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Mary Kelly: What a contrast Southgate, Rashford, Henderson, Sterling and the rest of the England football team are with the charlatans running the country

Unionist politicians do themselves or their 'culture' no credit when they reject the need for mandatory safety regulations. When almost every aspect of modern life is policed by 'health and safety' why should loyalist celebrations be exempt?

Italy may have been the better team in last Sunday's final, but Gareth Southgate and his England football team have been a force for good in the current unpleasant atmosphere of British politics. Picture by Andy Rain/Pool via AP
Mary Kelly

WHEN you grow up in a family of mainly boys, then have boys of your own, football somehow enters your veins whether you like it or not.

So I wasn't going to miss the European final. And even though the endless "football's coming home" mania which overtook the British media was really grating, it was quite an achievement for England to get to the final of the competition.

When I moaned about the commentary on Twitter, a unionist commentator accused me of hating England.

He's wrong. Like a lot of Irish people, I have close family who are English and I also think Gareth Southgate and his team have actually been a force for good in the current unpleasant atmosphere of British politics.

It was sadly totally expected that the three players who missed the penalties would be singled out for racist abuse. They've had to take it all their lives.

Three cheers, then, to Tyrone Mings for calling out the hypocrisy of Home Secretary Priti Patel, who condemned the abuse though she had described players taking the knee as "gesture politics".

Asked if she would criticise fans who booed England players for doing it she said, "That's a choice for them, quite frankly."

As an Asian woman she has herself endured racism but it doesn't seem to have made her any more empathetic, nor did her parents coming to Britain as immigrants make her any more sympathetic to the plight of other desperate migrants trying to flee poverty or unrest.

Italy were the better team on the night, but there is much to admire in the current England squad: Marcus Rashford, who won free school meals for vulnerable kids during the school holidays after the government initially refused to continue the scheme; Jordan Henderson, who spent most of the first lockdown organising the other 19 Premier League captains to help raise money for the NHS; Raheem Sterling, who said the happiest day of his life was when he bought his mum a new house: Jack Grealish, who had just lost the biggest game of his career, but went into the crowd and gave his boots to a young boy.

What a contrast with the self-serving, cynical bunch of charlatans running the country.

The Prime Minister, who talks of "levelling up", yet is about to pass legislation which will deprive the poorest of £20 a week in universal credit, who cuts international aid to the destitute of the world. This from the man who has donors pay for his Caribbean holidays and the wallpaper in his flat.

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I remember when the Eleventh Night bonfires were seen as a handy way to get rid of your old sofa or any other household junk, much of it probably entirely harmful to the environment, which of course we took for granted.

The busted sofas didn't end up on the pyre until just before lighting time, because they were used for lounging by the boney builders who protected their pile from rivals in nearby streets.

There were more bonfires then, smaller and more local. None of the towering structures of thousands of pallets in those days. They were put together by local kids in the main, not men, who, according to recent reports, were working 12 hour shifts to make sure theirs was bigger than anyone else's.

It is a tragedy that a 17-year-old youth was badly burned at the Ballysillan blaze, and a miracle that no-one was hurt when the huge edifice at Portadown's Edgarstown collapsed.

Only in Northern Ireland do we have the bizarre spectacle of firemen turning their hoses on houses to protect them, while a fire blazes away beside them.

Unionist politicians do themselves or their 'culture' no credit when they reject the need for mandatory safety regulations.

When almost every aspect of modern life is policed by 'health and safety' why should loyalist celebrations be exempt?

King Billy's memory will hardly be diminished if the bonfires are kept to a safer height. It's just the macho men who are saying, mine's bigger than yours, who need to catch themselves on.

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There's an item on a weekend radio show where people get to thank someone who has done them a service in the past that they feel they didn't properly acknowledge at the time.

So in that spirit, can I say thank you to the woman at the bus stop, who quietly peeled off the "I'm in the Knicker Deal" sticker which had somehow attached itself to the back of my jacket. Cheers.

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