St Patrick – the Patron Saint of the USA

st pats flag on blue background

To mark today’s worldwide St Patrick’s Day celebrations, H&D published two articles on St Patrick which have recently appeared in the magazine.

This first article – “Saint Patrick the Patron Saint of the USA” – was written seven years ago, but the same issues are still being discussed in Loyalist circles today – now mainly on internet forums. So it was fitting that we republished it (in hard copy in issue #77 of H&D) on the run-up to this year’s St Patrick’s Day.

It was America that spawned the St Patrick’s Day parade, not Ireland, and its origins are both Protestant and British…

As March 17th approaches, the annual debate has reignited on whether Unionism should embrace St Patrick and the day set aside for his commemoration. Over the last five years there has been a slow emergence of Protestant participation on the date, though that has been via the creation of new events rather than involvement in existing ones. This article examines the origin of St Patrick’s Day parades, this new emerging trend, its motivation and where it may possibly lead.

The question ‘where is the biggest St Patrick’s Day parade in Northern Ireland?’ at first glance would appear easily answered. Belfast most would say, with a few probably suggesting the Cathedral City of Armagh or even where he was allegedly laid to rest, Downpatrick. What will surprise many is that the largest parade for the last few years by sheer number of participants has been in the small County Armagh village of Killylea. It is here since 2005 the Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute Band have held their annual band procession and competition. Last year the Cormeen parade saw 42 bands take part (in comparison to the seven that paraded at the Dublin event), amounting to approximately 1800 band members. Thousands of spectators stood along the route, despite it being a bitterly cold evening.

The St Patrick's Day parade in Killylea, led by Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute Band

The St Patrick’s Day parade in Killylea, led by Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute Band

Cormeen Rising Sons of William chairman Mark Gibson explains that the bands original motivation for the parade came more out of necessity than anything else. “The band season is very busy, and when trying to find a date for our parade it was difficult to define one that didn’t clash with other bands locally.” Some members suggested March 17 as a solution to the problem, but the band was nervous. “We were concerned about how a St Patrick’s Day parade would go down in our community, the parade in Armagh never was very welcoming, but we made a decision to try it and it has been a success.”

From that initial year where thirteen bands took part, the parade is now among the largest in the Province. It’s not only the number of bands participating that has increased, but also the crowds attending to watch, and the event is increasingly becoming a fixture in the calendar for many Unionists. Another band, the Ulster Protestant Boys Flute Coleraine, have started a similar event on the date that too is growing. The ever increasing scale of both processions indicates clearly that there is certainly a willingness within the PUL (Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist) community to be involved in St Patrick’s Day. Where the schisms emerge are with the issues of why and how.

It is generally acknowledged that in the distant past Patrick was not a controversial figure for Protestants in Ireland or beyond. His ‘sainthood’ was never conferred by the Pope and pre-dates the reformation, so he was never seen as being the possession of ‘Rome’. St Patrick was seen as an evangelical Christian who had made personal sacrifice to spread the gospel in Ireland. The anniversary of his death was observed and commemorated by all Protestant denominations to different degrees, with the Church of Ireland in particular very active.

The shift from an anniversary of religious significance towards an ‘Irish’ event however first took place in the United States in 1737. In Boston that year the Irish Charitable Society, made up of Protestant immigrants (some of whom were British Soldiers), held their first meeting and dinner. The purpose was to both honour Patrick in the context of their Protestant faith and to reach out the hand of friendship to other Irish immigrants. The exercise obviously struck a chord and the practise spread, with the first recorded parade in New York in 1766, with again British Soldiers of Irish blood heavily involved. It was America that spawned the St Patrick’s Day parade, not Ireland, and its origins are both Protestant and British.

During that period in history the vast majority of Irish immigrants were Presbyterian, however from 1830 it was Catholic arrivals who were in the ascendancy. With that change began an emphasis towards anti-British sentiment in the demonstrations. In the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War anything portrayed as anti-colonial was well received, with even the many original Protestant immigrant descendants non-antagonistic of this motivation. Many British ‘Loyalists’ had left for Canada, and effectively the descendants of the original Protestant Irish settlers remaining saw themselves as primarily American in identity, with all that was left for their original ‘homeland’ of Ireland simply folk memory and sentimentality.

Mike Cronin, author of A History of St Patrick’s Day, states that whilst this tradition was developing, back in Ireland the first parades didn’t take place until the 1840s and even then they were organised by Temperance societies. Mike emphasises the lack of public celebration “The only other major events in nineteenth century Ireland was a trooping of the colour ceremony and grand ball held at Dublin Castle.” So even as late as 1911 the largest St Patrick’s Day occasion in Ireland was still rooted in a joint Irish and British expression of identity. Protestant churches and some Orange Lodges throughout the island appear to have held minor functions on the date, but these were very subdued affairs, and essentially even post-partition very little changed. Catholic observance of the day continued to different degrees in different areas, as did the Protestant nod to Patrick.

Right up until the 1960s the primary theme of St Patrick’s Day in both Northern Ireland and the Republic still remained religious observance, with even from 1923 to then public houses and bars in the Republic of Ireland closed by law. A poll conducted in 1968 suggested that 20% of Northern Irish Protestants at this stage still considered themselves Irish. The onset of civil unrest in Northern Ireland coincided however with the importation of the American style to St Patrick’s events in Dublin and elsewhere. Now whilst a violent conflict was being waged in the name of all things Irish, St Patrick’s Day parades were starting to display the features that had developed in the United States. On these parades Irish identity was perceived by Northern Protestants as being defined as aggressively anti-British and anti-Protestant, with the disjointed and casual nature of the parades and the now integral alcohol element alien to PUL parading traditions and customs.

The type of St Patrick's Day image most readers will recognise, from one of the many New York parades.

The type of St Patrick’s Day image most readers will recognise, from one of the many New York parades.

As the IRA campaign escalated, many Protestants simply could not divorce the fact that these celebrations displayed an exclusive form of Irish sentiment whilst a campaign was being waged against them in the name of Ireland. As the years progressed, in Northern Ireland in particular it became apparent that the day was being deliberately used in many instances as an extension of the Irish Republican war against Unionism.

Grand Orange Lodge Director of Services Dr David Hume reiterates the view that in the recent past it has been the nature of the parades and commemorative events that turned Protestants away. “The perception among Unionism is without doubt that Irish Republicanism and Irish Nationalism has used St Patrick’s Day parades as a weapon, effectively using the ‘shield’ of Patrick to express obvious militant anti-British and therefore anti-Unionist sentiment.” David believes that the manner and focus of these events is totally at odds with the purported motivation. “St Patrick’s Day should be used as a day of reflection on the religious significance of Patrick, something far removed from the aggressive and confrontational use of symbolism; and the huge emphasis on alcohol consumption that currently seems to be the case.” David bluntly states that the date isn’t an important one on the ‘Orange’ calendar, but recognises that it does have a place in society.

There remains one annual Orange Order parade related to St Patrick’s Day, which is held each year in Ballymena. One of the participating Lodges is The Cross of St Patrick LOL 688 which was founded in 1967. A lodge spokesperson describes the motivation behind its formation as being “to reclaim the heritage of Saint Patrick” explaining that “Brethren were concerned that Patrick’s heritage was being hijacked by Roman Catholicism and Republicanism.” The lodge’s concerns would appear to have been reflecting the growing sense of alienation the PUL community was feeling regarding St Patricks events.

There is no doubt that this alienation effectively forced many Protestants into an automatically negative position regarding St Patrick’s Day. With the advent of the IRA cessations of violence and the ongoing political process however, it has become apparent that many within Unionism have been able to reflect much more on the meaning of St Patrick’s Day for them. The ending of a violent ‘Irish’ physical campaign has given space to examine the date, with many now realising that it once was a date of relevance that they were forced into denying, and there is a willingness to make it relevant again. Nevertheless this reflection and willingness has not as yet manifested itself into significant participation in civic St Patrick’s Day parades.

With a few exceptions, such as the participation of an unashamedly Loyalist Blood and Thunder band in the 2003 Limerick St Patrick’s Band competition, Unionism still does not feel comfortable taking part in the modern version of a St Patrick’s parade. Concerns still exist regarding the involvement of militant Republicanism in such events along with the aggressive use of flags and symbols, but the problem seems to go much deeper.

The Cross of St Patrick Loyal Orange Lodge 688

The Cross of St Patrick Loyal Orange Lodge 688

Iain Carlisle of the Ulster Scots Community Network has a very straightforward and unambiguous answer regarding Unionist involvement in St Patrick’s Day events. Iain states very clearly “I don’t think there has to be ANY justification given for Protestants or Unionists marking Patrick’s day”, but goes on to say that “there is however a fundamental difference of approach to both Patrick as a person and the means of celebration within the Unionist community”. Iain’s comments would appear to reflect not just a general uncomfortable position with the overtly ‘United Ireland’ underlying St Patrick’s Day theme, but the actual motivation and method of celebration.

All historical examinations of Protestant Irish and their approach and relationship with Patrick indicates that for them he has never truly deviated from having a purely theological relevance. On St Patrick’s Day however the majority of Catholics, Irish Nationalists, Republicans, those of Irish descent and indeed anyone who wants a day out, St Patrick’s significance as a religious icon is purely tokenistic. St Patrick is merely a figurehead for overt Irish nationalism and a holiday. In turn the Unionist tradition of parading has developed from a military perspective and the American style parades are an alien concept, being perceived as being undisciplined and overtly casual.

Whilst new events have arisen, it is obvious that Unionism has no desire to abandon its central belief of Patrick’s religious relevance, and in addition is reluctant to embrace what it sees as an alien approach to parades. Even with the emergence of band parades on the date, they in themselves are a much more disciplined and subdued practise than their counterparts on the day. Whatever the future holds, it is clear that the PUL community is going through an ongoing examination of Patrick and his relevance to them. As journalist Chris Ryder recently pointed out “there will be no going back to the view that St Patrick was a Catholic, and a saint only for Catholics.”

Ulster Unionist veteran calls for unity

David Burnside

David Burnside

In the aftermath of the disastrous Assembly elections which elevated Sinn Fein to their strongest ever position, veteran Unionist David Burnside has called for unity in the form of a revived United Ulster Unionist Council – the body of which he was a member in the 1970s.

The UUUC united the then-mainstream (now much diminished) Ulster Unionist Party with Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists and Bill Craig’s Vanguard.

Today the DUP dominates unionism but (especially after the shambolic ‘cash for ash’ scandal) seems increasingly enfeebled, by comparison to an emboldened Sinn Fein.

Writing in the Belfast Newsletter, David Burnside suggests that a revived UUUC could unite the DUP with the UUP, Traditional Unionist Voice, and even various independents and mavericks.

He implicitly criticises his former party leader Mike Nesbitt, who resigned last week, for having recommended UUP voters to give their second preferences to the SDLP.

A poster for the original UUUC in the 1970s

A poster for the original UUUC in the 1970s

A dark day for the Union

DUP chairman Lord Morrow (left), who lost his Assembly seat in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, with outgoing First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster at the election count

DUP chairman Lord Morrow (left), who lost his Assembly seat in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, with outgoing First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster at the election count

Thursday’s Northern Ireland Assembly election proved a sad day for all Loyal Ulstermen and their friends across our increasingly Disunited Kingdom.

The costly shambles over the Renewable Heat Incentive (otherwise known as ‘Cash for Ash’) was cynically exploited by two parties – Sinn Fein and (shamefully) the Official Unionist Party – but predictably only Sinn Fein benefited.

Terrorist sympathiser Michelle O’Neill thus took a step closer to becoming First Minister of Northern Ireland, while the IRA godfathers behind her celebrated yet another own goal by the Unionist establishment.

With the Assembly reduced to 90 seats, the target for the Democratic Unionist Party was 30 seats – enough to ensure an effective veto known as a “petition of concern”, but they have fallen two seats short.  Critically this means that even with the support of Jim Allister, leader of Traditional Unionist Voice, who retained his seat in North Antrim, the DUP will not have the 30 votes required for an effective block on (for example) gay marriage.

As for broader issues of who now runs Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein are likely to use their strengthened position to claim the scalp of Arlene Foster, DUP leader and outgoing First Minister. Edwin Poots, re-elected for the DUP in Lagan Valley, supported his leader today but hinted that she might be considering her position.

While it is unlikely that the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to agree a new coalition within the official three week deadline, something will doubtless be patched up in due course to avoid a return to direct rule from London, which would be a disaster for Prime Minister Theresa May.

The big loser on Thursday – deservedly – was Official Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt who resigned after the failure of his opportunistic effort to destabilise the DUP. Nesbitt had called on his supporters to give their second preference votes to the nationalist SDLP rather than to the DUP, a shocking betrayal of the unionist interest.

Meanwhile UKIP confirmed their utter irrelevance in Northern Ireland.  They contested just one Assembly constituency – East Antrim – but this tactic of concentrating their resources failed miserably. UKIP candidate and Carrickfergus councillor Noel Jordan was eliminated with just 4.2% of first preferences. (The Assembly is elected by the Single Transferable Vote system, with each constituency now electing five MLAs.)

Mr Jordan told the Belfast Newsletter:
“We just don’t know what happened. I can’t explain why our vote has dropped.”



Law lecturer an apologist for terrorism

Sinn Fein candidate Dr Peter Doran with his party leader Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein candidate Dr Peter Doran with his party leader Michelle O’Neill

Dr Peter Doran lectures in “sustainable development and governance” at Queen’s University Belfast and has worked for the United Nations on environmental issues.  Some years ago he was a candidate for the Green Party, for example at the Upper Bann by-election in 1990.

Dr Doran has now turned a different shade of green, and is Sinn Fein candidate in the Lagan Valley constituency at today’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections. He also writes for a pro-Republican blog.

Quite disgracefully, as pointed out in a letter to the Belfast Newsletter by Robbie Butler (Ulster Unionist candidate for Lagan Valley), Dr Doran has failed to condemn the IRA’s murder of his fellow Queen’s University law lecturer Edgar Graham, who was shot dead on the Queen’s campus in December 1983. Unsurprising as Dr Doran is a candidate for the political wing of the IRA, the direct descendants of Edgar Graham’s killers.

Queen's University law lecturer Edgar Graham, murdered by the IRA in December 1983

Queen’s University law lecturer Edgar Graham, murdered by the IRA in December 1983

Fortunately Dr Doran stands no chance of being elected in Lagan Valley today.  He should perhaps remember that Loyal Ulstermen have had their own way of dealing with terrorists and their apologists – Sheena Campbell (who was Sinn Fein candidate in the same Upper Bann by-election when Dr Doran stood for the Greens, and was the fiancée of IRA bomber and sniper Brendan Curran) was executed by the UVF in October 1992.

Sinn Fein leader sanctioned murder

Gerry Adams (left) with Donald Trump at a Sinn Fein fundraiser in New York in March 1995.

Gerry Adams (left) with Donald Trump at a Sinn Fein fundraiser in New York in March 1995.

Gerry Adams – President of Sinn Fein (the political wing of the terrorist IRA) since 1983 – sanctioned the murder of a former Sinn Fein official, according to a BBC investigation broadcast on Tuesday night.

Adams was MP for Belfast West until 2011, and for the past five years has been a member of the Irish Parliament as TD for Louth.

An IRA informant told the BBC:
“I know from my experience in the IRA that murders have to be approved by the leadership. They have to be given approval by the leadership of the IRA and the military leadership of the IRA.  …Gerry Adams, he gives the final say.”

Denis Donaldson (centre) with his IRA employers Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. Donaldson was murdered by the IRA after confessing to his role as a British agent in 2005.

Denis Donaldson (centre) with his IRA employers Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. Donaldson was murdered by the IRA after confessing to his role as a British agent in 2005.

The programme referred specifically to the murder of Denis Donaldson, who for many years was a senior Sinn Fein official, latterly in charge of administration at the party offices in Stormont.  Since the 1980s Donaldson had been an agent for the British security service MI5 and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He was paid to provide intelligence about terrorism and other criminal activities of Adams and his gang.

In 2005 Donaldson confessed to his 20-year role as a British agent.  A few months later he was brutally murdered at his remote cottage home.

No-one has ever been convicted for the Donaldson murder. When an investigation was reopened in 2009, a splinter group called ‘Real IRA’ conveniently claimed responsibility. However the latest BBC investigation suggests this was nonsense, and that the IRA Army Council gave the orders. Gerry Adams and his close colleague Martin McGuinness (now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland) were the key figures within the IRA leadership throughout this period.

The latest allegations will probably not disturb Adams’s many celebrity supporters, ranging from U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump to British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Gerry Adams with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (right).

Gerry Adams with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (right).

Northern Ireland Assembly Nominations Close


This afternoon nominations closed for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.  Voters in the province go to the polls on the same day as the London, English local, Scottish Parliamentary and Welsh Assembly elections on May 5th. At the previous NI Assembly election in 2011 the BNP had three candidates, but neither the BNP nor NF will have candidates in Northern Ireland this year, nor will any of the smaller racial nationalist parties.

The main concern of most H&D readers in Ulster will be to see that those political forces prepared to resist Sinn Fein (political arm of the terrorist IRA) maximise their vote. Due to the terms under which the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive were constituted, following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, power sharing among the various parties is guaranteed, with executive positions being allocated to any party with a significant number of Assembly seats.

Nevertheless there will be considerable interest in how the balance within unionism works out between the once dominant Ulster Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) whose leader Arlene Foster is the outgoing First Minister, the dissident Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and various independents, such as former DUP activist Billy Dickson, who is standing in South Belfast.

UKIP has made some modest inroads in Northern Ireland, mostly winning votes within the unionist community, but won no Assembly seats at the last election in 2011 and will probably fail again, despite the proportional electoral system which gives some chance to smaller parties. The big story here is in South Down, where Henry Reilly (then UKIP’s chairman in Northen Ireland) achieved his party’s best result by far in 2011, polling 5.6%. Mr Reilly was expelled from UKIP in November 2015 following an internal dispute and now sits as a TUV councillor – he will be TUV candidate for the Assembly this year, and UKIP will have no candidate in South Down. Mr Reilly has denounced his former party for changing its policy and becoming too much in favour of the Good Friday Agreement: “In my view the GFA is not working and needs radical root and branch reform. That is what Ukip previously stood for. Now they are just another small-pro-agreement party.”

Mr Reilly has a strong chance of winning an Assembly seat this year, particularly with his strong personal vote in the fishing port of Kilkeel.

In North Antrim, Donna Anderson, a former TUV councillor who defected to UKIP, will be standing for the Assembly against TUV’s leader Jim Allister, who is almost certain to be re-elected. UKIP will be contesting 13 of the 18 constituencies: aside from South Down, they are missing only the Republican/Catholic strongholds of West Belfast, West Tyrone, Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Foyle.

Warrington bombing linked to Red Action group

Tonight at 7.30 pm BBC North West broadcast a documentary film about the Warrington bombing twenty years ago, which killed 3-year-old Johnathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry.

Inside Out suggested that mainland operatives of the “anti-fascist” group Red Action might have been behind the atrocity.  Red Action and Anti-Fascist Action organiser Patrick Hayes had carried out the Harrods bombing in London in January 1993.  The Warrington attack used a similar modus operandi, and was carried out eighteen days after the arrest of Hayes and his fellow terrorist Jan Taylor.

The programme is not yet on the BBC website but can now be viewed below:

Coincidentally a discussion of this very topic (using one of the same photographs of Red Action / IRA terrorist Patrick Hayes as appeared in the programme) is in the just published edition of Heritage and Destiny magazine, in a review of Physical Resistance: A Hundred Years of Anti-Fascism.  Click here for details.

Martin McGuinness – the IRA godfather who is now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland – is due to visit the scene of the crime on 18th September, when he delivers a lecture at the Warrington Peace Centre founded in memory of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry.

Will McGuinness or any of his cronies have the decency to admit precisely who carried out the Warrington bombing?


Jim Dowson arrested and charged over Union Flag protests

Jim Dowson (left) with former ally Nick Griffin. Mr Dowson has latterly been employed by the English Democrats.

Former BNP fundraiser Jim Dowson, who has been a prominent activist in the protests against the disgraceful decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the Union flag, was arrested on Friday afternoon in east Belfast and detained for questioning.  He appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday morning, where he was charged with “encouraging or assisting offenders” and with five counts of “taking part in an unnotified public procession”.  Having been detained overnight, Mr Dowson was released under strict bail conditions.

Earlier this week two other leading flag protestors were arrested – Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson.  Mr Frazer, whose own father was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in 1975, is the founder and former director of the pressure group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives.

Late on Friday evening Mr Bryson – who is currently on hunger strike in protest at his detention – was charged with encouraging or assisting offences under section 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, as well as taking part in unauthorised flag protests.  He appeared in Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday morning.  Bail was refused and Mr Bryson was remanded in custody.

One extraordinary aspect of the case to emerge so far is that the Northern Ireland Police – while admitting that the flag protests themselves were legal and peaceful – maintain that those walking to these protests were taking part in an illegal march, hence the reference to “unnotified parades”.  Defence lawyers ask the interesting question: “If someone is going to a lawful protest how do they get there?”

Remembering George Seawright: 25 years on

George Seawright was a Belfast City Councillor from 1981 until being expelled from the Council due to his imprisonment in 1986, and was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982, initially as a member of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party.

Unlike some other Loyalist leaders, he saw the defence of Ulster as closely linked to the broader struggle for race and nation.  His support for the National Front, including an interview with the NF journal Nationalism Today, led to his expulsion from the DUP but he was re-elected as a ‘Protestant Unionist’.

George Seawright was murdered 25 years ago today: 3rd December 1987

George Seawright’s unshakeable loyalism and patriotism led to him being singled out by the murderers of the IPLO, a terrorist drug dealing gang who had broken away from the IRA and INLA in a dispute over the proceeds of crime, but who were assisted by traitors within loyalism and within the British security establishment.  On 3rd December 1987 he was assassinated at the wheel of his taxi by IPLO gunman  Martin O’Prey.

George Seawright’s comrades knew that they could expect no justice from the forces of ‘law and order’.

Within weeks of his death a consignment of weapons arrived in Ulster, following negotiations with South African diplomats.  These included 90 Browning pistols, one of which was put to good use on 16th August 1991, when the assassin Martin O’Prey was executed at his home on Ardmoulin Terrace, west Belfast.

Earlier still Jim Craig, the traitor in the loyalist camp who had set up George Seawright’s murder as well as leaking other information to republican terrorists as part of a deal with the British secret state, had been shot dead on 15th October 1988 at the Crown Inn pub in east Belfast. A quarter of a century on, the causes for which George Seawright gave his life remain embattled against the dark forces of subversion.

On the 25th anniversary of George Seawright’s death, his old council disgracefully voted to remove the Union flag from Belfast Town Hall, triggering riots by signalling the latest moves in the betrayal of Ulster.  Seventeen people were injured in this latest violence. It is tragic that IRA boss Martin McGuinness now has more influence over Belfast’s affairs than loyal Ulstermen.  George Seawright’s death was a turning point in the process by which terrorist godfathers like McGuinness took over the province.


“Team GB” and fake national identity

TV presenter Zoe Salmon, seen here in Antrim with the Olympic flame, has spoken out against the snub to Northern Ireland in the naming of "Team GB"

TV presenter Zoe Salmon, seen here in Antrim with the Olympic flame, has spoken out against the snub to Northern Ireland in the naming of "Team GB"

For the past fortnight the media has celebrated the medal-winning achievements of British athletes at the London Olympics.  Yet the Games have been scarred by political correctness, not only through the banning of athletes for political reasons, but in the very identity of “Team GB” itself.

The confusion was most obvious in football, where fans have been used to supporting different teams from each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, but for the games were puzzled to see a new entity: Team GB, representing England, Wales and Scotland combined – and indeed captained by a Welshman, Ryan Giggs.

This Team GB ethos continued right across the Olympics in every sport, but it amounts to an extraordinary insult to a part of the UK that has produced many sporting icons, from George Best to Mary Peters.

For of course “Great Britain” does not include Northern Ireland.

Ulster athletes were given the choice of either competing for “Team GB” or for “Ireland”: in other words for the Republic of Ireland, a foreign country.  For example Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, who represents Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games, boxed as part of the Irish team at the Olympics (as he had done at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing).

Television presenter Zoe Salmon, who is herself from the Ulster resort of Bangor, County Down, was among several people to condemn the Olympic snub to Northern Ireland.  As Miss Salmon points out, it is a “simple case of geography”.

There are two logical choices for international sporting bodies: either have separate teams representing each country in the UK, or have a Team UK.  “Great Britain” is neither a country nor a nation state, it is merely a geographical description.  There has been no such state as “Great Britain” since 1801, when the former Great Britain was formally united with Ireland.  Moreover there has never been any such thing as a united Irish state, independent of the English crown (except in ancient legends).

Perhaps the most logical and consistent policy would be to have separate teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as a team from the Republic of Ireland.

In the meantime, the invention of a “Team GB” serves two craven political purposes.  A further creeping surrender to the agenda of the IRA for the handing over of Northern Irish sovereignty; and the creation of a convenient fake “Great British” identity which can more easily encompass anyone who happens to live within the geographical unit of Great Britain, regardless of racial or cultural heritage.

The invention of “Team GB” has nothing to do with sport.

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