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Showing posts from June, 2016

From Euro 2016 euphoria to the IFA's new president

While I was in France, watching Northern Ireland compete at Euro 2016, I read Evan Marshall’s brilliant book, Spirit of 58, which charts the team’s first major tournament finals, almost sixty years ago.  
It’s a great story, describing how the country’s manager, Peter Doherty, transformed perennial whipping boys into a squad of formidable professionals, who then advanced to the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup.  It’s written vividly and lucidly, on the back of freshly researched source material and a wealth of new interviews.
One of the striking themes, which clearly frustrates the author, is the consistent ineptitude of the Irish Football Association, the sport’s organising body in Northern Ireland.  The IFA refused to allow a full panel of players to travel to the tournament in Sweden, it frustrated Doherty’s attempts to scout opposition matches, it botched hotel bookings – with the result that an injury-ravaged team missed out on much needed rest – and, worst of all, it almost…

EU debate doesn't impact Good Friday Agreement, but it exposes its 'conjuring trick'

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The Good Friday Agreement was a clever, influential document because it defined a political struggle over sovereignty in Northern Ireland in terms of a much more slippery concept: identity. No piece of paper could tell people whether they were British or Irish or both, and the prerogative of people born here to take citizenship of the Republic of Ireland existed long before 1998, but the agreement reassured voters that their professed identities would be recognised and respected under new power-sharing arrangements.
Northern Ireland is now in the midst of another emotional debate about sovereignty as UK voters decide whether to stay in the European Union or opt for ‘Brexit’. Alongside practical arguments about the economy and the Irish border, some campaigners have tried to suggest that the principles which underpin the Belfast Agreement could be undermined by a vote for ‘Leave’. The foolish implication is that Irish identity in Northern Ireland is dependent upon membership of the EU.