24 February 2007

Rugby, anthems and controversy

Croke Park

Not only should today’s England-Ireland match be a great game it will be also make history. This is the first time the fixture is being staged at the GAA stadium at Croke Park rather than at Lansdowne Road which is currently being redeveloped. The GAA had to make a significant rule change to allow “foreign” sports (ie, British ones) to be played there . Croke Park was also the site of a massacre by British forces in 1920 (see this previous post for some brief details of the first “Bloody Sunday”).

However, even if Ireland were to trash England (A result I would applaud despite having a birthplace and an accent that should place me firmly in the England camp!) or England were to rise to the challenge (like the French did two weeks ago) and best Ireland, today’s match is more likely to be remembered for the playing of a national anthem than the rugby itself.

Even though it has apparently been played at Croke Park before without comment (during 2003’s Special Olympics in 2003) England’s use of the National anthem has stirred up a degree of ill feeling. The prospect of an English rugby team being greeted by an Irish army band performing God Save the Queen is still apparently too much for some.

J J Barrett, the son of a famous Gaelic sportsman announced earlier this week that he would withdraw his father's medal collection from the museum at Croke Park in protest at the decision to play the British national anthem this weekend.

"I cannot reconcile the provocative words of God Save The Queen being sung in the very stadium where Michael Hogan and others died at the hands of crown forces on Bloody Sunday," he wrote in a published letter. "… I believe the GAA should have foreseen this problem when they rented out Croke Park and instead insisted on an England's Call type of musical prelude. If we accept alternative anthem, Ireland's Call, as a mark of reconciliation, (because the Ireland team represents the whole island of Ireland it does not use the Irish national anthem, a Soldier’s song) then surely the English followers could forego the playing of God Save the Queen as a reciprocal gesture?"

Meanwhile Republican Sinn Féin, a small dissident faction opposed to the peace process, is planning a protest near the ground. But not everyone feels so strongly about the anthem issue. Michael Hogan, nephew of Mick Hogan, a footballer who was killed during the first Bloody Sunday, has called on Irish supporters to respect the English team’s national anthem before the start of the game.

“The English team and supporters are our guests for the weekend, so we will have to welcome them. We have to respect their anthem as well. If the Irish team was over in Twickenham, they’d respect our anthem. I haven’t anything against them (the English team). Sport is sport. It all happened before our time. We’re a different generation now. We have to move on in this day and age.”

To be honest I do not care for the God Save the Queen. It is a tedious dirge and a Soldier’s Song, is not an awful lot better. I personally think the England team could find a far better anthem but their choice is their choice and to should be respected. It is not intended as a slight to the memory of a terrible event that took place at Croke Park 87 years ago. Like the vast majority of other people who will be watching today’s match my real interest is in what will be happening in the 80 or so minutes after the anthems are played!


Anonymous said...

Actually they do play Amhran na bhFiann at home games - not at away ones. Given that little ditty is about killing the "Saxon foe" (the exact words used in the original, English, version - the Irish language version came later), I am sure we can thoil it.

jams o donnell said...

Good point about the Sodliers Song.. Abit like the final verse of God Save the Queen and "Rebellious Scots to crush"...


Garth said...

eugh! National anthems make the hair on the back of my mind stand up

jams o donnell said...

They are pretty well all crappy, bombastic and jingoistic. THe South African anthem has a certain beauty though

Anonymous said...

Have to say the tears were streming down my face when they played the anthems. Not a big fan of Amhran na bhFiann but it and Ireland's Call sure got me going.

And the result was pretty special too.

jams o donnell said...

It was a great result Adrian! I don't go for anthems much as you realise.. Now for England to beat France in two weeks time!

Anonymous said...

If the Irish hate me , my wife and my two fine young sons simply because we are English why do so many of them live in my country?
87 years is not a long time when you want to hate so maybe I should do the same, hate the romans ,the vikings, the normans the french, hate the muslims that enslaved many of my own countryman for over 200 years, hate the welsh for burning english owned houses in wales but are quite happy to buy homes in my country, actually, no I wont bother, lifes too short.
Thank all of the uncountable numbers of the one true god(s)that I was born an Englishman.
ps our anthem is awful, land of hope and glory anybody? or would that be deemed racist? as opposed to wanting to block our anthem being sung in Ireland not being racist , apparently.

Anonymous said...

Not allowing the British as opposed to English Natrional Anthem from being played in Croke Park is not racist. It would and should have being a sign of respect to those who were murdered in the name of that flag, that anthem and that establishment. Firstly it is politically incorrect to use it, as the team that was playing was English and therefore Land of Hope and Glory should have been played, as has been suggested. Secondly the Romans, the Vikings and so on no longer have any such establishment or symbols that would or could be presently used that would offend and English person.
No one on this blog nor the majority of people are attributing the crimes of the past to people today, people are just looking for respect and sensitivity, something which I think is clearly lacking at certin levels of British society. This incident was only one of many wrongs committed over a very long period of time. Crimes such as this continued until recently in Northern Ireland. Again nobody has attributed this to English people, but to the British (i.e. Scottish, Welsh, and English) government and establishment. However these crimes were commited in your lifetime and in your name; Did you ever protest against them? Did you protest when four Irish people in Guildford, and six more in Birmingham lost the better part of two decades rotting in English prisons for crimes they never commited? Did you protest to get those people release? Did you protest afterwards when reports were leaked stating how these people had been known to be innocent the entire time, they were quite simply used aa scapegoats, and even when the real perpetrators of these attacks were apprehended for an unrelated crimes, and gave sworn statements admitting to their previous activity, all of this information was completely suppressed; Did you protest anbout the injustice, rascism, discrimination, that was countered against irish people in your lifetime? If you did as many British people did, then I applaud you, if you didn't like the majority of British people, and continued to live an apparently blissful little life in the suburbs, then why not?

Respect and sensitivity is all that people were asking for, the English National Anthem, and the English flag for an English team, surely isn't that what most English people want themselves?

Anonymous said...

Apologies for any mistakes, I had to get up at 7 to supervise an exam, lol.