Former world boxing champion Wayne McCullough has hit out at Paddy Barnes for “disrespectful” behaviour during a Commonwealth Games medal ceremony.
Now based in Las Vegas the Shankill Road man, who won a Commonwealth Gold and Olympic silver, said Barnes knew the anthem situation before he agreed to take part in the competition.
After coming out on top in the light flyweight division, the north Belfast boxer was caught on camera saying “that’s not my anthem” as the Ulster Banner was raised to the tune of Danny Boy.
McCullough, who grew up and lived in the Belfast loyalist heartland before leaving for the US, outraged many in his home community when he agreed to carry his team’s Irish tricolour at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.
Speaking to the News Letter on Sunday, McCullough said the winner’s podium wasn’t the place for such a comment.
“Having had the privilege of representing Northern Ireland and Ireland in my amateur career, and having been fortunate enough to take my place on the podium at the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games, I think, personally, that anyone who uses their place on the rostrum for anything other than to celebrate their achievement is disrespectful, not only to themselves but to their fans and the rest of their team.”
On Saturday McCullough used Twitter to both criticise and praise the 27-year-old.
“He knew going in. If he didn’t wanna stand for the anthem he shouldn’t have chosen to be part of the team,” he said.
In another tweet on the subject, McCullough said: “Not at all bitter. Love Paddy. Great wee fighter. Very proud of his win!”
Speaking on Sunday night, he added: “It’s heartwarming to see such medal success for ‘our wee country’ from these games and especially for the girls to shine so brightly for the first time.
“Seeing Paddy Barnes saying Danny Boy wasn’t his anthem during the medal ceremony was, in my opinion, the wrong time to say it.
“He would have known beforehand that Danny Boy would be used should he achieve medal success and could therefore have refused to be on the NI team if he felt so strongly about it. Having chosen to represent NI he knew by winning a gold medal that the anthem associated with the team would have been played.”
In response to a barrage of criticism, Paddy Barnes used his Twitter account to give his side of the story.
He said: “So I said that’s not my anthem, so who cares, it’s not, NI hasn’t got one, educate yourselves, football is GSTQ (God Save The Queen) so make your minds up!
“I’m a sportsman I couldn’t care about anything else, I’m Irish, doesn’t matter if I’m Catholic or Protestant!”
Commenting on his own decision to carry the tricolour in Seoul, McCullough said: “In 1988 I was honoured to be given the opportunity of carrying the flag of the country I was representing. Just the same way I carried the flag for Northern Ireland while representing my birthplace at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in 1990.
“But I didn’t carry flags in any heroic or symbolic way to set a precedent for anyone else. I did it in the name of sport. That was a choice I made and I was honored to be on every team I fought for during my amateur career.”