The FAI’s Selection of “Granny Rulers” and Northerners: A Response to Eamonn Sweeney

According to Eamonn Sweeney, writing for the Irish Independent on the 4th of October, “the way [Ireland have] used the “granny rule” is a prime example of sleeveenism, sharp practice and the search for a short-term advantage”. Sweeney makes a number of negative points, with which I take issue, both in relation to the FAI’s utilisation of the rule and in relation to specific, once-potential or assumed “granny rulers”. He begins:

There’s been something utterly demeaning about the way Martin O’Neill and the FAI have traipsed after [Jack] Grealish, trying to hurry him into accepting the green jersey like it was some piece of dodgy merchandise which might not pass muster on closer inspection.

In the end Grealish didn’t buy it and his refusal brought home just what a squalid mess our Find Another Irishman policy has become. Like many other tenuously qualified players we seek, Grealish would prefer to play for England. Unlike them, he has a choice in the matter.

We can justify this whoring after players who couldn’t find Mayo on a map by wittering on about our emigrant history and London-Irish identity and a lot of other stuff which sounds like a particularly bad Pogues lyric. But we’re not fooling anyone, least of all ourselves.

Sweeney must have donned his Martin Samuel mask for the day… It is both unfair and inaccurate to suggest that Martin O’Neill and the FAI have “traipsed after” Jack Grealish (or, indeed, other dual national players, for that matter). On the contrary, in Grealish’s case, Martin O’Neill gave a young dual national player as much time and space as was needed or wanted without exerting any pressure whatsoever in order to allow said player to make a difficult career decision; the approach of O’Neill was very reasonable and respectful of the wishes of Jack Grealish and his family. In fact, O’Neill was mindful to avoid burdening Grealish with added expectation and, indeed, criticised Roy Hodgson during the saga after he perceived the England manager to have been “putting the pressure on” the Aston Villa player.

Not once did O’Neill give the impression he was chasing or “whoring” after Grealish and begging him to play for Ireland. The Ireland manager met up with Grealish in August of 2014 in order to gauge the player’s intentions and, on a second occasion, one year later, when Grealish informed him that a final decision on his international future was nigh. Indeed, Grealish emphasised that O’Neill had not attempted to pressure him into a choice and the player expressed his appreciation for O’Neill’s methods. Between those meetings, O’Neill enquired as to whether Grealish would welcome selection into the senior squad in May of 2015, but, despite initial optimism, nothing became of it and O’Neill accepted the player’s will with grace. There was nothing unreasonable, desperate or demeaning about any of that.

It seems O’Neill cannot win and will always have his detractors either way; whilst Sweeney has accused him of desperately chasing after Grealish, the notorious controversialist Eamon Dunphy criticised the Irish manager for supposedly not having done enough to secure the services of the player earlier in failing to cap him competitively during Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifier versus Gibraltar in October of 2014. Dunphy’s criticism was ill-informed considering Grealish was not available at this point in time and, as it appears in hindsight, would have instigated his “international break” as soon as the likelihood of an invite into the senior squad for a competitive cap-tying fixture became a reality anyway.

There is a valid point with considerable merit to be made in respect of the general health of Irish football, but, in this instance, it is unfortunately deprived of oxygen; it is left lurking somewhere beneath Sweeney’s desire to wholeheartedly disparage the FAI and to use soft targets as scapegoats in a sense of indiscriminate and misdirected frustration. Ireland’s heavy and now-conventional reliance on players developed in England, whether born in Ireland or not, is undoubtedly far from ideal as a central policy to maintaining the country’s position as a competitive international footballing outfit. As well as it amounting to a total evasion of responsibility, there is greater risk attached to such an approach, as we indeed witnessed by way of dual-national Grealish opting to switch to England after having played for FAI teams since the age of 14.

The FAI’s extensive utilisation of the “granny rule” papers over cracks at home and lets the association off the hook in terms of the failure to properly build an effective developmental infrastructure that could and should supply a steady and long-term stream of international-standard players. It would be much more preferable if the FAI, rather than throwing all eggs in the solitary basket of the senior men’s international team, invested in ensuring the creation of a “conveyor belt” for the continual and sustainable future production of young home-grown talent, whether such eligible talent is born in Ireland or beyond; any strategy on this front should naturally encompass a promotion of the perpetually-malnourished and struggling League of Ireland and the integration of all levels of domestic football within a connected pyramid.

“Piggybacking” off the youth academies of British clubs (where the interests of Irish players are far from the priority and where even the present-day opportunities of English players are limited due to their cash-rich clubs scouting of the entire globe for elite talent) and potentially getting dragged into doomed, long-term will-he-or-won’t-he sagas like the Grealish affair should not and cannot be the norm for any healthy set-up. Whilst we should always be welcoming of dual-national players who display willingness and commitment, it would be risky to continue relying so heavily upon services which cannot always be guaranteed.

Rather than devoting sole focus to these points – the crux of the matter – Sweeney instead went about tackling the FAI’s responsibility-dodging by throwing around over-zealous accusations and by further ranting about blameless others, seemingly so as to maximise outrage. It is not necessary, however, to insult the identity of second and third generation Irish in order to emphasise or reinforce the point that Ireland’s over-reliance on players who have not been developed within the FAI’s system is an issue of major concern requiring swift attention. Who is Sweeney to comment on (and casually dismiss) the authenticity of the Irish identity of others whom he does not personally know?

Irish nationals such as Jack Grealish (who played Gaelic football in his youth and who has always expressed positive sentiment for his Irish heritage) might ultimately have preferred to play for England, the land of his birth, but that by no means diminishes his shared Irish identity. As for the Aston Villa player being “tenuously qualified”, three of Grealish’s four grandparents were born in Ireland. That more than fulfils the relevant requirements under Irish nationality law and FIFA’s eligibility regulations.

Ireland’s national history is one of mass emigration. In this sense, it is therefore of little surprise that the diaspora is cherished, celebrated and indeed represented on the national football team. Perhaps it is disproportionately so, compared with other nations. If anything, one might say that that reality makes the side more representative of Irishness than so-called “plasticity”.

Sweeney goes on to single out Tony Cascarino and Martin Keown in his double-pronged attack on FAI policy and Irish persons born outside of Ireland:

In our hearts we know it’s wrong to pick players whose only qualification for Ireland may be one grandparent out of four or even, as in the case of Tony Cascarino, no real qualification at all….

Picking up players with Irish parentage isn’t quite as dubious as going back a couple of generations, though it’s interesting to note that Martin Keown, who’s spoken fondly about how his Irish heritage played a big part in his childhood, says he never gave a thought to playing for this country. As far as he was concerned an Englishman should play for England. There’s not much arguing with that, is there?

The idea that Tony Cascarino had “no real qualification at all” to play for Ireland is a myth often wheeled out to mock Irish selection habits. Indeed, it was one Cascarino fuelled himself, presumably to stir controversy so as to draw attention to and boost sales of his then-upcoming autobiography back in 2000, but he has since been sure to emphasise his qualification – via his legal mother’s Mayo-born grandfather – and proud cultural affiliation with the nation. The FAI also since confirmed that his eligibility was fully above board and in accordance with FIFA’s regulations.

Martin Keown’s England-born son, Niall, has opted to play for Ireland – indeed, Keown the younger described it as “the natural thing for [him] to do” – so it is also highly unlikely that the senior Keown’s thoughts on the complex matter of national sporting identity can actually be neatly summarised by the simple declaration, “an Englishman should play for England”. It is also incorrect for Sweeney to assert that Keown had never given a thought to playing for Ireland. On this very point, an article on Keown in the Irish Independent dated the 13th of May, 2000 stated the following:

More importantly to Keown, having played for England at under-18 and under-21 level, he did not make his full debut until he was 26. “I could very easily have played for Ireland and at one stage efforts were made to try and switch to the Republic of Ireland. I thought, and the club felt, I’d have a better international chance. But the rules in those days were that if you played at under-18 level then that was that. The decision was made very young.”

That ceiling was then raised by FIFA to under-21 level, but only after Keown had played it. If there is any Keown regret today it is well-buried – he has, after all, won 28 England caps – but in that fallow spell before his first senior appearance against France in 1992, Keown wondered about the injustice of having to choose so early.

“Between the ages of 21 and 26, in those five years I never played international football, and in that period Jackie Charlton tried to get me to play for them, to lift the ruling. Before I played for the under-21s I put a brake on it because I thought I could play for the Republic. Then they (FIFA) said I couldn’t, then they changed the rules.

“It turned out to be a very good decision for me and when I play for England there is nobody more English than me. I don’t think anyone could ever doubt my commitment. But I had a lot of relations, cousins and uncles who said to my father: `You know, we can’t believe you let him play for England.’ But my dad says: `This is the country you were born in and you make all your own decisions.’ I think he’s been proved right.

Sweeney continues in his attack on the FAI by comparing the fortunes of the Ireland team with those of the IFA’s Northern Ireland, who “rely almost entirely on native-born footballers”. He adds:

Northern Ireland’s achievement is even more impressive when you consider that in recent years we’ve been poaching their players. The specious justification for this is to blather on about Windsor Park in 1994, imply that Catholics don’t want to play for the North and ignore the fact that not only is their current manager a Catholic, but that many of their best loved players down the years have been too.

Our policy of luring promising young Catholic players below the border is in danger of creating for the first time two teams on this island entirely divided by religion. I won’t impute any sinister motive to the FAI. This isn’t about politics, it is once more about sleevenism, sharp practice and the search for a short-term advantage.

Shipquay Street, Derry after Robbie Keane's stoppage-time equaliser for Ireland against Germany at the 2002 World Cup (Dermot Blackburn, 2002).

Shipquay Street in Derry after Robbie Keane’s stoppage-time equaliser for Ireland against Germany at the 2002 World Cup (Dermot Blackburn, 2002).

Sweeney turns his attention here to denigrating the identity of northern-born Irish nationals and, furthermore, appears to be in denial with regard to their agency when they opt to play for their country; the country they will have supported their whole lives. Whilst many Catholics from the north of Ireland may indeed be happy to line out for Northern Ireland, the reality is that most people from the north’s nationalist community identify culturally with the FAI’s de-facto all-island team.

Of course, the convenient oversight of this fact, that it is northern-born players who choose to make themselves available for selection by the FAI, logically enables Sweeney to accuse the FAI of “poaching” players. The FAI is, of course, happy and entitled to facilitate such players, but it does not have a sectarian policy of targeting Catholics; indeed, Protestants are free and welcome to declare for the FAI (and those of Ulster heritage have done so in the past), but the socio-political reality in the north dictates that northern-born-and-bred Protestants are extremely unlikely to affiliate culturally with the FAI. Consequently, interest from such Protestants is exceptionally rare.

If those northern Catholic-background players who have opted for the FAI really wanted to be available for selection by the IFA, well, they would have made themselves available for selection by the IFA. The FAI’s selection habits are not a cause of the north’s socio-political circumstances, nor is it the FAI’s duty to resolve such matters to unionist satisfaction, nor is the IFA’s image-problem the fault of the Dublin association, nor, indeed, will the FAI’s facilitation of northern-born Irish nationals result in the two island teams becoming identified strictly along religious lines, of which Sweeney ominously warns, in so far as plenty of northern Catholic-background players, such as Ireland-supporting Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt, remain content to play for Northern Ireland for pragmatic, career-centric reasons.

This is despite the fact that Irish nationals born north of the border have been eligible to play for Ireland since 1956 and have been entitled to switch association (if already in the IFA’s set-up) since 2004. In spite of ample time, there has been no trend whatsoever towards a realisation of the scenario envisaged by Sweeney’s doom-mongering. The reason for this is that there are a finite number of first-team and squad places up for grabs with either team, thus de-incentivising the appeal of switching for many players who might otherwise be interested.

Sweeney actually appears to lack an understanding of the socio-political dynamic north of the border. Indeed, when republican James McClean opted to invoke his human right to negative freedom of expression through a disengagement from observing a rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ before a pre-season friendly for his club, West Bromwich Albion, a few months ago, Sweeney illiberally attacked McClean (along with unionist politician Tom Elliott), seemingly misinterpreting the Derry player’s gesture – a statement of self-preservation – as one of disrespect rooted in sectarian motives. If Sweeney is going to get into the business of moral judgment and condemnation, he ought to first understand his subjects.

In his bull-headed determination to dismiss the worth of “granny rulers”, Sweeney even forgets the origins of the great Ginger Pelé, Gary Doherty:

Think of the Irish players who’ve been left out in order that caps could be bestowed upon the likes of Paul Green, Paul Butler, Alex Bruce, Jon Goodman, Gary Doherty, Jonathan Macken, Mickey Evans, Paddy Kenny et al.

Doherty was, of course, born in Carndonagh in County Donegal.

In talking of national pride, Sweeney asks:

Why for that matter are Northern Ireland on top of their group? Form and logic would have suggested otherwise so you have to think pride in the national jersey has something to do with it.

Would that same pride be there if the jersey was touted around to players from a neighbouring country? You don’t see the Icelanders wondering if any rejected Swedes might like to join up with them or the Slovakians trying to tap up young Czech prospects.

For most of our imports an Irish cap is nothing more than an admission of failure.

Talk about insulting a whole diaspora! Just because an Irish player might not have been born in Ireland, it does not necessarily negate or lessen the pride or commitment he might possess for representing the country. Indeed, Preston-born Kevin Kilbane was one of the team’s proudest and most faithful servants. Meanwhile, having been born in Ireland did not guarantee the commitment of Stephen Ireland.

For some eligible players born outside of Ireland, declaring for the FAI can be a means of realising, embracing, developing or awaking an aspect of their identity that they may previously have overlooked or of which they may previously have been unaware. Identity can be fluid and need not be static; in that sense, some people can undergo a journey or awakening towards consciousness of a particular aspect of their identity or heritage at any point in their life. London-born Clinton Morrison or Maidstone-born Andy Townsend, for example, more truly embraced the Irish aspects of their identities after declaring for the FAI and the supporters gladly embraced them in return.

Besides, Ireland are not the only team in international football to make use of the “granny rule”. Algeria, for example, which has a large diasporic community in France, makes heavy use of FIFA’s eligibility rules in much the same manner as Ireland.

Indeed, a significant proportion of the Algerian squad in recent times has been made up of players who were born in France or who came through the French system, with some even having represented France at youth level before switching to Algeria for their senior international football. Did or does this diminish their potential pride in eventually representing the land of their heritage? It is unlikely. Did Algerians complain of the effort of their players when their national representatives successfully rode through their group at the 2014 World Cup before being narrowly knocked out by eventual world champions Germany in the second round? Of course not; the public in Algeria embraced their diasporic fellow citizens and welcomed them home as national heroes.

Ought we dismiss our diaspora and northern nationals simply because we wish to reinforce a point in respect of the condition of the FAI’s governance of the game of football in Ireland? Of course not.

The above piece was also published here on Back Page Football.

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15 comments

  1. Reblogged this on aBohemianSportingLife and commented:
    A good reply to Eamonn Sweeney’s recent Independent article about the pursuit of granny-rule players.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gentattheworstoftimes · · Reply

    “and those of Ulster heritage have done so in the past”
    Care to provide names?

    I think the ROI team will never be a “defacto All-Ireland” team so long as they only actively approach Northern Irish Catholics.

    “Irish nationals born north of the border have been eligible to play for Ireland since 1956”
    Really? So a kid born in Northern Ireland with no parental or grand-parental connection to ROI can qualify to play for the ROI national team? And since 1956?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I have been away since the middle of last week, so only getting an opportunity to respond now.

      Alan Kernaghan and Alex Bruce are of Ulster Protestant heritage. I understand Adam Barton is too.

      The team is a ‘de facto’ all-island team in the sense that an Irish national can play for Ireland by virtue of his or her birth anywhere on the island. The FAI will happily select Ulster Protestants deemed competent enough; the reason so few are selected is obviously and primarily on account of the fact that very few Ulster Protestants would actually have an interest in representing the FAI (for personal, political, socio-cultural or other reasons). If they ever did have an interest and made that interest known, there is no reason to assume the FAI would not consider it. The FAI would evidently be more than happy to consider it. In the meantime, on what is your comment, “[the FAI] only actively approach Northern Irish Catholics”, founded?

      I am well aware of the accusations and hearsay, but can you elaborate on this? First of all, can you outline what you mean by “actively approach” and how you know this to be the case. If you have indeed evidence to demonstrate it is the case, how do you know such a policy applies only to northern-born Catholics? Let us also not assume that all northern-born Catholics or persons from a Catholic background are or identify as Northern Irish either. For what it’s worth, the FAI are fully entitled to approach, select or facilitate any eligible player that they wish, whether such players happen to possess dual eligibility or not.

      This piece I wrote some months ago should provide some greater clarity on your query with regard to the eligibility of Irish nationals born north of the border to play for Ireland: https://danieldcollins.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/north-men-south-men-comrades-all-part-one/

      Nationals by birth (covered by article 5 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes) are not required to satisfy the extra distinguishing criteria (birth, parental link, grandparental link or residence for a specified time) that apply to players from a territory that shares nationality with another territory (by way of article 6) or to players who have acquired a new nationality (by way of article 7).

      Here is the relevant section of the piece I wrote:

      First of all, it is important to realise that the oft-mentioned quasi-constitutional Good Friday Agreement has nothing to do with the Irish player eligibility matter in substance, nor insofar as footballing eligibility is governed by articles 5 to 8 of FIFA’s Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes. Article 5.1 of those regulations, which covers Irish nationals by birth, states:

      “Any person holding a permanent nationality that is not dependent on residence in a certain country is eligible to play for the representative teams of the Association of that country.”

      In principle, Irish nationals born in the north have been eligible to play for the Football Association of Ireland (the governing body of the Republic of Ireland football team) for so long as the entitlement to Irish nationality has been island-wide, or since 1956, more precisely, with the passing of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 and the extension of the application of Irish nationality law north of the border. As far back as 1946, the rule governing international footballing eligibility, article 21.2 of the Regulations of the FIFA, stated:

      “The players (NB. of International Matches) must be selected by the National Associations concerned and be subjects of the country they represent”.

      At the 33rd FIFA Congress in Santiago, Chile, in 1962, that was re-worded and what became article 18.1 of the Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes was enacted. It then read:

      “Any player who is a naturalised citizen of a country in virtue of that country’s laws shall be eligible to play for a national or representative team of that country.”

      This wording of the primary eligibility rule remained in place until a 2004 change saw it become article 15.1 and the text amended to the following:

      “Any person holding the nationality of a country is eligible to play for the representative teams of the Association of his country.”

      That became the version of today in 2008, under which, of course, Irish nationals born north of the border remain eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland. Belfast-born Ger Crossley and Derry-born Mark McKeever were just two of a number of players born in the north who played for Republic of Ireland teams by virtue of their birthright to Irish nationality in the years before the Good Friday Agreement bilaterally recognised the nationality law’s island-wide application.

      As previously outlined, the main eligibility rule is now known as article 5.1, but from all of the above, we can deduce that Irish nationals born in the north have been eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland for a continuous period of time stretching back nearly sixty years. It should also be pointed out that for most of that time, until 2004, there was a regulatory restriction on a player switching to a second association once he was competitively capped by a first association. In other words, a player became cap-tied to an association for good upon his participation in a FIFA-recognised competitive fixture for that association at any age-level. This would have been the case for many nationalist-community players growing up in the north (if even they were then aware of their eligibility to play for the Republic of Ireland in the first place); they became tied to the IFA for good as soon as they featured in a competitive game at any level for the association.

      Like

  3. “Alan Kernaghan and Alex Bruce are of Ulster Protestant heritage. I understand Adam Barton is too.”
    I think you are comparing apples and pears. I don’t think that Northern Ireland born catholics declaring for the Republic of Ireland national team is quite the same as 3 english guys(2 of whom have played for the NI senior team) born in England, with links to Northern Ireland(no suggestion that it is Ulster Protestant heritage) playing for the Republic of Ireland national team.

    “we can deduce that Irish nationals born in the north have been eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland for a continuous period of time stretching back nearly sixty years. ”

    I don’t think this has ever been in dispute. Chinese nationals born in Northern Ireland could play for China. My question is still not answered by your post.

    So a kid born in Northern Ireland with no parental or grand-parental connection to ROI can qualify to play for the ROI national team? And since 1956? I think the answer is NO. ROI Extra-territorial citizenship was not available to everyone in Northern Ireland in 1956, so how could they then claim Irish citizenship?

    DAN: “[the FAI] only actively approach Northern Irish Catholics”, founded?
    Your right. Its unfounded. My apologies. Its just a coincidence.

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    1. You wrote:

      I think you are comparing apples and pears. I don’t think that Northern Ireland born catholics declaring for the Republic of Ireland national team is quite the same as 3 english guys(2 of whom have played for the NI senior team) born in England, with links to Northern Ireland(no suggestion that it is Ulster Protestant heritage) playing for the Republic of Ireland national team.

      The reason I mentioned the FAI’s selection of Protestants (and, indeed, players of Ulster Protestant heritage) was to dispel the preposterous allegation that the FAI enforces or employs some sort of sectarian or Catholics-only selection policy. Players’ reported or alleged Catholicism has absolutely nothing to do with their selection by the FAI; do you really think the FAI cares about the religious beliefs (if any) of, say, James McClean or Darron Gibson?

      Alan Kernaghan was born in Otley, but was raised in Bangor from the age of six and supported Northern Ireland regularly in Windsor Park growing up. Indeed, he went on to play for Northern Ireland at schoolboy level. This is all confirmed in an article here: http://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/latest/kernaghan-still-pushing-back-the-boundaries-1-677913#axzz3p2EyWLcz

      His Ulster Protestant background is also mentioned. It was Northern Ireland supporters who informed me of the background of Bruce and Barton. The FAI was happy to select all of them.

      You wrote:

      I don’t think this has ever been in dispute. Chinese nationals born in Northern Ireland could play for China. My question is still not answered by your post.

      So a kid born in Northern Ireland with no parental or grand-parental connection to ROI can qualify to play for the ROI national team? And since 1956? I think the answer is NO. ROI Extra-territorial citizenship was not available to everyone in Northern Ireland in 1956, so how could they then claim Irish citizenship?

      Your question has been answered. You have simply failed to understand what I’ve written on account of your stubborn insistence that I must be incorrect, but it is your own understanding that is erroneous. To re-iterate more clearly; yes, a player born north of the border with no parental or grandparental connection by birth to the specific territory of the Republic can qualify to play for the FAI’s team. Aren’t you aware of how, say, James McClean qualifies to play for the FAI? And, yes, such a player would have been eligible in principle since 1956. (For what it’s worth, this was also acknowledged by the Court of Arbitration for Sport at paragraph 56 in the judgment of the case of Daniel Kearns.)

      In case any misunderstanding remains, although I don’t see why it should, I have amended the sentence, “… we can deduce that Irish nationals born in the north have been eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland for a continuous period of time stretching back nearly sixty years”, to the following for greater clarity: “… we can deduce that Irish nationals by birth in the north have been eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland for a continuous period of time stretching back nearly sixty years”.

      If you re-read what I have posted and follow the links within the earlier piece of mine to which I have linked you, you will find that Irish nationality law has had jus soli extra-territorial effect since 1956. Here is the relevant legislation; section 7 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1956/act/26/section/7/enacted/en/html

      You will also find that I have outlined the various eligibility regulations in force since before then until present.

      You wrote:

      Your right. Its unfounded. My apologies. Its just a coincidence.

      I’ve not said it is unfounded, although the case of Alan Kernaghan would appear to disprove the idea that the FAI would have some problem with selecting those from an Ulster Protestant background, don’t you think? I’ve simply asked you for further information. Can you substantiate your claim with some evidence?

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  4. Dan, thanks for the response. Just incredible. All appears to be in order. The question has to be asked, why did more players not take advantage?

    I’m neither a writer nor a legal person, and you appear to be a seasoned pro in this area but the point that sticks out in my mind is not an issue with FIFA qualifying criteria but more so how one gains Irish Citizenship. You say that anyone born in Ireland(Island) would automatically qualify for Irish Citizenship. And I believe you but Article 3 (Pending the re-integration of the national territory,….) of the Constitution does seem to hinge on Article 2 (The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland….) and the perceived legal claim to Northern Ireland. Article 3 does also “prohibit the enactment of laws applicable in the counties of Northern Ireland”.

    Again I’m not a legal gent but I would imagine that a constitutional article concerning a disputed territory may not be sound basis to award Irish Citizenship on.

    As for the fruit salad of apples and pears. Alan Kernaghan qualified for NI by virtue of FIFAs rule on schooling however did not meet the IFA’s selection criteria at the time. He qualified for ROI thanks to a grandparent. I’ve seen no proof of Ulster Protestant Heritage. And the same for Adam Barton and Alex Bruce. I’ve found no evidence of their Ulster Protestant heritage.

    And on Mark McKeever and Ger. Again I have found no evidence as to how they qualified for ROI, be it by birth right or parental. Do you have a source for this information?

    As for the apparent tapping up of Northern Irish Catholics…the problem of this is that tapping up is seldom formally documented for fear that the parties involved maybe in breach of a particular ruling, though I did read an article recently by Eamon Sweeney who led me to believe that such a practice exists, saying, and with reference to the FAI: “Our policy of luring promising young Catholic players below the border is in danger of creating for the first time two teams on this island entirely divided by religion.” – There’s no smoke without fire.

    best,

    aRon

    Like

    1. Dan, thanks for the response. Just incredible. All appears to be in order. The question has to be asked, why did more players not take advantage?

      No problem, aRon. Thanks for your interest. Happy to assist.

      I wrote this a few years ago on why I thought northerners playing for the FAI to be a more recent phenomenon: http://backpagefootball.com/so-what-did-prompt-northerners-declarations-for-fai/34570/

      The main factor, in my opinion, was FIFA’s introduction in 2004 of the right for dual or multiple nationals to switch association once up until the age of 21 (although that age-cap was lifted altogether in 2009, so that a dual or multiple national could switch association at any age). Before that, if a player played for an association, he became irrevocably cap-tied to that association. After 2004, however, nationalist-community players who had played for Northern Ireland at youth level, being simply happy to receive any international recognition or without having thought too much about the long-term implications of accepting a call-up in adolescence, had the option of switching to the FAI, if such would actually have been their cultural preference or if their development reached a level where they might have thought it a step or risk worth taking.

      There was little awareness of players’ rights prior to the modern information age; associations were run mainly by volunteers and rules weren’t easily accessed by players/families in the manner that they can be attained online nowadays. Even though Irish nationality had island-wide application since 1956, perhaps the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement period also increased awareness of nationality rights and other related rights, so that players concerned began to think a bit more about the practical implications of their now-undisputed right to Irish nationality. It should be noted, though, that the Agreement had no substantive or legal effect on the player eligibility matter.

      The IFA were also a more powerful association with the stronger team historically – the IFA remain on the IFAB, which determines the laws of the game, along with the three other British associations and four FIFA representatives – so perhaps there was more glamour or prestige associated with playing for them. The FAI never really made their mark internationally until 1988. By that point, Northern Ireland had already participated in three World Cups and (up until 1984) were involved in the prestigious British Home Championship on an annual basis.

      The IFA’s reaction to the choices made by northern nationalist players in recent years might well have contributed too. They shot themselves in the foot really. By constantly crowing and moaning to the media and FIFA (instead of taking responsibility and focusing on what they themselves could do to ensure all players eligible to play for them would feel welcome within their set-up), despite having been made fully aware of the facts of the situation, they were as good as advertising for the FAI in making more and more northern players aware of the route open to them.

      The IFA’s open hostility to the wishes of these players cannot have helped either in the sense it only further alienated a nationalist community already deterred from taking an interest in the Northern Ireland team on account of the overt displays of Britishness and culturally-alien loyalism at games. Northern Ireland fans and the IFA are entitled to emphasise their Britishness if they wish and I have no problem with it, but it’s not going to win over the nationalist community, who channel their identity through another cultural entity and take their cultural cues from elsewhere.

      Obviously, the sectarian vitriol from the Windsor Park crowd directed towards fellow Irish nationals during the World Cup 1994 qualifier against the Republic in November of 1993 sticks in the collective nationalist memory, as does the targeting of Neil Lennon by loyalist paramilitaries with death threats on account of his signing for Celtic. I don’t often raise those issues as they are in the past now. I tend to avoid them during these types of discussions as I feel their mention in unfair on present Northern Ireland supporters. Why I raise them here is not because I am saying there is a sectarian problem in Windsor park nowadays. Northern Ireland fans and the IFA have clearly done good work and made great strides in eradicating the more unsavoury elements, but the point I am making is that memories are strong and vivid. Maybe it’s more an image problem rather than a sectarianism problem that the IFA have to work on now. The reality has been dealt with, by and large; now it is impressions and perceptions that the IFA need to change.

      You say that anyone born in Ireland(Island) would automatically qualify for Irish Citizenship. And I believe you but Article 3 (Pending the re-integration of the national territory,….) of the Constitution does seem to hinge on Article 2 (The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland….) and the perceived legal claim to Northern Ireland. Article 3 does also “prohibit the enactment of laws applicable in the counties of Northern Ireland”.

      Again I’m not a legal gent but I would imagine that a constitutional article concerning a disputed territory may not be sound basis to award Irish Citizenship on.

      You raise an interesting conundrum and there would appear to have been a literal contradiction on the face of it. Bunreacht na hÉireann is the fundamental basis of all Irish law and all Irish legislation must not fall foul of it, but the various instruments of legislation have legal force within themselves by virtue of having been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and ratified by the President. They can be challenged and sent to the courts for adjudication, but they otherwise possess legal validity until then. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 had legal effect and was never or has never been adjudged to have fallen foul of Bunreacht na hÉireann.

      When Finlay C.J. stated in the the 1990 judgment of the case of the McGimpsey brothers that (what was then) article 3 “prohibit[ed] the enactment of laws applicable in the counties of Northern Ireland”, it would appear to have been in recognition of UK sovereignty over the north and an acknowledgement that the Irish state could not effect or enforce laws to govern the territory or to trump UK law. It is important to distinguish also between the Irish nation (and Irish nationality) and the Irish state; the Irish nation is consistently defined by the constitution as an entity that transcends and extends beyond the boundaries of the 26-county southern state. Of course, constitutional interpretation has to take the whole document into account in order to appreciate the full context; sometimes this entails a flexible balancing act or giving certain articles prominence in instances of perceived incompatibility when rigidly or literally interpreted. There’s more information on the possible meaning of what Finlay C.J. said here: http://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=aaschssldis and https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8lf1O6kWyN0C&lpg=PA79&ots=cd6awv1FEE&dq=%22prohibits%20the%20enactment%20of%20laws%20applicable%20in%20the%20counties%20of%20Northern%20Ireland%22&pg=PA79#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Interestingly, a constitutional review group proposed the following amendment to article 3 in 1967:

      “1. The Irish nation hereby proclaims its firm will that its territory be re-united in harmony and brotherly affection between all Irishmen.

      2. The laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall, until the achievement of the nation‟s unity shall otherwise require, have the like area and extent of application as the laws of the Parliament which existed prior to the adoption of this Constitution. Provision may be made by law to give extra-territorial effect to such laws.”

      By the way, the articles you are referring to are old versions that were replaced in 1999 by the constitution’s nineteenth amendment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteenth_Amendment_of_the_Constitution_of_Ireland

      This copy of the constitution is up-to-date: https://www.constitution.ie/Documents/Bhunreacht_na_hEireann_web.pdf

      The present article 3.1 features a clause similar to that which was contained in article 3 pre-1999 that reads, “Until [Irish unity], the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution”, yet there is no suggestion that the current article 2 and related nationality law is necessarily incompatible with this. The following addition was also made to article 28 in 1999: “The State may exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction in accordance with the generally recognised principles of international law.”

      As for the fruit salad of apples and pears. Alan Kernaghan qualified for NI by virtue of FIFAs rule on schooling however did not meet the IFA’s selection criteria at the time. He qualified for ROI thanks to a grandparent. I’ve seen no proof of Ulster Protestant Heritage. And the same for Adam Barton and Alex Bruce. I’ve found no evidence of their Ulster Protestant heritage.

      And on Mark McKeever and Ger. Again I have found no evidence as to how they qualified for ROI, be it by birth right or parental. Do you have a source for this information?

      The Scotsman article explicitly refers to Kernaghan’s Ulster Protestant background as well as providing other detailed information on his circumstances. They interviewed him prior to publishing the article. As I said, my understanding of the respective backgrounds of Bruce and Barton is based on information from Northern Ireland supporters. Unverified, sure, but I have no reason to disbelieve what I have been told as I don’t see any incentive to have made up such information.

      I have furnished you with plenty of evidence to demonstrate how McKeever and Crossley were eligible to play for the FAI; they were entitled to Irish nationality by virtue of their birth. As shown, Irish nationality law has had extra-territorial effect over the whole island of Ireland since 1956. The FIFA eligibility regulations in place since then are very clear in their import. There were no parental or grandparental criteria in the regulations prior to 2004, so it’s not relevant whether McKeever or Crossley, who played for the FAI in the late ’90s, had or have ancestors born in the territory of the Republic; the possession of nationality alone was sufficient to render them eligible. FIFA’s Players’ Status Committee considered all of this in 1994 upon the IFA’s request and informed the association of the following (outlined at paragraph 58 in the Kearns judgment):

      “The Committee considered this association’s statement that almost any player can obtain a Republic of Ireland passport in order to secure eligibility to play for this country. The Committee discussed this very serious matter at length and had to come to the unfortunate conclusion that FIFA cannot interfere with the decisions taken by any country in the question of granting passports. The only way that the national associations could prevent their nationals from being systematically granted passports by another country to enable them to play for its national teams would be to field them in an official match for one of their national representative teams, which would bind them to this particular association.”

      For what it’s worth, my father is Tyrone-born (pre-1999, obviously), but has never been in possession of any passport other than an Irish one. He has always been entitled to Irish citizenship on account of his birth in Tyrone. He is not unique and there are plenty of others like him.

      As for the apparent tapping up of Northern Irish Catholics…the problem of this is that tapping up is seldom formally documented for fear that the parties involved maybe in breach of a particular ruling, though I did read an article recently by Eamon Sweeney who led me to believe that such a practice exists, saying, and with reference to the FAI: “Our policy of luring promising young Catholic players below the border is in danger of creating for the first time two teams on this island entirely divided by religion.” – There’s no smoke without fire.

      Perhaps informal queries are made or possible interest is made known through unofficial channels, contacts, coaches around clubs, supporters, family, friends or others with inside connections to the FAI, sure – that’s only natural, unavoidable and to be expected as the FAI do not exist within a bubble separate from the rest of humanity or the world of football – but I am aware (through a family source) that Sean McCaffrey (a former FAI youth manager) refused to communicate with or entertain Shane Duffy until Duffy himself made his intention to switch from the IFA explicitly known to the FAI. Making a query is also a very different thing from pressurising or aggressively pursuing a player.

      There is no ruling or regulation that prohibits the approaching of eligible players by associations, so it is not as if it would matter either way, although John Delaney is also on record having stated that the FAI do not actively engage in a recruitment campaign. (Presumably this is to maintain cordial relations with the IFA, who aren’t keen on the reality, obviously, despite the fact the FAI would be doing nothing in breach of the rules and despite the fact the IFA have also been happy to make queries in respect of players registered with the FAI but also eligible to play for Northern Ireland; see the IFA’s facilitation of Alex Bruce, for example, or the attempts made to persuade Sean Scannell to switch.)

      The following was transcribed from an interview between the BBC’s Mark Carruthers and Delaney in 2011 (listen from 02:54 here):

      Mark Carruthers: “The issue of new players is an interesting one and you’ll be aware of the fact that there’ll be many people in NI who think that, perhaps, you’ve got your eye down there on too many players who could play for NI. The IFA, of course, has got Gerry Armstrong seeking to persuade young players in NI to stay and play for the NI team. How much of a hot potato do you think that issue is?”

      John Delaney: “Well, first of all, I want to say we’ve got a very good relationship with the IFA. There is, of course, the issue of eligibility which only comes up when we meet. My own view and the FAI’s view is that it’s really up to the player; whoever the player wants to play for, we’ve got to respect his or her choice.”

      Mark Carruthers: “Yeah, but you are overtly trying to persuade players to play for the Republic, are you?”

      John Delaney: “Oh, I wouldn’t agree with that at all. I would not agree with that at all. I think if a player makes it known to us that he wants to play for the Republic, then we’ll look at him, but we’re certainly not on a recruitment campaign.”

      Mark Carruthers: “Yeah, well, why not, John? Of course, there are some people who support the Republic of Ireland who would live in NI and they would say that’s precisely what you should be doing!”

      John Delaney: “No, I think it’s up to the player. The player decides that he wants to play for the Republic or the IFA. Then, it’s a matter for the association to get involved but only at that stage. I don’t think any player should be pressurised into playing for either country or whoever it is. This applies across Europe for different countries as well. It’s up to the player.”

      Mark Carruthers: “But the IFA is aggressively going out – I’m sure Gerry Armstrong wouldn’t use the word “aggressively” – but is in an up-front fashion going out there and targeting players who could play for either team saying, ‘We want you to play for NI.’ You’re saying, you’re sitting back and waiting until the player makes a decision and then falling into line; different approach…”

      John Delaney: “Yeah, different approach, but it’s up to the IFA, and I respect the IFA if they want to appoint Gerry Armstrong if they want to do that. That’s a matter for themselves. Our approach is quite simple. What you want is, you want the players who want to play for you, Mark. You don’t want to coerce them or make them play for us. That’s our approach and our approach is very simple; if a player declares for the Republic of Ireland, then we’ll assess them and bring them into the squad if he’s up to sufficient quality but we’re certainly not going out, ‘We want you to come and play for us.’ It’s a matter for the player to make his or her decision and at that stage then, we’ll take it from there.”

      Whatever the policy – whether it is as hands-on or overt as that of the IFA or not – the FAI are perfectly entitled to attempt to persuade eligible Irish nationals to play for them. The choice ultimately remains with the players and their families. The FAI cannot force anyone into playing for Ireland against their wishes.

      You’ll note that I wrote the piece above in response to Sweeney’s article. He provides no evidence for his assertion and, indeed, makes quite a number of suspect and inaccurate claims, which is what motivated me to respond. Don’t believe everything you read in the media. The British and Irish media’s understanding of the eligibility issue was consistently embarrassing, which prompted me to write this piece a few years back: http://playereligibilityinireland.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/fifa-player-eligibility-in-context-of.html

      Anyway, Sweeney’s use of language such as “luring” is unhelpful and defective. It provides an inaccurate impression in that it conveniently (for the purpose of attacking the FAI) denies the agency and cultural motivations of northern-born Irish nationals who opt to play for the FAI. They are not blind zombies or animals being lured into traps; they are cognisant, sentient and rational human beings who make a decision based on their options with the help and backing of their families.

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  5. A lot to digest there.

    I would still have to disagree with you in that I do not believe that extra-territorial citizenship was available to all born in Northern Ireland from 1956, given that it appears to hinge on a legal claim that Ireland had over Northern Ireland. A claim with uncertain validity. Though a claim I believe the Irish Government have since forgone as part of the GFA. Again I’m not a legal gent but that would be my interpretation. To be honest, I feel like around the time of the CAS result, that an outcome that Northern Ireland born players have always been able to claim Irish Citizenship by birth since 1956, and hence qualify for the ROI squad would have got a mention, but I just don’t recall that being a point in the media write up’s. Though i’ll admit that the BelTel isn’t the best of resources to be reading.

    On McKeever and Crossley, I just don’t see the evidence that you speak of. I would think it was a case that they had a grandparent from Ireland, which allowed them to seek Irish citizenship by descent. Just a theory.

    Back to this fruit salad, which is quickly becoming a smoothie. I don’t think comparison’s can be made between say Darron Gibson born and reared in Derry and Alan Kernaghan, schooled in Bangor. Darron Gibson had a choice and chose ROI. Alan Kernaghan did not have a choice. I’d imagine Alan Kernaghan simply wanted to play international football, and unable to play for NI, chose to represent the next available option, and this is probably a generation ago when international’s were seen as an opportunity rather than a risk of injury. He wanted to play football. His parents were not from Northern Ireland, and I’d imagine any Ulster Protestant heritage probably wasn’t a huge influence growing up. A fair comparison would be James McClean from the Bogside vs Jonny Evans from Tigers Bay. The FAI are obviously not against choosing a protestant born and raised in Northern Ireland, as it would only increase the pool of players to pick from, but as you have outlined already, it just wouldn’t happen. Few players would be interested.

    On tapping up, I understand that Sweeney obviously has an agenda but like I said there is no smoke with out fire, whether it be via unofficial channels, it does happen. If it happens in club football, then one would assume that the same practice would make its way to the international scene aswell. And as you say, for the sake of cordial relations between FAI and IFA, John Delaney is never going to admit to any sort of unofficial policy, though I’ll admit he would be in breach of no rule if such a policy existed.

    As for the IFA, they got it wrong with the CAS case. And over a player that has recently signed for Glenavon. It was at the time a quick fix, given that the anti-sectarian campaign was still in its infancy. Lessons learned and I do believe they are getting broadband internet soon aswell. Unfortunately a NI vs ROI game is always going to attract a few hangoners, and on both sides. The sectarian abuse was not just limited to Windsor Park. Lansdowne Road was not the most welcoming of places for a Northern Ireland fan.

    As I mentioned on JudeCollins.com(not sure of the relation) but he IFA have done tremendous work in trying to squash those elements you’ve mentioned. Their anti-sectarianism campaign is worth noting. Struggling to find a similar FAI initiative. That being said, rumored sectarianism is not limited to Windsor Park. Lansdowne seems to quake when ever a Rangers player(past or present) touches the ball while visiting with his national team(Think Shota arveladze circa 2003). But again that can’t be helped. The IFA I don’t think can be held account for the Neil Lennon incident and I wished it had never happened. I read somewhere that Republicans had made similar threats to George Best during The Troubles. The IFA can loose a generation of potential Northern Ireland supporters due to outside influences. The FAI can invest little or no money and still attract nationalist support from NI. Its a very difficult situation.

    I still think that no matter what the IFA do, there will always be an element that will opt to support and play for ROI. And that’s ok. Just so long as its not for reasons of Windsor Park/Tayto Castle being a “cold house” to Catholics because it just isn’t like this anymore. Though it doesn’t help when commentators such as Jude pass comment, having never visiting the stadium and certainly not in the last 10 years. Ohh well….

    and again….if sectarianism is a concern then one would only have to listen to John Delaney on the Karaoke…pitch perfect.

    best,

    aRon

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    1. I would still have to disagree with you in that I do not believe that extra-territorial citizenship was available to all born in Northern Ireland from 1956, given that it appears to hinge on a legal claim that Ireland had over Northern Ireland.

      I assure you, Irish citizenship has been available on an extra-territorial ‘jus soli’ basis to persons born north of the border since 1956. This is undisputed fact. I thought it was common knowledge. See JM Kelly’s ‘The Irish Constitution’ or here for confirmation, although the wording of the legislation to which I have linked you is very clear: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_nationality_law#Historical_provisions, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_nationality_law#Before_2005 and http://www.ucd.ie/ibis/filestore/wp2006/68/68_boc.pdf

      I’m not sure why you’re still disputing the veracity of an act of parliament. Kelly and Ó Caoindealbháin viewed the extension as a conferral or imposition. The latter viewed it as “”one of the few practical expressions of the Irish state’s irredentism”. Even Lord Brookborough complained and, in tabling a parliamentary motion at the time, repudiated “the gratuitous attempt … to inflict unwanted Irish Republican nationality upon the people of Northern Ireland”. I’m not so sure I fully concur with those rather hard interpretations myself insofar as a mere entitlement was extended. Citizenship was not imposed against the will of any possible subject. Either way, the extra-territorial application was still an undisputed fact.

      Enquire with Citizens Information for confirmation if you really wish, but I’ve supplied you with more than enough evidence: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/irish_citizenship_through_birth_or_descent.html

      The extension of the entitlement to citizenship north of the border did not rest on the territorial claim over the entire island. The two were ideologically related to a motivation to subvert the border, certainly, but they were also legally separate.

      To be honest, I feel like around the time of the CAS result, that an outcome that Northern Ireland born players have always been able to claim Irish Citizenship by birth since 1956, and hence qualify for the ROI squad would have got a mention, but I just don’t recall that being a point in the media write up’s. Though i’ll admit that the BelTel isn’t the best of resources to be reading.

      You’re correct. It’s not. Do you put your entire faith in the mainstream media to supply you with all your information? The media’s understanding of the eligibility issue was exceptionally and frustratingly poor. That criticism applies especially to the BBC and the Belfast Telegraph who consistently got it completely wrong, so I’m not sure why you assume they would have reported particular intricacies or why you would think such facts might be non-existent simply because you didn’t hear of them in the mainstream press. I’m afraid you’re ducking your head in the sand in the face of evidence that challenges your previous understanding. FIFA confirmed matters in 1994. The regulations and legislation are there in black and white.

      Also, as I stated, the Court of Arbitration for Sport acknowledged the following at paragraph 56 in the Kearns judgment:

      “The FAI for its part contends that the status of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland has never been discussed and that the FAI has never accepted that Irish citizens could not be selected for its team, whether they were living in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. Moreover, as appears from his letter, the FIFA General Secretary based his position on “Art. 21 al. 2 of the Regulations of the F.I.F.A.” which stated that the players must be “subjects of the country they represent”. Such a wording does not on its face exclude the possibility that a player may be selected on the basis of his citizenship alone and without any other connection to the country he represents.”

      I don’t think comparison’s can be made between say Darron Gibson born and reared in Derry and Alan Kernaghan, schooled in Bangor. Darron Gibson had a choice and chose ROI. Alan Kernaghan did not have a choice. I’d imagine Alan Kernaghan simply wanted to play international football, and unable to play for NI, chose to represent the next available option, and this is probably a generation ago when international’s were seen as an opportunity rather than a risk of injury. He wanted to play football. His parents were not from Northern Ireland, and I’d imagine any Ulster Protestant heritage probably wasn’t a huge influence growing up.

      But Kernaghan grew up within the dynamic of the north. Even though he says his family were not church-going and that religion “meant diddly” to him, his family identified as being from the Ulster Protestant community and his father, the son of either one or two northern Protestants who had moved to Leeds, brought him to Northern Ireland games regularly. Kernaghan even went on to play for the Northern Ireland schoolboy team. He very much partook in what you might call the cultural fabric of northern unionist society. It was the reason he was singled out in particular for such a hostile reception of non-stop abuse by the hostile Windsor Park crowd back in 1993; they saw him as a “Judas”. You say Kernaghan played for Ireland simply because he wanted to play international football and you are correct. I’m not sure why that matters though; the FAI still happily selected him.

      The reason we are discussing Kernaghan (and not Gibson or McClean, who are from nationalist backgrounds) is because it demonstrates the FAI’s willingness to select those from both sides of the community in the north. The reason it is important is because the FAI have been accused of employing a sectarian, Catholics-only policy. He confirms this in the Scotsman interview. You mention Johnny Evans; the FAI would have happily considered him too had ever he expressed an interest in playing for the FAI.

      On tapping up, I understand that Sweeney obviously has an agenda but like I said there is no smoke with out fire, whether it be via unofficial channels, it does happen.

      If contact is via unofficial channels, isn’t it unfair to hold the FAI institutionally guilty? That’s if one sees it as an issue worthy of criticism or condemnation in the first place. I don’t see the big deal myself. Nobody’s being forced into doing anything against their will.

      As for the IFA, they got it wrong with the CAS case. And over a player that has recently signed for Glenavon. It was at the time a quick fix, given that the anti-sectarian campaign was still in its infancy. Lessons learned and I do believe they are getting broadband internet soon aswell. Unfortunately a NI vs ROI game is always going to attract a few hangoners, and on both sides. The sectarian abuse was not just limited to Windsor Park. Lansdowne Road was not the most welcoming of places for a Northern Ireland fan.

      The IFA do appear to have taken responsibility for their own affairs and seem to be moving in the right direction in accepting the choice player’s have and, instead of negative complaining, attacking the FAI or behaving vindictively towards uninterested players, now seem to acknowledge, positively, that it is the association’s duty to persuade eligible players to opt for Northern Ireland by presenting an incentive to them. I’ve never been to Windsor Park myself, bar visiting for a Setanta Cup game when Linfield hosted Derry City back in 2006, but I understand the IFA and their fans have done good work on eradicating sectarianism from international games; that should be acknowledged and commended.

      I’d like to think most of the booing of Rangers players on opposing teams in Lansdowne Road was pantomime – not saying all of it was, nor am I denying that there are bad eggs within Ireland’s support too – although the FAI have made efforts to educate supporters to stamp this sort of thing out nevertheless. The FAI also have a ‘Football For All’ programme, an intercultural programme and an inclusive supporters club.

      Oh, and Jude is a first-cousin-once-removed.

      I still think that no matter what the IFA do, there will always be an element that will opt to support and play for ROI. And that’s ok. Just so long as its not for reasons of Windsor Park/Tayto Castle being a “cold house” to Catholics because it just isn’t like this anymore. Though it doesn’t help when commentators such as Jude pass comment, having never visiting the stadium and certainly not in the last 10 years. Ohh well….

      What you say is fair enough in the sense that I think the anthem and symbols the IFA wish to use is their business and their business solely. One might question whether or not certain symbols are compatible with claims of cross-communal inclusiveness, but, ultimately, whether or not the IFA are guilty of a degree of hypocrisy on this front or not, it’s their business. I think we as nationalists ought to acknowledge that these issues are red herrings insofar as who we support is concerned. We don’t need excuses to support our team. I mean, the IFA could adopt neutral symbolism or symbolism to my personal liking but it wouldn’t make a difference to me in the sense I just don’t identify with the entity. Simply put, my national identity is channelled through the FAI’s team. I grew up supporting the Ireland team and the idea of supporting Northern Ireland simply never even entered into the equation. It wasn’t as if I made a choice or as if there was a choice to be made. They were simply just another team, like England, Scotland or Wales, I guess. The same applies for most nationalists in the north.

      and again….if sectarianism is a concern then one would only have to listen to John Delaney on the Karaoke…pitch perfect.

      I have no personal qualms with what is a fairly inoffensive republican folk song lyrically-speaking. The content isn’t actually sectarian or that highly-charged, is it? It refers primarily to notions of self-defence, courage and self-sacrifice and was written in memory of a dead hunger-striker. It’s not baying for Protestant blood or anything of that nature in the way the infamous ‘Billy Boys’ is overtly hateful and violent against “fenians”, but I appreciate that the militant republican associations can cause discomfort for unionists. Do you really think Delaney was advocating sectarianism or intimidation though, or lauding militant republicanism by singing a rebel ballad in the pub of a leafy Dublin suburb (not particularly the hardest of republican heartlands now)? I think he was just trying to be “one of the lads”, and didn’t do a very good job of it either.

      Nevertheless, Delaney is a man with a diplomatic duty and he ought to have realised that singing such a song whilst pissed in public was always going to have offended someone or that there was always the potential for it to have been interpreted deviously. On that basis, it was unprofessional, as far as I’m concerned, especially as he didn’t have the nous to avoid embarrassing the association.

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  6. […] I don’t have it in for Eamonn Sweeney, honest, but he wrote another piece in the Irish Independent two weekends ago that happened to catch my attention. This one asserted and celebrated the inclusiveness of the Irish rugby team and its ability to capture the imagination of everyone in Ireland, no matter where on on societal spectrum they may find themselves; be they privileged, or disadvantaged or be they north or south. […]

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  7. Thanks Dan for the discussion.

    Again, I don’t think either one of us is a legal gent and I will have to defer my judgement to those of legal standing. I still don’t believe that extra-territorial citizenship was valid in Northern Ireland pre-GFA, and if it was I find it very bizarre that so few players opted to play for the ROI squad especially given the length of time that the constitutional article stood for. However, if everything you say is legally valid, then you deserve a greater platform than WordPress, and Steven Beacon should be dusting the cobwebs off his bebo account. We’ll agree to disagree.

    Fare point. The FAI are not against choosing players of Ulster Protestant Heritage. Darron Gibson qualified for both NI and ROI. Alan Kernaghan qualified for ROI. Thats the difference for me. By all accounts had the IFA not imposed such a selection criteria in the 80s and 90s then I am certain that Kernaghan would of played for the national team. Football fans, not being the brightest of sparks probably thought that Kernaghan was a “judas”, “Raised in NI, how could he play for themmuns”, not knowing the situation or back story. Certainly stories from the Northern Ireland fanzine “Happy Days” paints a dark picture of visits to Lansdowne Road, certainly not pantomime…….just reminded of the abuse Sol Campbell got on his return to White Hart Lane with Arsenal. That was pretty bad.

    I think on Delaney, he should know better. “The Sash” lyrically is unoffensive, but you can imagine the fall out if Patrick Nelson(IFA) had been filmed singing The Sash in the Chelsea Wine Bar(middle class establishment) on the Lisburn Road….The 2 are comparable but the FAI and ROI team lost no support as a result. The IFA and the NI team can not afford such a slip up.

    And as an Irish League Fan, be worried. As soon as I win the euro millions a giant carrot will dangled in front of the candystripes, with the promise of a new stadium for their return to the IL. Would be fantastic.

    best,

    aRon

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    1. Not a problem. More than happy to discuss. Thank you for your interest in the blog. Always great to hear some alternative and challenging perspectives.

      I must correct you though on your assertion as to my lack of legal standing; I graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a law degree in 2008. Of course, that doesn’t automatically render what I’m saying right, but if you’re not prepared to accept my word for it in respect of the effect of the 1956 act, at least take the word of JM Kelly for it. He was the pre-eminent authority on Bunreacht na hÉireann and Irish constitutional law, which I studied under Gerard Hogan, who is one of the foremost constitutional lawyers in Ireland. Oran Doyle, another past professor of mine and current head of the law school at the university, is on Twitter, if you’d like to ask him?: https://twitter.com/oran_doyle

      I’ve given you evidence, solid explanations and reasoned theory, but you inexplicably continue to stick your head back in the sand… I’m at a loss.

      Ha, now that you mention him, I have had to pull Beacom up on a few things.

      I don’t suppose you could post up scans/good-quality photos of the stories from ‘Happy Days’ fanzine? I’d be interested in reading them.

      Patrick Nelson singing ‘The Sash’ wouldn’t bother, offend or outrage me one bit, but I can imagine it would cause an undesired stir for the IFA.

      Ha, not sure I could ever see Derry moving back to the Irish League. It’s something that raises its head in the local media every now and again when someone pipes up about it, usually under the presumption that change equates to progress. I don’t think it would be good for the club though. There’s more money and better competition in the League of Ireland. Slightly. The chances of European progression are also better, which is the real next step. Not that the club are having a good time of late, mind. Nevertheless, Derry and the supporters are very much at home in the League of Ireland. They feel and are an integral part of it now.

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  8. I think my head is in the sand, because I just simply can not understand why so few players opted to represent ROI instead of NI given their Irish Citizenship qualification, and the length of time the constitutional article was in place for. That’s the seed of doubt. Its all in the past now anyway.

    I can’t find too much by way of the articles that Happy Days posted, online, and sadly all the issues I’ve purchased are at my parents house. It’s typically on sale before NI games, at the Lower Windsor foot bridge. You’ll just have to go along to one of the games to get your copy 🙂

    I glance over that airtricity league every once and a while. I would argue that the league is not on the most solid of financial footings given the number of clubs who have hit the skids including Derry City, but think DCFC could do a lot worse than rejoin the league. It doesn’t appear to be too cost effective given the travel involved for the club. Anyway,it all hinges on a euro millions win.

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    1. Players were not aware of the rules and their related rights at the time. Martin O’Neill once said as much; he didn’t believe the option was open to him. We live in the information age now. Access to this stuff is straightforward for any fan or player. In those days, you were relying on the association to keep you informed. Were the IFA going to be informing Irish nationals born in the north that they were eligible to play for the FAI? Unlikely.

      Indeed, the FAI asked Belfast-born Jimmy McGeough Sr. if he’d be interested in representing them back in the late 1960s. There was obviously an assumption or understanding there that he was eligible as an Irish national. He responded positively to their invitation and, for some reason, they asked McGeough to seek approval from FIFA, but Harry Cavan (who was both head of the IFA and the vice-president of FIFA at the time) put a halt to McGeough’s ambitions and said at the time that Northern Ireland needed all players eligible for them and that the IFA had plans themselves for the player. The fact that Cavan offered that reasoning, rather than simply saying, “sorry, Jimmy, you’re not eligible”, would also contribute to the indication that persons born north of the border who sought to effect their entitlement to Irish nationality, open to them since 1956, were eligible in principle to play for the FAI.

      Of course, football associations and FIFA were run a bit less formally in those days, but, as far as I’m concerned, it was an abuse of power by Cavan that overlooked the rules that we can now see were clearly in place at the time. In the modern era, it would have constituted a deprivation of McGeough’s nationality rights.

      McGeough feels similarly and remains bitter, as he never actually went on to represent anyone at international level, yet he would have had a career with the FAI had it not been for Cavan’s intransigence. I spoke to McGeough about half a year or so ago in relation to it. It seems to me that the FAI cow-towed to Cavan, who was a very powerful figure in those days; he “pulled a lot of strings”, as Jimmy said. I have asked the FAI for clarification and further information on this matter, although it’s been difficult to get an answer from them despite me having spoken to their head of communications and everything. They were to have someone check the minutes from meetings in the late 1960s for me, but I have heard nothing back. Perhaps, it would embarrass them to reveal they had been unnecessarily deferential to power in the past.

      It seems, at some point in the past, there may have been some informal or unwritten convention whereby associations who wanted to select a player born in the territory of another association were expected to first seek the permission of the association concerned. I have no further details on that convention other than the mention of it in the cutting below from a 1969 edition of ‘Goal’, so no idea of its actual legality, nature, integrity, how extensive it was, which associations conducted themselves in accordance with it or when it would have fallen out of “use”.

      I wrote a bit further on it here: http://foot.ie/threads/147164-Eligibility-Rules-Okay?p=1823188&viewfull=1#post1823188

      And here after asking a legal expert in the field of FIFA’s eligibility rules, Yann Hafner, about McGeough’s situation: http://foot.ie/threads/147164-Eligibility-Rules-Okay?p=1830288&viewfull=1#post1830288

      Yann Hafner was not aware of any such regulation having been in formal writing or force and it is likely he would know given his extensive knowledge of the subject and its history. Of course, that’s not to say he didn’t miss it, but, as I say, his extensive knowledge would render that unlikely.

      And, no, ha, I certainly wasn’t boasting about the financial state of the League of Ireland. It falters along, but I do think there is greater potential in it, or a higher ceiling, if you will. I think Derry would be best of staying put.

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  9. Dan, you have convinced me. The tipping point was “We live in the information age now.”. The internet is a wonderful thing. I think that if the internet had been around in the 50’s then probably more players would of gone south. Had this been the case, the IFA present day would be facing an almighty task of trying to change something that probably would have become the norm.

    On the other hand, I don’t think too many players would have regrets about playing for Northern Ireland. Martin O’Neill, Gerry Armstrong, Jim Magilton and even Neill Lennon all seemed to enjoy playing for Northern Ireland. Obviously Neill Lennon should of played longer and I wish he had, but for reasons that a person should never have to deal with, finished early

    Actually Neill Lennon has been to a few NI games recently and been very complimentary about the team. His wording is something that NI fans have picked up on the forums when he refers to the teams success as “our” and “we”. Future NI manager I would say.

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