You’re not familiar with the class fool? He’s the one who will do anything – make farting sounds, punch the smallest boy in the class, write moronic vulgarities on the board, all with the hope he’ll be noticed. He (it’s almost always a he) will say or do anything so that people will see he exists. And even, in the case of some half-wits, admire him.
That first paragraph has been prompted by a link I’ve just been sent to a sports article in this morning’s Indo by someone I’d never heard of and frankly will be happy not to hear of again, one Tommy Conlon. His piece is headed ‘Joe Abu Hamza al-Brolly clings to vicious past as world tries to move on’. Brolly’s sin, in Conlon’s eyes, is that he wants to retain the tricolour and the national anthem at GAA games. Hurling insults and absurdities as he goes, Conlon contrasts Brolly’s stance with that of Aogán Ó Fearghail, the head of the GAA, who’s said that ‘in the context of an agreed Ireland’, he could see GAA games without the flag and anthem (or ‘rag and dirge’ as Conlon refers to them). He also contrasts Brolly with Jarlath Burns, who also feels the GAA could do without the flag and anthem.
I’m bitterly disappointed he didn’t include me in the Ó Fearghai-Burns grouping, because I too think the GAA could survive very well without them and that it might even encourage a few Protestant/unionists at present hostile or indifferent to the GAA to participate in those marvellous games. It might. The difference is, I don’t refer to those who differ in view from me as ISIS-type psychopaths. Because Brolly mentioned the killing of the Reavey brothers and not the Kingsmill massacres, he’s denounced by Conlon as dragging everyone back to the swamp of sectarianism. You don’t remember the Reavey brothers? Maybe that’s because they haven’t been talked about much. The reason being, perhaps, that if they were mentioned by someone, it could provoke an avalanche of insults such as Conlon thinks fitting.
I know as well as the next person that if you write a piece, you need to get and hold your reader’s attention. But that’s not quite the same as saying you should use any means available to get and hold your reader’s attention. If you read Conlon’s piece, it’s fairly certain that you’ll read to the end. But only as you might give your full attention to a newsreel clip of a hawk eating a rat.
Don’t follow that last comparison too closely. Joe Brolly is no helpless rat. He knows how to take care of himself in an argument, even as he once knew how to round an opposing full-back before planting the ball in the back of the net. He’s also a man who knows that life is short and we need to use our time well. Which explains why a couple of years back, he donated a kidney to a man he happened to be coaching alongside, and why today he’s a passionate ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland in their fight against ruthless drug-companies. Conlon’s frenetic assault on Brolly succeeds only in reminding me of Brolly’s stature and impressing on me the kind of grubby little name-caller the Sindo likes to employ.
If you’re sure you can keep your breakfast down, here’s the link to Coo-Look-At-Me Conlon.
I’ve tried to put the link to the article up but it isn’t , as Sammy has kindly pointed out, working. So here’s the full frontal Tommy…
Tommy Conlon: Joe Abu Hamza al-Brolly clings to vicious past as world tries to move on
Attack on president a tour de force of prejudice, tribal tub-thumping and emotional blackmail
PUBLISHED11/12/2016 | 17:00
One day the GAA president is talking about a hypothetical future in which the tricolour and national anthem might be stood down as conspicuous symbols of the association.
His piece in last week’s Sunday Independent was a tour de force of historical prejudice, tribal tub-thumping and emotional blackmail. His former Belfast neighbour, the late Rev Ian Paisley, would surely have been proud.
Aogán Ó Fearghail had merely floated a notional prospect that in some sort of distant “agreed Ireland”, the GAA would be “open-minded about things like flags and emblems”. Of necessity, his thinking on the matter was entirely speculative. It was interlaced with all sorts of caveats and qualifications.
Yet it was a red rag, a Danish cartoon to Abu Hamza al-Brolly. He spent the day slapping his head with both hands and whacking a picture of Ó Fearghail with his shoe. Later that evening he was spotted on top of the Sperrin mountains chanting “Padraig Pearse Akbar! Padraig Pearse Akbar!”
Then he calmed down and the self-pity flowed out in torrents. Somehow from the president’s gentle comments, the Dungiven Wahhabi made a psychic leap back to the sectarian massacre in January 1976 of three South Armagh brothers.
Sez you, what has that got to do with the GAA and the flag and anthem? Well you might ask. But seeing as he dragged the debate back into that rancid swamp, it would be remiss not to acknowledge another few terrible spectres from that barbaric time and place.
Ten Protestant workmen were subsequently murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in South Armagh. They were taken out of their van and mowed down by machine guns where they stood. This atrocity happened within 24 hours of the murder of the Reavey brothers. Joe somehow forgot to mention it.
In July 1972 our heroes planted bombs outside three Protestant businesses in the village of Claudy, then fled to Dungiven, 10 miles away. A mere nine people were murdered on this occasion: four Catholics, five Protestants, including Kathryn Eakin, aged eight. Joe’s buddy, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, was deputy leader of the IRA in Derry at the time.
Kevin Lynch played underage hurling for Dungiven before he moved on to greater things. He decided to do a bit of killing for Ireland and, after that, a bit of dying for Ireland. He didn’t join the IRA, on the grounds presumably that they were a bit slack in the depravity department. Instead he joined the INLA, which happily had an even more bestial disposition. Lynch died by suicide in 1981. He hadn’t eaten any grub in Long Kesh for a few months.
Dungiven GAA subsequently named their hurling club after him. Abu Hamza al-Brolly thinks it’s a great idea altogether to name his hurling club after a chap who had no problem with the killing of men, women and children. Sure he was one of our own, after all, and a “good Gael” to boot.
Croke Park should have stepped in long ago and banned this practice.
What’s to stop a club from naming itself after Dominic McGlinchey, the psychopath from south Derry who founded the INLA and boasted of his involvement in 30 murders? Maybe Brolly’s football club could be re-named the Dungiven Mad Dogs, in fond memory of McGlinchey. Or maybe he was a soccer man, in which case it would be unthinkable.
Unfortunately the GAA at national level was too deferential for too long when it came to Ulster nationalism during the Troubles. Admittedly the Association was placed in an almost impossible position during that era.
These were the years when it didn’t know whether it was primarily a sporting or cultural organisation. It claimed to be both. But its cultural identity was the anchor that pulled it down into the morass of atavistic conflict. It never set solid boundaries. It allowed itself to be hijacked by forces that cared little for the GAA’s wider mission in Irish society. Like any sports body it should have been all-inclusive: non-tribal, non-sectarian, non-political.
A prime example was Rule 21, the law which prohibited Northern Ireland and British security forces from joining the Association. Rule 21 made bigots of the entire GAA membership. But time and again the Association’s leaders deferred to the Ulster hardliners. They abdicated their responsibility to the organisation nationwide. The tail wagged the dog.
Nowadays the GAA is a lot clearer about its remit. It is a sporting organisation doing magnificent service for the community. But it will take generations to shake off its tribal baggage.
Ó Fearghail’s comments should be seen as the beginning of that journey. Or maybe it began with Jarlath Burns’ civil and decent intervention last year. The former Armagh captain is a GAA man to his core. He grew up in the tradition – all “the sacramentals” of flag and anthem and culture.
“It wouldn’t cost me a thought,” said Burns, when asked if he would contemplate getting rid of the old emblems. “They are divisive. All they say is, this is me, this is what I am. It’s not about reaching out to anybody else. People are more important than flags and anthems and all those things.”
You would think that this much, at least, should be obvious, after all the damage done. But no: we’ll damn well cling to the rag and dirge, even if it kills us.