On June 18th 1994 in the small Irish village of Loughinisland a number of Irish men and women gathered together in their local pub to watch the Irish national soccer team compete in a match against Italy which was being broadcast live from the World Cup in the United States. Encouraged by statements issued by several politicians from the British Unionist community in the North of Ireland condemning ”provocative” public displays of support for the Ireland team by the Irish Nationalist community in the north-east of the country, two gunmen from the British terrorist organisation the Ulster Volunteer Force entered the bar and opened fire with automatic assault rifles. Several people were wounded and six killed outright. They were Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O’Hare (35), Eamon Byrne (39) and Barney Greene (87), the latter the oldest person to die in the northern conflict. Within hours of the attack rumours spread amongst local people, politicians and the press that elements of the then British paramilitary police force in the North, the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC, had facilitated the assault by terrorists from their community, allegations which continue to the present day.
Now the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has announced that it has agreed to a request by family members and survivors of what is known as the Loughinisland Massacre to allow members of the Ireland team to wear black armbands at their match against Italy in their scheduled Euro 2012 game in Poznan on June 18th, the 18th anniversary of the atrocity. Niall Murphy, a solicitor for the families of Loughinisland, has expressed the gratefulness of his clients to the FAI:
“The families are touched that this tragic event can be commemorated on such a poignant day, the 18th anniversary of the atrocity. We would like to thank the FAI and UEFA for their assistance in providing a forum to recall the awful event that took place on that fateful day when Ireland played Italy.”
But what has been the reaction of the “Irish” media to this news? How have our “journalistic” classes responded?
Louis Jacob in the Irish Independent:
“It’s taken me a while to get my head around the FAI’s announcement that the Irish team will wear black armbands against Italy next month to commemorate the Loughinisland massacre in 1994, when six people were shot dead in a bar where they were watching the Ireland v Italy US World Cup game on TV.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who was taken aback.
But even though I know how popular this gesture will be with a large section of the Irish public, to me it smells like cheap tokenism on the part of the FAI.
But what’s worse is that no matter how much you feel for the families of the victims and no matter which way you look at it, the wearing of the black armband brings with it distinct political undertones… undertones which have no place at a major sporting event.
Anyone who believes otherwise should take a long, hard look at the following statement, released by Niall Murphy, solicitor for relatives of the victims of Loughinisland: “We would like to thank the FAI and Uefa for their assistance in providing a forum to recall the awful event that took place on that fateful day when Ireland played Italy.”
The word that alarms me in that sentence is ‘forum’ because a forum is a place where things are discussed. Surely, if it’s a forum they are looking for, then the nature of this gesture should be considered as entirely political.
On Thursday, FAI chief executive John Delaney stated: “I would like to thank Uefa for assisting us in commemorating this atrocity and take the opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives in the Troubles.” I wonder if the victims of Omagh and London and all the other places where innocent people lost their lives will buy this statement? I seriously doubt it.
The FAI should ask themselves if ‘divisive’ is really the business they want to be in.”
Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent:
“The FAI is foolish to back the wearing of a black armband to mark the anniversary of Loughinisland. To single out the suffering of one community in Northern Ireland will inevitably be seen as tribal by the other. Put yourself in the shoes of victims of IRA terror, exercise some empathy and you will find your feelings about the armbands are more complex.
The FAI decision dodges a number of serious questions. Why does the FAI single out Loughinisland, apart from the anniversary? Will the FAI facilitate black armbands on the anniversaries of IRA atrocities like Enniskillen, Omagh and the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe?
As my friend Tom Carew points out, June 18 is also the anniversary of the Provo bomb which murdered a Protestant police officer, John Harrison, while he was checking for bombs. Harrison was only 30 and married. Are his widow, his family and friends any less deserving of being remembered by the FAI?”
Brian O’Connor in the Irish Times:
“The depths of inadequacy that allowed human beings walk into a pub in Loughinisland 18 years ago and shoot dead six people watching the Ireland-Italy World Cup match just because they were Catholic can only be guessed at. Remembering the victims is an entirely good thing. The FAI’s decision to commemorate them by wearing black armbands for the Euro 2012 match against Italy next month isn’t.
Also on June 18th it will be 40 years since the IRA planted a bomb in a derelict house in Lurgan which killed three British soldiers. And since this is Ireland, with our nasty, bitter history of sectarian division, an obvious conclusion for those admittedly aching to arrive at it will be that the FAI views one group of victims as more important than another.
In the circumstances the football link is too tenuous. Yes, it’s Italy, and yes, it’s the same date. But this is Ireland. Politically every move is parsed to within an inch of its life.
It’s hard to credit the FAI hierarchy didn’t think of those wider political implications before going to Uefa with the idea. It’s even harder to believe UEFA didn’t twig the precedent being set.”
There is more like this but I’m sure you get the general point. Yet I wonder, has anyone forgotten Iceland in September 6th 1997 when the Ireland team unexpectedly wore armbands at an international match to mark the accidental death of Princess Diana in France, a member of the British royal family? Have you forgotten the reaction of the Irish press pack? Look it up. To say that they were effusive in their praise is to put it mildly.
It would seem then that in the view of the Irish print media some lives are worth more than others: especially if those lives are Irish ones taken at the hands of British terrorists or British soldiers. Then they are utterly without value.
So… you still want to buy that “Irish” newspaper?
- Surprise Results For New Irish Language Survey In The North (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Myths Of Easter 1916 – And The Truth (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Minding Your Language In Derry (ansionnachfionn.com)
- History And Counter-History In Ireland – Confronting The Apologist Historians (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Loughinisland victims’ families begin legal challenge to police report (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)