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TV review: ‘Come on Northern Ireland' - it's time to change the anthem

12 Jun 2016 - Northern Ireland fans at the Titanic building to watch the opening UFEA Euro game against Poland on a big screen. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Billy Foley

Euros 2016:

Northern Ireland v Poland, Sunday, BBC1 at 5pm

Northern Ireland v Ukraine, Thursday, UTV at 5pm

If you believe in Northern Ireland healing its sectarian divisions, then international sporting competition is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together.

The IFA has led from the front in transforming the image of the Northern Ireland football team and there is now no reason why it should not attract the allegiance of all sections of our community.

They may not travel to the games in any great numbers, but anecdotally at least, there is a large support and goodwill for the team from the nationalist community.

It is hugely important that this is nourished and encouraged as nothing would be more symbolic for us as a society moving forward together than celebrating our sporting successes as one.

There is however, a jarring aspect as you sit down in front of the TV to watch Northern Ireland compete and they line up to ‘God Save The Queen’.

It just seems so out of place, so unnecessary.

Now I appreciate that many Northern Ireland fans will correctly see God Save The Queen as the national anthem and will ask if this is another attempt to chip away at their identity.

It is not. Northern Ireland born players opting to play for the Republic of Ireland is much more destructive to the identity of the team.

How many of these northern nationalist footballers would stay, should they not have had to stand to God Save The Queen while playing for underage Northern Ireland teams?

Scotland and Wales can have their own anthems and not have their identity diminished.

South Africa and New Zealand have managed to adjust their anthems to accommodate both sections of their societies.

The Irish rugby team has also managed a compromise. The new song has never become loved and Amhran na Bhfiann is still played in Dublin because of some made up nonsense about respecting the capital city they play in, but the point is that everyone recognises the effort at inclusion.

If you’re a Northern Ireland football fan, consider how northern unionists felt for generations going to Dublin to stand under the tricolour and listen to A Soldier’s Song played by the Garda band.

I accept that as a 32-county sport, rugby has particular responsibilities but remember that it was the introduction of professionalism and the formation of a world cup that led to the creation of an Ireland rugby anthem, which has subsequently been adopted by both hockey and cricket.

There has previously been much discussion about the Northern Ireland football team finding a new anthem, but the time has come to act.

Northern Ireland is in a major international competition for the first time since the height of the Troubles when shouts of ‘No Surrender’ were commonplace and the self-deprecating ‘‘We’re not Brazil we’re Northern Ireland’ didn’t exist.

Surely somebody at Windsor Park has a number for Phil Coulter.

***

Black Power - America’s Armed Resistance, BBC 1, Tuesday at 11.15pm

It’s so obvious from a distance that the freedom to carry guns exacerbates almost every problem in America.

Dan Murdoch’s film investigated the growing black-power movement in the wake of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mario Woods and others.

It is not surprising that African-American people are organising themselves to protect their communities against police racism when Murdoch quotes a statistic that black men are almost nine times more likely than other races to be killed by the police.

But the response of the Black Lives Matter movement is wrong.

Masked men and women marching in a Martin Luther King Day parade armed (legally) with assault rifles sullies the name of the great civil rights leader

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