Rio's 2016 Olympic logo
and we have heard young Rory McIlroy say that he may not take part in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil because he shall offend some people if he plays for the UK team and some more people if he decides for Ireland.
"I just think being from where we're from, we're placed in a very difficult position," Rory said.
"I feel Northern Irish and obviously being from Northern Ireland you have a connection to Ireland and a connection to the UK. If I could and there was a Northern Irish team I'd play for Northern Ireland.
Play for one side or the other - or not play at all because I may upset too many people… Those are my three options I'm considering very carefully,” was how Rory ended his conversation.
Flags and things....
The flags dispute, with its attendant riots, highlight the same issue; the problem of identity. Identity is one of the fundamental problems facing the people of the New North. Those of us who have lived through all of the Troubles have had a few eye openers in our time.
The Unionist people have had to come to realize that they are not fully British and as much as they like to protest that they are the speech by John Major, when he stood beside Albert Reynolds and said that Britain had no strategic interest in Northern Ireland, left the north and its people in a semi detached state of being.
However, people like me who were reared in republican areas and who were brought up to believe that we were Irish and that the Free State was our spiritual homeland, have also had to come to terms with a lot of unpalatable truths.
Let’s face it, from the 1920s till the 70s the Free State stood back and watched pogroms against Catholics in the North as well as blatant discrimination, while the British allowed these things to happen as long as the natives took it.
Over the years, as the Catholics have become more self assured and educated we have lost any fear of Unionism and the institutional discrimination of past years is fast fading. We are comfortable in the New North.
Then we look to the south and see a society that is corrupt and, even worse, that is so blatantly corrupt that they do not even try to hide it. There has and shall be no meaningful inquiry into the rape and pillage of the country by Fainne Fail and the bankers during the Celtic Tiger.
Whereas in the north we seem to have held on to some idea of the faith, the south appears to have lost all semblances of Christianity and decency.
image from tweakyourbiz.com
The Troubles brought about one big change in Northern Ireland; it forced Catholics and Protestants to come to see that one side here can no longer dominate the other. The antics of Sinn Fein picking arguments for the sake of it are doing them more harm than good. The flag on the City Hall was of no interest to anyone.
I am reading a book at the moment by a priest called Fr Michael Mullins. It is about the gospel of Matthew. In the introduction to the book, Fr Mullins describes the situation of the Christians at the time Matthew wrote his gospel. It is uncanny the way the social and political situation of the time mirrors ours.
In the year AD69 the Romans had flattened the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. After this there was nowhere for the Jews to offer sacrifice and services moved to the synagogue. Meanwhile the Christians and the Jews were growing further and further apart. The Jewish people who believed in Jesus were feeling the sadness of being expelled from the synagogues and of losing their heritage.
I look south and my heart breaks when I see the state that for so long I wanted to be part of. It is not the Ireland I would want to live in and no matter how proud I feel when I see Croke Park filled on the third Sunday of September and the flag flying high, there is something dying within me and I feel utterly disorientated in my identity: I am neither British nor Irish.
Rory McIlroy shall probably become the most successful sportsperson that this land has ever produced; he is a once in a generation sporting genius.
And he has no country.
In a show of real integrity and commitment to his supporters Rory says that he does not want to offend anyone so he may not take part in the Olympics in 2016. What odds does it make who he plays for? He’ll be in his mid twenties, at the peak of his playing career; he should not miss his chance of a gold medal.
But that is sport. Where are we, the people of Northern Ireland, to turn to when we realize that Britain does not want us and that the south is so far from our image of Irishness that we want nothing to do with it?
What Rory McIlroy has realised early in his life is something that has taken me a long time to acknowledge; there are things that are above national identity.
In his case he is taking the stance that loyalty to his supporters and the people who have followed him through his career are more important.
As for me I am learning that a nation with no principles is not a nation. The feeling of belonging to something implies that we must have something worth belonging to.
When I look south to the imagined nirvana of an Irish Republic my heart saddens. What I see I do not want to belong to; broken promises, double dealing, lies and deceit, these are the currency of life in our land.
Through a glass darkened
Then I look to Britain and as a Northern Ireland Catholic I can only see Britain through the prism of the Troubles and the murders of my friends and neighbours carried out by the security forces and their cohorts in Loyalist paramilitaries. Through this particular prism Britain is not a nice place.
I look at the Royal family and I remember the hurt and anguish I felt as a young man when the Queen bestowed military honours on the colonel who led the paratroopers on Bloody Sunday. The feeling of insult and rejection turned many a young man against Britain for life.
For over forty years I and the whole world have watched as the Queen’s family has fallen apart and her nation has sank from mighty empire to second rate country, economically and militarily. Isn’t it amazing that everyone, no matter who they are, grows through pain.
The Queen has grown old watching the marriages of her children Anne, Charles and Andrew fall apart in public. She has matured into an elegant, thoughtful old lady who has learned from life’s hurts and feels the pain of her people.
Oh, how we change!
Over a lifetime we all change a lot. What was important in my youth is not so important now; a flag or an imagined ideal is not worth dying for. The stuff that dreams are made of, a united Ireland with maidens dancing at the crossroads, or the Protestant Ascendency where all was rosy in the garden, was never true in the first place.
I have to ask myself as I start the New Year, “What is worth fighting for, what are the things in life that I want to see brought to fruition and can I in any way help to make Ireland/Britain a place worth living in?”
To even begin such a process I need to look deep inside and see what is really important to me.
Does the love of my wife and children come before the love of my country? Is the desire for justice present in me in the same measure for Catholic and Protestant or am I still at the stage where I see justice for one side as insult to the other? Am I prepared to do the work necessary and to exert myself for the common good?
We could get lost here in the midst of too much navel gazing. Or we could get caught up in too much self condemnation for the things that we have done and thought over the years.
Politicians shall do what politicians have always done; they shall lie to the people to get their votes and then they shall ignore the people and the promises they made. And we should never expect anything else; it is the nature of the beast.
But there are principles in life that we should hold on to. We each make our own choices and we are free to do so; that is the nature of democracy.
If my principles are secular (I want for me), then I should vote that way but not be annoyed when others take the same stance. If we want the freedom to do what we want then we have to accept the destruction that goes with it; e.g. the destruction that Thatcher’s ideal of “greed is good” has brought to so many lives, or the freedom to have sex with whoever we want while we are married, then we have to put up with the hurt and pain that this brings.
Can we be different?
Perhaps Northern Ireland has different values than “pagan Britain” or the secular Republic. Perhaps Rory McIlroy, without knowing it, is saying that there are things about both countries that he does not like and that he wants no part of.
Terrible events have a way of bringing good out of even the worst of circumstances. The Troubles were a traumatic time for the people of this wee province. Did the thirty years of violence and death teach us anything?
In Northern Ireland we are going through a time of serious reflection. We should use this time to do what Britain and Ireland has never done, to look deeply at where we want to go.
For us who think of ourselves as Irish we have to admit that Ireland has never come to terms with its past. I shall give you two examples; the killing of the hostages in the civil war and the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.
“As soon as the state was founded on 6th December 1922, the new Free State government descended into more drastic measures by simply executing prisoners who had been in jail since the surrender of the Four Courts the previous July, without any trial of any sort, and on a few hours notice, for offenses committed outside the prison with which they could not possibly be connected.”
This quote from Irish Identity, tells of how the Free State government shot men for crimes that they did not commit, a blatant war crime. Such issues have never been addressed by the people of Ireland. As with so many other things it is just quietly swept under the carpet. There were at least 77 men murdered by the Free State forces in this way.
The Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the people who died in them were used by the Dublin government as anti Sinn Fein propaganda.
“It was repeatedly stated in the days following the bombing that any Irish citizen who had even entertained the thought of supporting the IRA's contemporary campaign was every bit as guilty of the slaughter of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as were those who had, cold-bloodedly and without any warning, planned and carried out the atrocity.
The obvious follow-on from this playing down of the atrocity caused further anguish for the families of the victims and the injured. Only in a few instances did politicians visit the families or wounded. There was no national day of mourning as there had been for Bloody Sunday. A decision was even taken, but quickly reversed, that the National Flag should not be flown at half-mast. (In the event, the National Flag flew at half-mast in Dublin and Monaghan town on Wednesday, 22 May). There was no Government initiative to set up a fund for the dependants of those murdered. There was no consultation with the families and no counselling provided. No progress reports on the investigation were provided by the Gardaí to the families as happened after the Omagh atrocity.”
This is a direct quote from the “Justice for the Forgotten website,” which is the organisation of the relatives and victims of the people involved in the bombings.
In both Britain and the Republic national and political self interest comes way before the good of the people of Northern Ireland.
What is a nation?
For a nation to function as a nation the people must have a common aim and culture. In a secular society these things do not exist because by definition a secular society is a self centred society. A secular society says that there is no God and that the only point of reference for my behaviour is me.
Such a society cannot function for very long before it crumbles. Who could look at either of our two parent nations and not see them as crumbling?
Jesus once famously said, “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give unto God the things that are God’s.”
Let men and women look after the finances and the roads and things but for the common good we should focus on what Jesus says; the love of God and of our neighbour.
There are things that concern mankind and there are things that are best left to God. Britain and the Free State have thrown God out in a mad rush to be modern and now they are squirming about like a fish out of water.
Maybe Rory McIlroy, like me and many others, wants to belong to a place where there is a bit of decency, a desire for the common good and some sort of morals that says there is a right and a wrong.
If I could find such a place I would give me allegiance to it wholeheartedly!
“Our God is a great God.”
Any comments? Submit via this blog or send us an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
published in Observer Newspaper group, N.I.
10th Jan '13