MUCH has been made of the FAI’s decision to oblige a request to wear black armbands during the Euro 2012 fixture against Italy on June 18th.
To re-cap, the FAI have agreed to wear black armbands to commemorate the victims of the Loughinisland massacre at the request of the bereaved. There is a rationale behind the request – the game against Italy in June this year, falls on the exact date that Ireland played Italy in the 1994 World Cup, when the massacre occurred. The solicitor of the families, Niall Murphy, said that it was a warm source of comfort that there was an opportunity for such a tribute to happen on such a “poignant day”.
This small and admirable gesture has, nevertheless, sparked a latent bitterness towards the FAI. Most recently, that rabid anti-Sinn Féiner Eoghan Harris has branded the move “foolish”. Mr Harris is critical of the FAI’s supposed decision to single out the suffering of one community and asks whether the FAI will also commemorate the suffering of those from ‘the other side’.
He then places this act by the FAI within the wider political context and, specifically, if somewhat strangely, alongside the efforts of Sinn Féin (as though the FAI were linked to the party) as Ireland approaches the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
However, Mr Harris’ brazen objection is ultimately superfluous, since the FAI CEO John Delaney has gone on record to say that the commemoration is an “opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives in the troubles”. While it may be erroneously construed as favouring one community, Delaney’s statement demonstrates that there is clearly an unwillingness within the FAI to favour one “side” or the other.
Even the question of which “side” those who were massacred were on is, in itself, an insulting one as it requires the spectator to carelessly guess, as Mr Harris has done, as to the spiritual and political beliefs of the victims. It was, in actual fact, such callous guesswork which led to the slaughter of Adrian Rogan, Malcolm Jenkinson, Barney Greene, Patrick O’Hare, Daniel McCreanor and Eamon Byrne who were ‘chosen’ because of the perverted assumption that those who would be watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy inside the bar would be Catholic.
Mr Harris’ insistence that the FAI adhere to some kind of base tit-for-tat approach to commemoration is misguided and it imposes the typical tribal political parameters on the association. In reality, the FAI have agreed to facilitate the wishes of the family because of the connection of the tragic event to the Republic of Ireland football team as well as the coincidental date and opposition of the upcoming fixture. That John Delaney stressed that it also presents an opportunity to remember all victims of the Troubles seems to have been conveniently missed by many agitated protestors.