Tuesday 24 January 2017

How the Zika virus put paid to a unique chance to move on from vexed issue of flags and emblems

Published 23/06/2016 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy has previously said he feels he has more in common with the UK than with the Republic. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Rory McIlroy has previously said he feels he has more in common with the UK than with the Republic. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The decision of Rory McIlory to pull out of representing Ireland at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, ostensibly on health reasons, is not just a blow to golf and sports fans but also to those of us who'd like a moving on from contentious flags and emblems on the island of Ireland. And in both islands - yes, even in the week of a Brexit vote!

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Granted, we must accept that McIlroy's reason for withdrawal is his legitimate concern about the threat of the Zika virus in Rio, despite the reassurances of Olympic officials. However, there will be those who will still be convinced that politics might have played a part.

McIlroy is from Northern Ireland and is very proud of his specific Northern Irish heritage, scorning the flag-waving elements of both communities. He epitomises the new post-Troubles North, which out of a sense of alienation from both Britain and the South has learned to stand on its own feet and enjoy its own shared heritage and success, especially at sport, at which it has excelled: George Best, Danny Blanchflower, Dennis Taylor and Alex Higgins. The list is long, and all of these were proud of their Northern Irish background, even more so as it was in contrast to the world-view of the North as violent and divided.

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