It is interesting to see the current debate regarding support for the Irish rugby team.
Let me say from the outset I am a unionist and very proud to call myself British, however I also support the Irish rugby team alongside the Irish cricket team.
I can understand how this is an extremely bizarre concept. Logic would say that as someone who is British, why would I support a team which has links to the Republic of Ireland (RoI)?
My answer to that is that the Ireland rugby team also has links to Northern Ireland. A big reason for my support is that players from Northern Ireland play for this all island team. It is important to remember that the Ireland rugby team is not representing the ROI/Ireland as a country, but it is representing the island of Ireland. They are two different things.
However, with all this in mind, as a young unionist rugby fan, I feel that there is very little inclusivity in the Ireland rugby team. This angers me and dampens my support.
Why do we play the Irish national anthem yet we don’t play an anthem of Northern Ireland? Why do we fly the Irish Tricolour yet not the flag of Northern Ireland?
Why is it always a member of the Irish state/government to greet the team, yet never someone from NI or the rest of the UK? Either do both or none. It can’t be one sided.
This is not politics in sport, it is merely a recognition that there are players wearing a green jersey and giving everything who are Northern Irish and therefore their nationality must be included. Even at times on TV we see the Ireland rugby team displayed beside the Irish Tricolour.
Fairness would say that a team representing two separate nations, would respect and include both nations as much as possible. This is certainly not happening in Irish rugby. Irish rugby is controlled by Dublin and we in Northern Ireland are and always have been treated as a little brother.
This takes me on to think about the continued calls for respect and tolerance for each other’s cultures and views. We hear that in any future United Ireland, (which I hope never happens) unionists will be respected, yet in rugby we can’t even fly the Northern Irish flag? How hard would it be to fly it beside the Tricolour?
I am an Irish rugby fan, but I am British and my Britishness is not being respected or displayed when Ireland play rugby.
I call on Dublin and the IRFU to change their stance and show a bit more tolerance to the fact that British people play for and support this team.
Derek Lynch, Londonderry