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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Pundits attack FAI's move to commemorate massacre

Roy Keane wore a black armband in 1997 to mark Princess Diana's death.
Roy Keane wore a black armband in 1997 to mark Princess Diana's death.

Mark Hilliard

EAMON Dunphy and John Giles yesterday criticised the decision to have the Ireland team wear black armbands during the match against Italy at Euro 2012 on June 18.

The FAI confirmed yesterday that Ireland will make the symbolic gesture to commemorate the victims of a loyalist massacre in a Co Down village on the 18th anniversary of the atrocity.

The armbands will be worn in memory of the victims of the Loughinisland shooting on June 18, in 1994.

Six Catholic men were killed by UVF gunmen as Ireland played Italy at the World Cup in the US.

The families contacted the FAI about marking the anniversary and they in turn requested permission from the tournament's governing authority UEFA for the commemoration.

UEFA gave the go-ahead, but both of RTE's leading football pundits said yesterday that such overtly political issues should not have a place in football.

Mr Dunphy said it was "getting into dangerous territory".

"My own view would be no, I don't think it is particularly appropriate," he told the Irish Independent.

"I think reopening the wounds of a fresh conflict is probably not the wisest thing to do.

"I would say don't go there, you're into dangerous territory. And for footballers and sports people in general, they wouldn't always have the political antennae, should we say."

He added that there were other nations involved in the tournament -- including Croatia and Russia -- with "dark histories".

"We would want to be very careful about dragging politics into sport," he said.

Mr Dunphy pointed out that he wore an armband himself to commemorate Bloody Sunday in Derry while playing for London club Millwall in 1972.

"I wore a black armband the Saturday after Bloody Sunday playing for Millwall, which was a gesture which all the other Irish players refused to join me in," he said.

"It was a personal thing, to show English people who knew nothing about why they were even in Ireland, that this had happened. But I would be very careful about that kind of stuff."

'Sentiments'

Speaking during RTE's launch of the Euro 2012 coverage in Dublin yesterday, Mr Giles also expressed concern about the move.

"I would prefer to see it kept out of it," Mr Giles said in relation to the politicisation of tournaments.

"I can understand some of the sentiments (surrounding) any atrocity.

"I don't know whose decision it was but I wouldn't be in favour of it." However, FAI chief executive John Delaney said yesterday that the black armbands were an opportunity to "remember all those who lost their lives in the Troubles".

Niall Murphy, the solicitor acting on behalf of the victims' families, thanked the FAI and UEFA for the decision.

"The families are touched that this tragic event can be commemorated on such a poignant day," he said.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the massacre in which two men walked into the rural pub and opened fire.

Adrian Rogan (34); Malcolm Jenkinson (53); Barney Greene (87); Daniel McCreanor (59); Patrick O'Hare (35); and Eamon Byrne (39) were all killed.

In 1997, the Irish team controversially wore black armbands before a World Cup qualifier away in Iceland to mark the passing of Diana, Princess of Wales, a week earlier.

Then-manager Mick McCarthy was prominent in the decision, stating that: "Princess Diana wasn't just a British celebrity -- she belonged to the world."

Irish Independent

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