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Rebels up in arms over 'racist' flag

CORK'S Rebel army of GAA supporters are threatening revolt over moves to ban the use of Confederate flags at matches - amid claims the banner is racist.

Cork County Board has tried to defuse the row but the Socialist Workers Party is adamant that the flag is both insulting and demeaning to those from specific cultural backgrounds. Ironically, the row over controversial flags is the second to hit Cork's GAA hierarchy. A major spat occurred 10 years ago after photographs of a championship match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh depicted a red and white Afrikaaner flag being flown from the stadium's Blackrock end.

The Cork board insisted it has done what it can to remind fans to avoid insulting symbols or flags - including PA announcements at major matches. Cork board chairman Jim Forbes pointed out that most fans aren't even aware of the connotations of the flag. "The only reason people use this (Confederate) flag is because it is red and white, there is no ulterior motive involved," he explained. "We have asked people not to use the flag on a number of occasions - what more can we possibly do?"

However, the Socialist Workers Party - which last June captured its first Cork City Council seat - has demanded tougher action. SWP official Joe Moore pointed out that, because of Ireland's increasingly multi-cultural society, many people could find such flags and symbols insulting.

The party has particularly pointed to the use of the Confederate flag by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan - arguing that that is reason enough for it to be banned. The SWP are now demanding tougher action from Cork's GAA authorities and, if necessary, the confiscation of such flags. However, some Cork fans have reacted with horror to the proposal. "How can it mean that I'm racist because I'm flying a Confederate flag? Cork is the Rebel County and that's the Rebel flag," north Cork GAA fan JJ Joyce declared. "There are lots of lads who fly the Japanese 'rising sun' flag simply because it is red and white. That doesn't mean that they would have supported the Japanese at Pearl Harbour in World War II."

Cork GAA officials have rejected as "totally unworkable" suggestions that flags be checked before games.