Answer : When they do a Talkback special on an All-Ireland football team.

Today’s Talkback show on Radio Ulster featured a twenty minute debate on wether there should be an All-Ireland football team. What propmted this, is the news that the IFA are going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to try and stop players from Northern Ireland with no ties to the Republic of Ireland playing for the Republic.

Almost as bad as the tedious nature of the subject matter was the fact that the show was full of factual errors when making their case studies, and in some cases, often being one sided with their arguements and debates.

We begin with being told by presenter Wendy Austin that “This sort of thing has been going on since time immorial”. No, it hasn’t.

It’s a recent phenomenon. Before the likes of Darron Gibson in recent years, name me the last player born in Northern Ireland to have played for the Republic of Ireland?

It’s only since a loophole has allowed the FAI to behave like this and get away with it, that they have been doing it.

We then get told by journalist Aiden Fitzmaurice of the Dublin Evening Herald that “It happens all over the game”, before citing the example of Nigerian and Polish immigrants to the Republic of Ireland who may decline the opportunity to play for the Republic of Ireland in order to play for Nigeria or Poland, as if to justify the FAI’s actions.

But those are two totally different matters. If you are born in Poland and grow up in the Republic of Ireland, you have dual nationality under FIFA rules, and can choose to play for either country.

A player born in Northern Ireland, growing up in Northern Ireland with Northern Irish parentage is only eligable to play for Northern Ireland.

There’s no parallel between the two cases.

I’ve criticised the IFA in the past on various issues, but they are totally correct to go outside of FIFA in order to correct this injustice, which can potentially divide Northern Ireland football society, as you could have a situation where you have attitudes such as “The prads play for da norf and da kafflics play for da souf” becoming the norm, due to the specific targeting of the players the FAI have poached, and attempted to poach.

Unbelievably, when Belfast Telegraph journalist Steven Beacom is introduced, he is told “These things happen”

With questioning like that, implying that the IFA are somehow digging their heels in and wasting people’s time, you can only see the show going one way.

To justify the “These things happen”, we are given the case study that there are players in the England Cricket team who aren’t born in England.

We are not talking about Cricket, we are talking about Football. Who plays for who in other sports is totally irrelevent to this issue. She might have well pointed out that a Welsh person sang Cyprus Eurovision entry.

But sure, as Wendy points out, “They might change their mind”, as if to suggest that the Northern Ireland football team is some sort of 1am sloppy seconds should they get turned down by the Republic of Ireland.

As Beacom points out, “We don’t want players who don’t want to play for Northern Ireland”. That’s not the point. Our international team is being raped and pillaged by another association, and players who don’t want to play for us should be allowed to just walk along to another country they have NO AFFILIATION with.

A caller ‘Graham’ spoke some sense, highlighting the point about the potential of this issue to divide football and society in Northern Ireland.

Like any debate about football in Northern Ireland, it didn’t take long for “The L Word” to be mentioned, as many texters were to speak about Neil Lennon.

What happened to Neil Lennon against Norway was unacceptable. Unlike a lot of people who have commented on the issue, I was there. There was booing, but it was by a small minority for a small period of time.

It was too many people and lasted for too long, but it certainly wasn’t to the extreme that some people make out.

A texter then helpfully points out that “They got rid of Neil Lennon”, without actually stating who ‘They’ are.

If ‘They’ are the IFA, it seems strange when you consider that the same Neil Lennon is currently doing his UEFA Pro Licence coaching badges with the IFA, and is even pictured in the current edition of the IFA’s magazine, wearing a Northern Ireland training top.

We are then told of the German World Cup team, with their side “made up of 8 nationalities”, failing to mention that the players have been living in Germany long enough to gain citizenship, basically echoing the point about the Poles and Nigerians now living in the Republic of Ireland, which is totally different from the matter that the IFA are debating.

“You could forgive young people for not playing for Northern Ireland due to the IFA shambles” without actually highlighting what sort of “Shambles” actually stops players from playing for Northern Ireland.

Aiden Fitzmaurice then states that “You can’t tell someone from West Belfast they are not Irish”. You can consider yourself “Irish” and play for Northern Ireland, such is the complex wording of nationality in Northern Ireland, but is he actually from (or eligible to play for) the Republic of Ireland, is the issue at point.

We are then given a case study of Alex Bruce being eligible to play for Republic of Ireland due to a Bangor born granmother, though not stating wether she was born before or after partition, which is the key issue which made Alan Kernaghan eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland.

Caller ‘Joanna’ then helpfully tells us that we should have an All-Ireland football team, because “People would really get behind it” Really?

An All-Ireland football team would underwhelm me and wouldn’t get my support. Why should I have to travel to Dublin and change currency in order to travel to watch “My” country? How many games would they play in Northern Ireland? How would I be able to relate to this team?

A Great Britian football team would get the same respons. I’m from Northern Ireland, and they are the international team I support and relate to the most.

Everytime we have these debates about a potential All-Ireland football team, we always get told of why there should be such a team, but never why there shouldn’t be such a team.

If there actually was an All-Ireland team, would they actually achieve more than what Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are achieving?

Of course, the usual “they have it in other sports” was used to justify this team, as listeners seem to forget tha the rules of football competitions are different to other sports, and you can’t have one set of rules for all sports.

Personally, I thought Beacom performed poorly on the show, speaking a lot but saying very little, and when he did say something, he was usually sitting on the fence.

Most disappointly of all, was that the BBC’s text response seemed to focus more on those making allegations of sectarianism against Northern Ireland fans.

One texter, suggested that the players choose the Republic because they are “more successful”, ignoring the fact that the Republic have only reached one tournament since 1994.

I suppose if you consider being more successful at not qualifying as success, then go ahead.

Another texter used the case study of the half-German, half-Ghanian Boateng brothers. The THIRD time such a point has been made, without correction that it is totally different to the point that the IFA are arguing against.

It dooesn’t matter wether the likes of Kearns, Gibson and Wilson win 1 cap or 100 caps, the principle remains that they are Northern Ireland players, not Republic of Ireland players.

The FAI were quick to squeal about “Fair play and ethics” last November in Paris, but don’t practice it themselves in their player selection policy.

School bullies, nothing more, which is why the IFA are right to stand up to them and challenge them, with hopefully the CAS seeing our point of view.

What the FAI are doing is far worse for the integrity of the game that what Thierry Henry did last November, and if the IFA are successful in overturning this, it will be a far greater victory that any three points gained in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers.

Talkback, 20.7.2010 (20 minutes in)

Time To Stand Up To The School Bullies Of International Football


  1. To whom it may concern,

    Catholic born players from Northern Ireland don’t want to play for the IFA because of the following;

    1 “God save the Queen” is player before games.
    2 The English flag used ( with small changes)
    3 Windsor park is used ( Linfield home pitch)
    4 What happen to Neil Lennon !!!
    5 Better team and players in the Republic of Ireland
    6 More success World cup 1990,1994,2002 ( when is the last time the N Ireland went to a World Cup?

    Change these factors or at least 1-3 and may be catholic may play for the North.


    Macdara Ó Miacháin

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