OK – hands up if you have always seen James Brokenshire and the British Secretaries of State who preceded him here as honest brokers, referees between the two warring factions in the north of Ireland? You, sir? Ah – you were just scratching your ear. All right. Nobody saw Mr Brokenshire or the others as neutral. And yes indeed, Virginia, that’s why they’re called the British Secretary of State.
There was a time when I’d have felt a jolt of disappointment at James B’s failure to turn up for the Irish national anthem when he attended a Gaelic Football game in Newry last Friday. I used to think it would be good if all and any impediments to opening up the GAA to our unionist neighbours were removed. I even used to believe it would be a good idea to suspend the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann and the flying of the Irish tricolour at games, so that unionists could become part of the fun and spectacle and excitement that nationalists and republicans enjoy. No more.
The change came when I asked Trevor Ringland would removing the Irish national anthem and the Irish tricolour mean that unionists would then be open to playing in and/or attending games. He replied – on air – with a lukewarm “It might help a bit”. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you do, unionists still won’t be interested in GAA games. There’ll always be an excuse not to.
That’s a little saddening and a little disappointing, but there’s no point in beating your head against the white cliffs of Dover. People have a right to decide what games they want to play or attend. So if nationalists/republicans aren’t busting a gut to attend Windsor Park and yell their heads off for Northern Ireland, and unionists simply don’t want any involvement in Gaelic games – fine. It’s no big deal. I’m not much into archery or synchronized swimming myself.
So let’s simply get on with enjoying those games we choose to follow. And let’s hope James Brokenshire learns not to think of the nationalist/republican population as a bunch of buck eejits who are overly concerned over what seat at what game he inserts his slim buttocks.