One more note on Croker

Watching the news reports on the protest, I spotted one fella holding up a sign that read "No to Foreign Games". I thought at the time that that was a poor choice of slogan, suggesting that the issue was one of the narrowest of nationalisms, rather than the history of England's presence in Croke Park.

I didn't notice what the sign-holder was wearing at the time. Here's a picture.

And RSF wonder why nobody in this country takes them seriously!

On the Croker controversy

Most of the media coverage I've seen of this has been fairly predictable, so I confess I stopped reading it after a few articles. But I doubt that any of them could have been just so wildly inaccurate as this piece by - surprise surprise - a Sunday Independent columnist, Eamonn Sweeney.

Mr Sweeney writes that

when the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) voted to allow foreign games at the ground, England was hardly mentioned... That God Save The Queen would be played in the stadium was not uppermost in anyone’s mind.

Now, I don't know which debates he was listening to at the time, but I can tell you that that was certainly one of the key issues raised by republican opponents of the change to Rule 42. In fact, I can remember a few people having to deny that it was the only issue, because it was starting to get to the point where some were suggesting that there would be no problem if an agreement could be reached whereby the anthem would not be played. So the idea that this is a newly-thought up controversy is simply untrue.

Sinn Féin's position on the matter was reached at an Ard Fheis a couple years ago, just before the change to Rule 42, when we passed a motion stating that we would accept whatever decision the GAA took. It wasn't a unanimous decision on our part, and there remain large numbers of people within the party who disagree with it - and even those of us who voted in favour would have had serious reservations, among them the spectre of GSTQ and the union flag. But that it was the GAA's decision to make and not ours is, I think, not really debatable.

Which is why today's protest doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, if you think about it. Not that people who oppose England's presence at Croke Park don't have a right to protest - of course they do. But we all knew this was coming as soon as Rule 42 was scrapped, two years ago, and I don't recall any organised effort to prevent it in the intervening period, say by announcing a boycott of the GAA until the change was reversed. Indeed, a couple of the people I know who were most vocal against it have continued to give their money to the very organisation whose decision they'll be protesting today.

It isn't the England team, or the IRFU, who are ultimately responsible for GSTQ being played at Croke Park today. It just seems a little bit silly to me that they and not the GAA will be the protestors' target.


On another note, I've been asked to post up another letter on the policing issue which didn't make it into An Phoblacht. I'm happy to oblige, although I do want to point out (especially for any muckraking journos reading this) that the paper has published other letters dissenting from the party line on this issue.

A Chara,

I wish to reply to issues raised by Seán McGabhann's letter in the February 8th edition of your paper. In it, Mr McGabhann claims to have recently realised that joining the policing boards was the right way to go and that those 'misguided' individuals who opposed it, needed to be persuaded that the struggle continues.

The problem I have with Mr McGabhann's remarks are twofold. Firstly, he argues as if it is the existence of a politics-based route itself that is the most problematic aspect for those who opposed joining the policing boards. If this were the case, why would people have stayed for so long? I would argue that people who opposed this just simply did not see the same advantage in it as they did with say, the GFA. Essentially, the present policing arrangements are a solution imposed by the two governments, with some minor tweaking by republicans. If the policing boards were such a site of struggle, why did we have to wait until now?

Secondly, he fails to adequately explain how he came to this sudden conversion? What became so radically different in the past few weeks? Perhaps it is those who voted yes who need to be persuaded that the road to a unified Democratic Socialist Republic will be an extremely long one which involves much thinking outside the box, rather than jumping into bed with homophobic fascists (the DUP) and accepting Brit- influenced policing solutions, just because we worry that people won't like us. (What else is new?)

Is mise le meas
Donal O' Driscoll
Co Cork

Labour's lukewarm support for gay rights

It seems the Labour Party will use their Private Members' Time in the Dáil next week to introduce their Civil Unions Bill.

This is a positive step, and I hope the Government will accept the Bill (and I suspect they might just do so, although if they do, they will leave it parked until after the election).

However, I can't resist the opportunity to highlight Labour's record on this issue.

In February 2004, the Government's Civil Registrations Bill went through the Dáil. That bill provided for the registration of births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Included amongst its text was a small line which would exclude same sex partners from the right to register a marriage. The Government inserted this line based upon legal advice it had received that without it, same sex marriage would effectively be legal.

Sinn Féin tabled an amendment to delete the line, and thus to give same sex partners the right to marry.

When our amendment was voted on, Labour (as well as Fine Gael) were mysteriously absent from the chamber.

In November 2005, the party's Deputy Leader Liz McManus
confirmed that the Labour Party are not in favour of gay marriage:

I do appreciate by the way that there are sections in the gay and lesbian community who ... would wish for full equivalence, both as regards rights and obligations and as regards terminology, between marriages as presently understood and gay unions.

That does not seem to me, however, to be a feasible proposition and it is not one that the Labour party advocates.

In the furious backtracking that ensued, Labour acolytes tried to suggest (with no real evidence that I'm aware of) that their party supported gay marriage in theory, but didn't think it was constitutionally feasible, and so supported civil union as a compromise.

I can't offhand think of any other situation in which the Labour Party, or anyone else, would say "Well, the Constitution as it stands won't allow that, so we won't support it." Generally speaking, if you think the Constitution prevents a basic human right, the answer to that is that you try to change the Constitution. At the very least such a view is no basis for refusing to register a vote in favour of that right when it comes up in the Dáil. It's not as though our amendment would have triggered a referendum, for heaven's sake - even if all opposition parties supported it, the Government still had enough votes to defeat it. It was simply a means to put support for gay marriage on record and Labour's failure to do so can only mean one thing: they don't support gay marriage. Full stop.

So credit to them for pressing ahead with this Bill. But don't misread it as real support for gay and lesbian equality.
I see that in this week's Metro Éireann, Labour's Dublin City Councillor Aodhán Ó Riordáin refers to the late PUP leader David Ervine as "a hero of mine". And "someone that I hope will become regarded as a founding father of a peaceful Ireland". He describes Ervine as "so special", his words so "uplifting and inspiring".

No, I'm not making this up.

WorldByStorm did a good piece about Ervine's death, and how he was eulogised by the same people (especially down south) who regularly dismiss republicans as barely reconstructed terrorists. Including the Labour Party. I don't need to repeat anything said there.

But one thing I would like to know is this: will Aodhán be mentioning this view while he's out on the canvass in his North Inner City constituency? Or will he be relying on the fact that working class Dubs don't read Metro Éireann, and are unlikely ever to hear of his hero-worship of a former loyalist paramilitary who headed up a party devoted to maintaining British rule in this country?
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