So Paddy Barnes is in the spotlight again – and not for a good reason. Or at least that’s how some would have us see it. Wee Paddy, instead of doing the right thing and staring straight ahead while getting a bit moist-eyed during the playing of Danny Boy, chose to lean in to the nearest person to him and whisper “That’s not my anthem!”. Outrage perturbation. Has the man no sense of dignity? Of loyalty? How could he foul such a golden moment with his parochialism?
I watched a documentary about Danny Boy the other night and while it was better than watching a documentary on Ireland’s Call, it wasn’t much better. Oozing with schmaltz and general paddywhackery. The fact is, Danny Boy has a splendid tune – The Londonderry Air – and lyrics that are sufficiently vague as to be, like Auld Lang Syne, baffling. But ever since Barry McGuigan’s manager decided he didn’t want to alienate a good chunk of his protégé’s support, Danny Boy has been wheeled in as the unifying air for the people in this northern state. The south have their own pain: Ireland’ s Call.
Which raises a more fundamental question: what are we doing, mixing politics and sport? Everybody says they should be kept separate, yet everybody favours athletes competing in their country’s colours, having their national anthem (usually) played at the medal ceremony. There are even people paid to tot up which country won the medal count event.
Did Paddy Barnes got involved in boxing because he wanted to represent Northern Ireland? Or even Ireland? I don’t think so. Did Usain Bolt became a runner so he could wear Jamaica’s colours? I don’t think so. OK, if it’s a team sport, like soccer or basketball, there’s a trace of a case for having the stamp of national identity. But otherwise, as they say on EastEnders, leave it out. Let’s just enjoy the sport. Meanwhile the chances of Paddy morphing into Rory seem slim.