Tuesday 12 December 2017

Tackles fly over Belfast rugby anthem

Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

LEADING figures in Ulster rugby are irate with the IRFU at "bringing politics into Irish rugby" by changing a rule to "ban" the playing of God Save the Queen at home internationals held in Belfast.

They have accused the bosses at the IRFU of deliberately changing the rules ahead of the recent game against Italy at Ravenhill to ensure that the British anthem wouldn't be played or the Union Jack raised.

Former Irish international Trevor Ringland and Unionist Lord John Laird of Artigarvan are seeking a meeting with the IRFU in order to voice their strong objections.

The rule change meant that any game held in Belfast is deemed to be an away game, so only Ireland's Call was played.Before the Italy game, Ireland's last game in Belfast was back in the 1950s. Up to then, the hosting of home games alternated between Dublin and Belfast. It was the custom that in Dublin Amhran na bhFiann was played and that in Belfast God Save the Queen was played.

According to the complainants, many Unionist figures in the north are "seething with anger" and if the decision is not reversed, it underlines why Unionists are Unionists, in that they can't get fairness and equality from a small section of the Irish decision making process.

They contend that for years they have had to come down to Dublin to watch Ireland play and be respectful to the "racist and highly offensive" Amhran na bhFiann, which they say lauds the slaying of Saxons. Lord Laird told the Sunday Independent: "I call for sanity by taking politics out of rugby by giving the two states on the island of Ireland equal status as agreed in the Belfast Agreement. "If we are not allowed in Belfast to have our national anthem and our flag flown at internationals, then it is only common sense and in the interests of equality that the Soldier's Song and the tricolour should not be used in Dublin."

Trevor Ringland, who was capped 34 times for Ireland, said in a letter to the Sunday Independent: "As we move forward, it is a choice between taking all anthems out of our sport, leaving Ireland's Call, or we can continue with the deal whereby the Soldier's Song is played in Dublin, and our anthem in Belfast.

"This season, despite our history, I will stand for the Soldier's Song while the Irish tricolour flies. I hope in return that when the Irish team play in Belfast in the future, those from the south can return the gesture of respect."

The Ulster board are hoping that while Lansdowne Road is out of action, that further international matches could be held in Belfast.

In response, the IRFU denied there was any rule change and that the protocol in Belfast was agreed by delegates from all four provinces, including Ulster. A spokes-man for the organisation said: "All games held within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland, will see the tricolour flown and Amhran na Bhfiann played. Outside that it is Ireland's Call. That is the union's policy."

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