I’m perpetually amazed by the capacity of Northern Ireland to throw up an incident which can inspire even in the most inured of its residents, a refreshed sense of exasperation and shame. Of course it is inaccurate to believe that it is something peculiar to this country which makes its citizens declare periodically, ‘oh for god’s sake, I’d almost forgotten this place was so bad’, but in a league table for frustration and embarrassment, I’d imagine the benighted ‘decent people’ of Northern Ireland would not be found in its lower reaches. We are perpetually surprised by how low some of our compatriots can go.
Attacks and abuse suffered by two youth football teams from Dublin who were competing in the Milk Cup, launched by a drunken rabble outside the teams’ accommodation in Coleraine, inspires in me those all too familiar feelings. I’ve enough faith in the readers of this blog to think that these words are not necessary, but in the unlikely event that someone is tempted to qualify their condemnation or provide some attempt to justify these attacks, let me make it quite clear – I don’t want to hear about tricolours, pro-IRA shouting or whatever. These things are irrelevant. What we’re talking about here is an attack on school-children by a drunken mob and that is unjustifiable.
The Milk Cup is an unqualified ‘good thing’, which is a rare phenomenon in this country. It brings youth teams from around the globe together in a festival of football and friendship. To host this tournament shows Northern Ireland in a positive light, it benefits the North West and it benefits young local players, both in terms of their football and as people, by allowing them to pit their skills against equivalents from all manner of cultures and ethnicities. It cannot be endangered by the sectarian proclivities of a drunken mob of hooligans.