I wouldn’t normally find myself agreeing with Provisional Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff, but a complaint he raises regarding politicians in the Republic appropriating the term ‘Ireland’ to describe their state, or “this notion that the 26 counties constitutes Ireland”, as Mr McElduff puts it, strikes something of a chord.
Of course the reasoning by which McElduff arrives at his conclusions is predictably off kilter. The Republic has every right to refer to itself as a ‘country’ or a ‘state’. However he is certainly correct to sever the notion of people in Northern Ireland asserting their ‘Irish national identity’ from the existence of the Republic of Ireland state. The idea that Northern Irish people need access to the Republic's institutions to express their Irish identity is based on similar conflation of the terms 'Republic of Ireland', 'Ireland' and 'Irish'.
Playing a full role in Northern Ireland’s institutions compromises nobody’s Irish identity. There are two states within Ireland and both recognise and respect the Irish identity. Neither should (or can) exercise a monopoly on either the Irish identity or the term ‘Ireland’. Perhaps Mr McElduff should carry this logic through to its conclusion when he considers football eligibility.