Monday 4 June 2012

Dissendents not news they are 106 years late

The news that dissident republicans caused a minor detour to the Olympic torch today near the Guildhall in Derry is a sad indication of a few still holding to the past. Especially as the Torch is actually traveling to Dublin on Wednesday as a reflection that team Northern Ireland athletes will be taking part under two flags in 54v days time.

Although maybe it is just their way of honouring the first Olympic protest in the 1906 Intercalated Games.

Cumberland born Peter O'Connor who was raised in Wicklow. He won gold in the hop, step and jump. But didn't want the Union Flag to be raised in his honour. Of course he was representing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the time. He climbed the flag pole while protected by other Irish and American athletes and hoisted a flag as a protest for Irish nationalism.

Of course 16 years later there was a division in the island of Ireland. 18 years after that protest in 1924 Ireland made their Olympic debut. Four years after that debut the Tricolour was raised for the first time for Pat O'Callaghan winning the hammer.

We have come a long way since then. Or at least it would appear a lot of us have. We have come an awfully long way in the last 14 years especially.

It is a shame that a small handful of people want to not only break the feeling of togetherness that all the people of Ireland and especially Northern Ireland have been feeling as the Torch progresses. We have had GAA players handing the torch unto protestant neighbours along the way and vice versa. All sports have been represented.

On the news as the disruption was happening BBC Northern Ireland had interviewed 1972 Irish boxer Charlie Nash and Jackie McWilliams who won bronze for GB in women's hockey at the 1992. You see many of us from Northern Ireland will be cheering on members of two nations because they are one of us. Some of us in Northern Ireland will also have faced the dilemma in who to declare our allegiance to for competitive purposes.Yes so we have some footballers who want to play for the Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland, but we also have some others from the Republic who have chosen to represent Great Britain, including 1980 Olympian Barry McGuigan who had already representing Northern Ireland at the 1978 Commonwealth Games who represented Britain to fight for British titles as a way to gain international success.

So the people of these six counties and indeed these 32 counties have always had a mixed history with the Games. But one thing we have always done is honour the sport and competition. Those who took this action to try and disrupt the torch today have brought shame upon themselves but not the many people from Northern Ireland who will be representing Great Britain or Ireland at the Games in London this year and the many thousands of us who will be supporting them for their achievement no matter who they are representing.

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