Saturday, 24 February 2007
Forgive and forget?
One Fine Day
I've always felt that the human race should be able to heal it's own wounds, patch things up, move on and stuff like that. Today provides us the chance to see just how good we are at it.
Ireland face England in Dublin this evening in what, in our house, will come as a pleasant distraction to the preparations for the move to Orkney.
Nothing unusual about that, I hear you say, England turn up for their drubbing at the hands of the gallant boys in green every year.
Well yes, but this year the game is at Croke Park, given that Lansdowne Road is being rebuilt. Now, if you've been paying any kind of attention to sports news over the last couple of weeks, you will know that the stadium - the fourth largest in Europe and built in a matter of a couple of years (take note Wembley) - is the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association and previously reserved only for Gaelic Football and Hurling. Foreign (or garrison) games were always banned.
The GAA were a central part of the Irish nationalist movement in the late 19th century and actively surpressed, along with the Irish language, by the British authorities.
Worse still, in 1920, as a retaliation for the killing of several British agents by Michael Collins' IRA death squads, the Royal Irish Constabulary killed 14 players and spectators in the first Bloody Sunday. Michael Hogan, captain of the Tipperary football team was one of the victims.
Now I have to be careful here, coming from Orange stock, but I know I'm not alone in feeling uneasy about seeing English players line up in front of the Hogan Stand singing God Save the Queen, with Hill 16 - the terrace built on rubble gathered in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising - to one side.
I know we should all be grown up about this and let bygones be bygones, but when so much remains unresolved in Ireland and crimes like the second Bloody Sunday have effectively been whitewashed by Britain, perhaps we should all take a trip to Dachau and wander around whistling the Horst Wessel.
That, I realise, is to overstate the case, and I sincerely hope that come 5.30 my only objection to England's anthem is that I don't much like the Royal Family, but I can understand why the issue has caused such a stir in Ireland.