The capital city of NI should recognise the national football team

Morning View
Morning View

The row over the decision by nationalists to hold a reception at City Hall for the two national football teams, representing either side of the border, is deeply unfortunate.

Unionists have been made to look petty in their reluctance to back an event that puts the Republic football team on an equal footing to the Northern Ireland team.

But unionist opposition is right, however it looks. It is mischievous for nationalists to seek political capital out of the magnificent success of the two teams in reaching Euro 2016.

They must know that unionists will seem mean-spirited in rejecting such a reception, and this apparent meanness keeps the spotlight off their own manoeuvrings.

But as the unionist parties say, if we are going to invite the home nations to a celebration, then the Great Britain teams should be invited. But such a free-for-all would make little sense. What prospect is there of England superstars, for example, travelling to Belfast?

If that logic was pursued across the UK and Ireland, the teams would be shuttling back and forth between receptions.

The obvious thing is for each capital city to recognise the successes of its own team. Only in Belfast is such a reasonable notion contentious, due to an obsessive nationalist insistence on parity of esteem.

At last month’s Stormont remembrance, the national anthem was kept off the order of service at republicans’ behest.

While proper respect for all major traditions is of course appropriate in a divided society, it is important to remember that there is no ‘parity’ over the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. It is part of the UK, and protected as such under the principle of consent. Nor is there parity over the cost of that arrangement. London, not Dublin, funds the Province lavishly.

Northern Ireland’s passport to France was an achievement unprecedented since the 1986 World Cup. Its principal city should be allowed to honour it.