““For an Ulster Unionist Assembly Member to be openly advocating the scrapping of “God Save The Queen” is a shocking state of affairs. Is there any Unionism at all left in the UUP? It looks like they have they slowly transformed into a blue-tinged centrist grouping without Unionist principles or convictions. Basil McCrea has exposed just how anaemic his party’s brand of Unionism truly is.””
Does Poots have any notion what unionism actually consists of? Is he so stupid that he believes an intrinsic element of unionism is retaining the UK’s anthem for a sports team which is representing, not the United Kingdom, but Northern Ireland specifically? And how dare he call into question the unionism of a party which is attempting to open Northern Ireland up to mainstream UK politics, at a time when his own party become ever more estranged from the rest of the Kingdom?
For the record, Basil McCrea is right to infer that a debate is necessary about Northern Ireland’s future anthem. Scottish fans’ reaction to God Save the Queen is an irrelevance to the issue at hand, but both Scotland and Wales have their own anthems for sports in which they compete separately from the rest of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland should be no different.
The only thing Poots’ comments expose, is how limited his own conception of unionism is. Poots’ unionism, and the unionism of many of his colleagues, has nothing to do with promoting British values and institutions. His only concern is a populist appeal to ‘Ulster protestant’ sentiment. That is why he seems completely unable to understand why a unionist party would wish to form an alliance with a mainstream British party (as alluded to by his ‘blue-tinged centrist grouping’ remark). Poots is solidly within the DUP’s ‘Ourselves Alone’ camp, and that is why he leading the DUP’s assault on the UUP / Conservative talks.
Of course, petty party political point scoring and irony aside, the most insidious aspect of Poots’ statement is the cynical fashion in which he is attempting to politicise the Northern Ireland team to his own advantage. With ‘Football for All’ and other fan-based initiatives, the IFA and its supporters have been attempting to foster a friendly and inclusive atmosphere at games, with much success. The anthem is an emotive debate amongst supporters, but many see it as an anachronism which needs to go and will form the final part of the jigsaw as regards these efforts. Progress has been hard won and the last thing that is needed is Poots’ intervention, appealing to lowest common denominator sensibilities and attempting to hi-jack the Northern Ireland football team as a manifestation of cultural unionism.
This noxious character had to be removed from the sport and leisure brief after making a balls-up of the job. His one-eyed attempts to locate an international stadium in his constituency still dog football in this country. Now he is on the sidelines he should keep his nose (and/or ears) out of our team’s affairs and let the supporters decide whether they want their own anthem.