Remembering the fallen

It is heartening to see that someone in the Football Association of Ireland finally found a pair of those round things.

The decision by the FAI to have players wear black armbands in memory of those murdered at Loughinisland in 1994 is as welcome as it is overdue.

I still remember the gut wrenching news as I wandered back to Lavelle’s pub in Belmullet County Mayo that morning after Ray Houghton had made the entire global Gaeltacht  an-sásta.

By lunchtime everyone was talking about old Barney Green as if he lived down the road.

The “crime” of those six men was to be Catholic and  watching the Republic in a bar in the Six Counties.

In the eyes of the UVF that made them the enemy.

The families of those murdered are convinced that members of the RUC knew of the attack beforehand and, at the very least, allowed it to go ahead.

One of those wearing a black armband in Poland will be young James McClean of Derry.

He has upset some in Norn Iron by speaking the truth about national football allegiance in the Six Counties.

“It’s a nationalist city, where everybody supports the Republic of Ireland. You’re brought up that way.

“as a Catholic, you don’t really feel at home in the [Northern Ireland] squad” and “I think any Catholic would be lying if they did say they felt at home, seeing all those flags, and hearing the songs and chants”.

Well said young man.

The Irish Football Association has attempted to impose their will on players born in the North and they have failed.

Given the treatment of Neil Lennon by his own supporters it constantly amazes me why anyone from a nationalist background in the Six Counties would consider for a millisecond turning out for that “country”.

One of the key elements of the Patton Reforms for the new police service in the Six Counties was that a neutral working environment be created.

As part of the peace process it was important that the good ol RUC, who didn’t raise a hand to protect the men at Loughinisland, be liquidated.

The match day experience when Norn Iron takes to the field is anything but neutral.

“God Save The Queen” is the preferred anthem and loyalist banners and slogans are still commonplace among the fans.

James McClean’s decision and his reasons should be respected by all who love the game and believe in the right to self-define in terms of national identity.

The FAI’s decision to remember those Ireland fans murdered by loyalist killers is another reminder of what kind of fans turn up at Windsor Park to see their “country” play.

The IFA in Belfast did much to prevent the Football Association of Ireland being officially recognised on the world stage in the 1920s.

They wanted the “Free State team” strangled at birth.

They failed.

Like a certain football club in Glasgow that has never played a Republic of Ireland international in their first team they have much to be ashamed of.

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion