Thursday, 26 December 2013

Foreigners, Lundys and the Irish Language

Now we hear that draft 4 includes promotion of Irish (foreign language) Will it also promote polish, Chinese etc?

Once again Jamie Bryson has single-handedly made me reach for my wee laptop and vent my digital spleen.

Although, it won't be a lecture, rather I'm just going to present a few nuggets of history that highlight the Protestant history with Gaelic (I say Gaelic over Irish as the topic leaps from Ireland to Scotland so Gaelic is an umbrella term in this instance).

NOTE: A lot of the leg work here is borrowed from a few friends of mine who are putting together a book that will have them all hung from Samson and Goliath for their defiance of 'the norm';
 Their book will highlight the lesser-popular facts of Northern Irish history at the expense of unionists, republicans, nationalists, Royalists, the army, the Catholic church, the Orange Order, the Vatican, the Apprentice Boys and everyone else.
Watch this space folks...

Anybody who wants the full monty of the Irish-Protestant Gaelic relationship could do worse than to read these two eye-opening gems:

Or this:

(though, help a local business out and order it from No Alibis in Belfast, )

Anyway, it's not a lecture, just a presentation of historical snippets. Make up your own mind.

First of all though, why would Jamie regard it as a 'foreign language'?

Well it's not the first time I've heard this dismissal from unionists; local purveyor of fire & brimstone and gospel music star, Rev William McCrea fobbed the language off in similar terms in a Magherafelt council meeting.

(NOTE: McCrea - derives from an ancient Gaelic male given name "MacRaith", son of grace, prosperity, or favour, from the Celtic "rat", luck, fortune. This name, inscribed as "Maqi Rati" on an ogham stone found at Keenrath, in the Irish county of Cork, may have been introduced into Scotland as early as the 5th Century A.D., when the Gaelic language was brought from Ireland.)

Also, his DUP colleague Edwin Poots told Sluggerotoole's David McCann that his greatest achievement was 'burying the Irish language act' as he believes that there is precious little need for it outside of republican circles.

So, how do men, some of Gaelic descent, come to regard an ancient language of this land as 'foreign'?

Well, invariably it comes from hostility to the language.

A hostility that I used to share.

And many others I might add.

This might sound strange coming from someone who would dearly love to see a Gaelic revival across Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, but, it's true.

I only saw Gaelic in a different light when I lived amongst Gaels in Scotland (most Gaels in Scotland are Free Presbyterian. Go figure).

Before that, the only time I ever saw anything in Irish/Gaelic was if I came across a Sinn Fein leaflet, IRA propaganda or something republican.

In short, SF & the IRA's use of Irish made it repellent to me.

"Politicising the Irish language? Not us..."

I'd never heard of Protestant Irish speakers.

I assumed that they'd never existed.

In that respect, I suppose it was kind of 'foreign' as in it had NOTHING to do with me and my 'folk'.

Scotland changed all that.

And before you reach for the old dead end arguments of "well, republicans use shoes, so are you against them too?" please consider the following before you make an eejit of yourself and voice such an argument;

Until (relatively) recently, both Rangers and Celtic had the same sponsors.

For decades before hand they did not.

Why the change?

 Because those clever mind doctors and marketers realised that negative association was very powerful, more people were put off the services of CR Smith and McEwans lager than were attracted to them.

In effect, they discovered the part of the brain that brands something as 'themuns'.

So, now a sponsor must sponsor both teams rather than risk a boycott from the team's rivals. (Though Celtic went solo again, if it was a good move for Magners remains to be seen)

Anyhoo, it demonstrates the power of negative association and the republican 'hijacking' of Gaelic really should not be discounted.
 At all.
In fact a song and dance should be made about it.

Anyway, since I've managed to remove the republican contamination from my impression of the Gaelic languages and started to (slovenly) study Scottish Gaelic I've stumbled across some eyebrow-raisers.

Without further ado, some things to ponder:

Edward Carson: Spoke 'Provo speak'

* Edward Carson, co-founder of the UVF, father of Northern Ireland and uber-Brit was a speaker of Irish

* It is said that every outfit in the Ulster 36th had at least one Gaelic speaker

* There is a tale of soldiers of the Ulster 36th marching past men from a Munster regiment and besting the Munster men in 'slagging session' in Gaelic.

* The 1911 census showed that nearly a fifth of the Shankill's Protestant population spoke Gaelic (as many as the Falls area)

* Some academics estimate that at least half of the original planter Presbyterian population were Gaelic speakers

* In some areas English planters learnt Gaelic to avoid being disadvantaged in markets

* In the 19th century Belfast was the academic capital of Irish learning

* In 1828 the Ulster Gaelic Society was established by Lord Downshire (powerful Protestant landlord and member of the ruling class)

* Contrary to popular belief, the gentry and landlord class were not fervently opposed to the language. On the contrary, when it finally dawned on them that their English counterparts saw them as 'Irish' many of them embraced this heritage and commissioned Irish books, murals and mosaics

Mosaic in a former  (Protestant) stately home in Ballymena

* An oft understated stance is that of the Catholic church. The contribution of the Catholic church to the decline of Irish is one of the most bafflingly under reported stories of Irish history. Really, go check it out for yourself

* Fitzroy Presbyterian church in Belfast counts a number of Irish speakers among its congregation and has weekly services in Irish

* The motto of the 1892 Unionist Conference was ‘Erin Go Bragh’ – ‘Ireland forever’

* Irish regiments in the British army have used the motto "Faugh A Ballagh" - Clear the way

* The Irish culture centre in the Falls area is named after a Protestant Gaelic speaker - Robert Shipboy McAdam

* The last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Brian Faulkner (he who introduced internment) spoke Irish

* The almost extinct Antrim Gaelic is (according to Robert Shipboy McAdam) identical to some Scottish Gaelic dialects

* Former UVF leader, Gusty Spence, studied Gaelic in prison

* The motto of the terrorist group 'Red Hand Commando' has a Gaelic motto - "Lámh Dhearg Abú" -  'Red Hand to Victory'

* A lodge in the Orange Order had an attractive banner written in Gaelic

* It is thought that some (if not ALL) of the original 13 Apprentice Boys of Derry's famous siege spoke Gaelic. (Given the make up of the population back then it is highly unlikely that none of them had any understanding of Gaelic)

* The Gaelic League (ironically partly responsible for severing the Protestant involvement in Gaelic) in its early days attracted the head of the Independent Orange Order and a grand master of a Belfast Orange lodge.

So there you have it, a mere drop in the ocean of the Irish Protestant relationship with Gaelic.

It is unfortunate that it is now a political football and that unionists are so terrified of the language eating them up.

I would argue that they would have some control of it's direction and growth (e.g. increase the Scottish element of the Northern dialects?) if they got involved rather than backing off into the corner trying to hide from its inevitable growth.

I don't see how NOT getting involved achieves anything:

"We don't like the actions of the GAA!"

"Cool, so you're going to join and have a say in its affairs then?"

"No. We'll stand outside with a sign saying 'down with this sort of thing'...."

"How's that working for you so far?

Hardly the stuff of dynamic thinking. As usual.

Flegger Ted: Will bring the GAA to its knees...

Could some one, anyone please explain to me how Gaelic is a foreign language to Northern Ireland?

Especially when we take into consideration the Gaelic names of some of the unionist representatives:

McCrea, Allister, Cameron, Buchannan, Campbell, Craig, Dunlop, Dunne, Donnelly, Donaldson, Finlay, Givan, McCoubrey, McCartney, McCausland, McClure, McClurg, McCoy, McCrum, McCullough, McKeen, McCorkell,  McIlroy, McIlveen, McKee, McKnight, McQuillan, McWilliams,  Douglas, Herron, Kinahan, McGimpsey, Patterson (?) etc etc.

I just went through a list of unionist councilors and MLA's and found so many that I got bored, I'd be here all night writing them down...

Last and by no means least, there is another  unionist voice potentially of Gaelic origin:


This interesting surname has two possible origins. 
The first is a patronymic from the male given name "Brice", i.e. "son of Brice".
 Brice is a pet form of the Welsh name "Rhys", meaning rashness; an ancient namebearer being King Rhyence of North Wales, whose hobby of collecting the beards of his rivals to trim his cloak proved his undoing when he attempted to complete his collection with King Arthur's.
 The name may also be an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O Briosain", an altered version of "O'Muirgheasain" (Morrissey), meaning "son of Muirgheasain".
 In Ireland it originated in Ulster, particularly in Counties Donegal and Derry. The 17th Century Hearth Money Rolls for the Northern counties list many people with the name Mrieson and similar variants, later these became known as Morrison, Bryson is the modern form, and is commonly found recorded in the counties mentioned above.

Read more:

Friday, 29 November 2013

Three Flags; a Real Compromise?

noun: compromise; plural noun: compromises
  1. 1.
    an agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

This is pretty much a rehash of an earlier blog, only without the ‘frilly bits’.

Those who have stumbled across my rants over on may well think me obsessed on the topic of flegs.

Though, to be fair, many people from NI are guilty of this too methinks.
Jamie and Willie: Like flegs

The hot potato of the year is of course the Union Flag flying (or not flying) from Belfast city hall.

After a year of reading the contributions, points and feelings of nationalist and republican commentators on Sluggerotoole, I have to say that I’ve come to see things differently than before.

I now (belatedly) accept their grievances about not feeling represented in their own city or land given that they have little or no affection for the Union Flag.

So, in the interests of keeping the peace, live & let live, equality and even letsgetalongerism I admit that this imbalance needs to be addressed.

“Equality, equality, equality “are the buzzwords of choice to galvanise arguments for addressing the matter.

I heartily agree.

As long as ‘equality’ isn’t something that can be surgically altered to fit a particular agenda.

I think everyone should be represented.

I also agree that we want the communities to have more respect for each other.

Which is why I can’t agree to the idea of flying the Tricolour and the Union Flag side by side.

It is too divisive.

Optimists may view it as progress, as a sign of two communities finally coming to terms with each other.

I view it as potentially toxic.

It says to me (and I’m a wishy washy middle of the road liberal) “CHOOSE!”.

There are those with the strength of character and integrity to see the very best aspects of this solution but there are many more who don’t.

And I’m not even talking about the likes of Willie Frazer or Jamie Bryson.

For decades we’ve seen these flags used as territorial markers.

For decades we’ve come to see the flags in terms of ‘themuns and oursuns’.

The hullaballoo surrounding last year’s flegger-geddon only compounded this.

Simply put, having the two flags flying alongside each other will simply be viewed as a constant declaration of “this one is for us lot and that one is for themuns”.

Hardly the stuff to heal wounds or allay suspicions and paranoia.

Also, it goes without saying that many unionists will view it as another ‘victory’ for Republicanism.

Which is why (predictably) I still stand by my proposal for flying three flags instead of one or two;              
1/ The Tricolour (for nationalists and republicans)
2/ The Union Flag (for 'bothered' unionists and 'British nationalists')
3/ A new Northern Ireland flag (for everyone who falls somewhere in between the two aforementioned poles)

I’ve aired this on Slugger a few times to test the water and whilst it hasn’t been taken into the bosom of many it has (more importantly) been neither convincingly mauled nor shot down, which, in slugger terms, I consider to be a victory.

There are many articulate people on there and I have been influenced by their arguments and points.

So for the notion to survive (or in one case actually be endorsed by a republican) is for me very encouraging.

The only attack on the proposal was an articulately dressed-up version of the ‘themuns have two flegs’ argument.

I acknowledged this potential argument when I proposed the scheme.

I also acknowledged that an equal amount of indignation would surface in the other camp at the very notion of a ‘foreign’ flag flying from city hall.

Sorry ladies and gents, but that’s compromise.

You might not particularly like the final result but you’re better off than before, in this particular case:   
 1/ Republicans and nationalists will have their flag flying and will thus be represented                                         
  2/ Unionists & British nationalists will have their flag flying (which is currently not the case in many nationalist council areas).
3/ Northern Irelanders, middle-of-the-roaders and such like will now have a flag to call their own and will be relieved at not being pigeonholed into either of the other two camps.

All sides advance.

All sides gain.

If you perceive your objective to be soured because ‘themuns’ have also got something out of the compromise then perhaps you should take stock of yourself and decide whether you really do want to live in proper peace or do you actually want peace only at the expense of others?

Having a third flag, a Northern Ireland flag, will potentially fill the void for those who aren’t particularly enthralled at the idea of either the Tricolour or Union Flag.

Growing apathy is an oft mentioned state of affairs in NI.

Many people just don’t have strong feelings of affection for the two main flags given how much they’ve been debased over the decades by hardliners on either side.

So to have such a binary choice available is rather a rather galling prospect for many people.

A new Northern Ireland flag will give them something to opt for (if they want to, keeping in mind the apathetic aspect mentioned before…)

Going back to the equality argument, it’s fair that the ‘British’ are represented, it’s fair that the ‘Irish’ are represented so surely it’s fair that the Northern Irish are represented too?

To use the argument of equality is to advocate this position by default.

They go hand in hand.

It cannot be simply used for the Tricolour and then immediately dumped because other people want to be represented too.

If one wishes to further the cause of equality then that opens the door to a Northern Ireland flag for those who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the opposing (?) Irish & British stances.

No ifs, no buts, if it’s in the name of equality then others have the right to be represented too, not just the two ‘main’ groups.

Equality: Has it's uses sometimes...
A new Northern Ireland flag may be unpalatable to some nationalists (and many unionists!) but ditto the Tricolour with unionists.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Also, this distaste for a NI flag is of secondary consideration to the primary objectives of equality and flying the tricolour.

These objectives have been stated too many times for any fickle back-peddling:
“Sinn Féin wants to see a City Hall that is inclusive and welcoming to every citizen and every tradition"

If we want equality then it must be real equality, not another demarcation point to further divide people.

Three groups, three flags.

Not a great deal to ask.



The thought occurs that in order to get around this pesky inconvenience there will undoubtedly be an attempt to move the goalposts .                
                                                                                                                                                                                 I’d be curious to see which tactic will be employed, will it be redefine ‘equality’ or deny the existence of the ‘Northern Irish’ or even playing with statistics.

If the idea ever gains traction it’ll be interesting to see what angle the naysayers will take. Watch this space folks.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Have We Forgotten How to Remember?

There's an awful lot of remembering going on at the moment.

More than I can remember there being for this time of year.

And there's more to come in early November and, baby, this is just the warm up, 2016 is approaching fast..

So far, this spring, summer and autumn we've remembered dead terrorists (or volunteers or soldiers or murderers or whatever title you prefer); we've remembered (as usual) bygone battles but forgotten who was playing; who was on who's side and why the battles were even fought in the first place (because of banks or because of themuns?).
We've remembered massacres and we've remembered those who committed the massacres.
We've forgotten about the economy and sometimes who's in charge.
We've remembered dead rebels and butchered battalions.
But we've forgotten the true principles of what they all died for (throwing stuff at police it ain't).

For the hell of it I've decided to see what I could commemorate today, October the 25th.

So far, I could salute the following fallen:

The Battle of Agincourt

The charge of the light brigade during the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War.

The 'liberation' (annexation/daylight robbery) of the Transvaal

The Bolshevik Revolution (depending on which calender you use)

Nelson Mandela's prison sentence

Out of the above list, I'm sure I could find some some reason for solemn contemplation and reflection or just drunken revelry.
Everything is catered for: British Imperialist 'Glory'; the fightback of the working classes; the galvanising of a world leader or even just a spot of 'giving the froggies ten of the best'.

But I won't.

I do have an annoying French neighbour, and the temptation to drunkenly recite "we band of brothers" prior to unleashing to a volley from English longbows is great indeed.

My French neighbour

But live and let live and all that jazz.

Now - garden-fence obsessed, irritating Frenchmen notwithstanding - were I to use any of the aforementioned events as a reason for exhibiting some sort celebration/commemoration, I would nonetheless take into consideration the feelings and reactions of those around me before I started toasting to the memory of Cecil Rhodes or the death of the oppressive yoke of bourgeois (sic) imperialist tyranny.

If I had Afrikaner/Boer neighbours, I'd reconsider the flying of Union flags and blasting out 'Land of Hope and Glory' to celebrate my country's stealing of their (also stolen?) land, or if I were commemorating Mandela, well, I'd be as sensitive as possible.

If my neighbours were from the former USSR, well, I'd dip my toe in the proverbial vodka to see how such proceedings may go down.
(You'd be surprised; I have been bombarded with drunken fact-attack as to why 'Uncle Joe' was a great and strong man courtesy of a Georgian family that I lived with)

Joseph Stalin: Not as unpopular as you might think

However, were I living next door to a veterans' retirement home, namely one belonging to the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) I'd be straight over there with a bottle of gin and a few Union Flags.

As with many things, commemoration is a right, but not necessarily always 'right'.

There is (literally) a time and a place.

(A fitting place is the copied collection of 'The Books of the Dead' in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. A small statue of a soldier standing over a cabinet. 
The cabinet contains books which record the names of every Irish man killed in WWI. 
On the panels there is an engraving "As gold in a furnace he tried them")
The Books of the Dead

                                             But is there always a need?

Remembrance and commemoration in Northern Ireland has also been sat upon the great see-saw of themuns and our-uns; if the see-saw goes up and themuns are on it, well, it is probably offensive to our-uns.

"Let's not investigate the matter but go with the flow!"

One of the many casualties of the sectarian see-saw is the poppy.

For the record, I wear one when I can.

I do anxiously feel like I'm a coward as I don't like to wear it in nationalist areas but the truth is I'd happily take a beating for the poppy (I'm not much to look at anyway, so it's not like it'll do my looks any harm) but I don't like the idea of needlessly winding people up.

The great Northern Irish Matrix that we're born into won't permit us to see the other side's point of view, so a proud bearer of a poppy can't think why themuns would have any logical objection to commemorating young men who were sacrificed to the great meat-grinder when the time came.

Likewise, some of themuns can't see beyond the blood-red of the poppy itself and the sanguine attachment of memories and departed loved ones.

As usual neither side can (or rather 'will') see the view point of the other.

For those of us who have chosen 'the red pill' and escaped the Ulster Matrix (what a movie that would be!) this is yet another frustrating example of the defiance of logic in our land.

Are you offending someone? 
Well, then you don't HAVE to do it? 
Or perhaps be a bit more discreet/sensitive?

Not sure what Bruce Willis is commemorating...

Are you being an over sensitive and easily offended d*ck? 
Then perhaps back off and let the citizen remember, is it really going to ruin your day if he/she wants to remember the dear departed?

I do wear a poppy with pride.

I do think of the hell that all those young men and women went through, as needless as a lot of it was.

But I am in Australia for the time being.

The nearest victims of Bomber Command are quite some distance away.

In Belfast, the victims of the British Army, the IRA and the Loyalists are in the city centre every minute of every day.

Wear your poppy with pride by all means, but spare a thought for those who see it as a gloat as opposed to a token of respect.

It's supposed to be a respectful symbol but people such as the Protestant Coalition are helping to ensure that it can't be seen in this way.

This hijacking of the poppy has effectively shut many people of a Catholic background out of the remembrance house.
Many Catholic men from Ireland took up arms for the Imperial Army and were slaughtered.

But the way in which we handle the matter of remembrance in Northern Ireland has relegated their memory to mere ghosts.

And Unionists are doing little to bring them back in from limbo.
Remembering them...

...NOT them!

As for the Shankill Bomber Begley's plaque and the public commemoration?

I struggle with that one.

Whilst some people may see him as a soldier, at the time of his butchery (or collateral damage as dead Protestants were known back then) Sinn Fein had a very modest fan base so only a minority saw him as such.

Seeing corpses on the news with one's breakfast every other day left a very sour aftertaste for most of us.

But, that being said, a soldier is how some in Ardoyne and indeed throughout Ireland may see him.

However, unlike Bomber Command and their monument in London (the popular choice of comparison) Begley's victims are within walking distance of his memorial.

That commemoration alone may have extended the life span of those nearby peace-walls by a generation, as did his actions.

Even longer if a tradition has become of it.

Is the commemoration really worth such a price?

We talk about the future yet focus on the past with great intensity.

If these actions are defensible then why even speak of a future for there quite clearly is none?

It is secondary to the past.

A past that none of us want to revisit and a past that has left many of us angry.

Very f*****g angry.

You don't have to be a world-class shrink to know that bottling up anger is bad but it is all we can do till 'carnival' season arrives and people let off steam by throwing heavy things at the police.

It's time for society (not our politicians - hell no, they've been found wanting bar a praiseworthy few) to think about the damage our defiant pride and hunger for remembrance does to each other.

The see-saw goes up and down and every one of us feels that heavy crashing judder when it's our turn to clumsily land.


BTW: Part way through this rant I came across this rant of a similar theme:

Never before have I been so glad to see my work bested so convincingly by another (it happens a lot, I'm just seldom okay with it).

Sunday, 20 October 2013

"A shared future. As long as WE get the bigger share..."

There's been a spot of hullaballoo as of late:

Jamie Bryson arguing against any changes in Loyalism lest it become more 'cuddly'
How Jamie sees 'New Loyalism'...

Various politicians digging their heels in against any changes to grammar schools or the segregated school system.
Apartheid: Generally thought of as a bad idea.
Except in Northern Ireland.

And now former Derry GAA player Joe Brolly defending the right of GAA clubs to name themselves after whomever they please.
Kevin Lynch: Stuff happened him
Then he happened other people
'Good bloke' or 'terrorist', he's still a sensitive topic.
Why not handle it sensitively?

It makes me wonder, who exactly are we supposed to be sharing the 'future' with?
 Are we just to be part of the Leonard Cohen song?

As long as the Loyalist band scene clings to its darker drunken side then it'll be sharing with no one apart from like minded folks in Scotland and Liverpool.

The apartheid that we have in Northern Ireland's education system does a good job of making sure that we don't share a lot of space, sports or culture during our most formative years.

And now a sportsman/sports commentator, though speaking of his own accord and NOT for the GAA comes out with this little bombshell:
"It's nobody else's business - it's as simple as that," 
"People can either like it or lump it."
 "That's the way societies and communities work. Kevin played hurling for Dungiven and for Derry, and the hurling club was named for that reason. We're very proud of him.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is jolly well that. Seemingly.

It is yet another example of people not willing to put their money where their mouth is with regards to making Northern Ireland an easier or better place to live.

As we are all boringly aware, nearly everything can be a bone of contention; what church you go to, how you say the letter 'h', what football team you support.
A big deal or cause for suspicion can be plucked from the most minute detail.

We all know this.

Yet when our backs are up and we're on the defensive about something then we adopt a more cold black & white tone:

An Orange march through an area where it's not wanted becomes "men walking the Queen's highway to their place of worship"

Flying all manner of flags to mark out the tribal territory becomes "an expression of culture"

Naming clubs after men who did some pretty awful things becomes " nobody else's business".

With all three examples it is a case of being simultaneously 'true' and 'utter bollocks'.

It's a common tactic in the grim North to be all reasonable, emotional and plea for empathy when one is asking for something.
The normal response to this is a cold logical rebuttal that removes emotion from the scenario.

I wish that both sides would stick with their principled empathy based arguments and stop changing their faces depending on whether  they are doing the pleading or the refusing as is the case currently.

The GAA has put a lot of emphasis on its cross community work:

So, on one hand 'good'. Well done. Hat's off. Nice one Cyril.

On the other hand, the aforementioned 'bollocks'.

We all know what the main obstacles for Protestants are:

* The perception of Nationalist and Republican imagery, reverence and symbols.

* The sometimes too-close-for-comfort association with Republicanism and Republicans. Or, as many Protestants prefer to label some hallowed dead Republicans - "murderers"

* Rule 1.8, the flying of the 'National Flag'. The national flag to Unionists in the UK is the Union Flag.
 End of.
Not up for discussion.
You know this. I know this.
The wee Roma gypsy fella who used to play the violin with funny gramophone horn in Belfast city centre knows this.

You cannot extend your hand in friendship to the Unionist community with this arm-lock to follow immediately after.
Wee Roma Busker: Knows his flegs

I lambaste, plead, cajole, beg, whinge, grip, argue, bore Unionists and Loyalists to wise the bap when it comes to the offensive and unnecessary imagery and pageantry that some of their number endorse and fly with aggressive pride at some of their parades.

I ask again and again how would it be the detriment of Loyalist culture if paramilitary trappings were removed, if songs about killing Catholics were taboo and if Chapels were treated with respect.

Naturally, I am met with silence.

By a similar, but not so aggressive token I would ask the same of the GAA:

Nationalist Perception

Unionist Perception

Their main priority is sport and the community.

How would it be detrimental to the sport and any community in Northern Ireland (as saying there are only TWO communities grows ever more false with each passing day) if they could maybe keep the Tricolour in the broom cupboard in the event of a few non-nationalists joining a club or even coming to watch a game?

What harm would there be to community relations if Unionists weren't under the impression that they'd be forced to stand for/sing the Soldier's Song?

Sharing a space means exactly that, sharing. Not dominating.
 The worst flat-mates are those who impose their way on others.

The GAA: Awful flat-mate?

50 years of a Unionist 'way' was too much for a lot of people and it all erupted in the late 60's.

Surely there must be people within the GAA who remember what it was like not to be treated as an equal?

Yet, here we find that there is not much support within the GAA ranks for treating others as equals.

For there is no other way to interpret it, clinging to the Tricolour and Soldier's Song in an environment as sensitive/paranoid/bitter/mental as Northern Ireland or 'the North' if you so desire (yes Chris and John, I said it) is about domination.

Perhaps not so much when there's no Protestants in your village to dominate but for those Protestants who would perhaps give it a go, well, this makes it almost an impossibility.

From my own point of view it's why I took up Shinty when I moved to Scotland, it was the closest thing to hurling that I 'could' participate in.
I even tried to join the University's GFC some years later but the club fell foul of University requirements.

There's a lot of head in the sand and defensiveness in the GAA regarding their way of doing things.

I for one thank Joe Brolly for at least speaking as if he were a defiant Orangeman speaking 'logically' about men walking the Queen's highway to their place of worship.

It shows that not all GAA follower's are so concerned about the shared future, well, at least about sharing it properly.
I can't write Mr Brolly off completely:

His final paragraph sticks out:
 "The reality is that the two cultures remain firmly segregated and sectarianism is rife. An invisible wall separates the two communities’ schools, sports, religions and social lives. The sooner the GAA spreads into the Shankill, Tigers Bay and Lurgan, the sooner we’ll have a civilised society. "

Great sentiment, now explain where the Tricolour has a place in such a plan/outreach?
Indeed, where do religiously separated schools come into in such a civilised society when one 1/2 of the education system has hegemony over the sport in question?

But, the apartheid of our schools is a different topic.

If people want the nonsense to stop then they have to be willing to go the whole nine yards, not just cherry pick.

The GAA has to accept that its Nationalist ethos is incompatible with many Northerners.
 It's fine to think of Ireland as one nation when you're dealing with Northerners from South Armagh, West Belfast, West Derry or whatever.

Things are a bit more complicated once you spread outwith these zones.

What's good for Kerry is not necessarily good for South East Antrim.
South East Antrim: Not the same as Kerry

The one size fits all approach failed in Northern Ireland Mk I.
It'll fail equally (or rather has failed equally) in a pan-Irish GAA approach.

The Unionists did nothing to make the Union appealing to the Catholic community.
Now they are paying the price.
Whist nationalism may not pay the overall price for the GAA's failures that's not to say that peaceful society won't pick up the tab.

Many Nationalists and Republicans will argue that in the name of equality that Belfast City hall should fly the Tri-colour alongside the Union Flag.
I accept this argument though with a slight amendment (on the principle of equality) in that a 3rd flag to represent the 'Northern Irish' Nationalists should be flown too.
Everyone has a bite of the sour cherry then.
By the same token though, I would ask should the GAA, in the name of equality, acknowledge Sinn Fein's valid argument and reciprocate accordingly by flying the Union Flag at clubs? (or a similar gesture?)

                                                                 "No!" you say?

NO!: Some people just don't like mixing...


 In that case refer to the earlier conclusion of "utter bollocks" and speak no more of trying to improve the situation of Northern Ireland for you don't mean it.

Making sacrifices for peace doesn't mean that only Unionists have to wise up their act or that no longer blowing people up is enough of a 'sacrifice'.

Sacrifices have to be made by all.

That includes the GAA, Nationalists and the wee Roma gypsy with the funny violin thing.

British AND Irish: WTF?!!!!

ADDITIONAL: I forgot to mention, it's not necessarily 'their' money that they would be putting where their proverbial mouth is, the GAA receive millions of tax pounds.
Surely that makes it everyone's business?

ADDITIONAL: Some input from Twitter: "how about no flags at GAA games except of course the counties flags that r playing. That would make most sense to me" - Cheers GOH!