bullshit comments such as Mr Aiken's who has the audacity to label Sam Maguire a "terrorist".

Mr Hussey is right that we live in a society slow to change but there is no point in trying to change the past, is there? The fact is the GAA has an association with Irish cultural nationalism and many of its members fought for the independence of Ireland. The fact is Celtic football club has an association with Irishness and the club itself was built upon this association.

Neither the GAA nor Celtic should have to apologise for that and sad little bigots like Bill Aiken will just have to learn that any attempt which is made to try and damage Irish culture will be challenged and challenged vociferously by Irish sports fans!

Deal with it!


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