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Sport and Community Relations in Northern Ireland
||1(a): Crusaders Supporters||1(b): Cliftonville Supporters||
If expectations were for the order of preferences to simply reflect the relationship between the likely religious background of respondents and the religious associations of the clubs concerned then these have only been partially realised. In the case of the Cliftonville supporters there is a clearer split in preferences between Catholic and Protestant clubs and the order in which the latter was ranked does reflect how sectarian the three clubs were perceived to be. However, in the case of Crusaders supporters, more pragmatic concerns were brought to bear. The fact Derry City did not operate in the same league and as a result there was no accumulated rivalry or hostility with them may have influenced their choice as second preference. Similarly Crusaders record both on and off the field against their 3 Belfast rivals was cited as the main factor in determining preferences between them.
The trend which might be seen to emerge from the responses thus far is that while practical and/or sporting concerns appear uppermost in the minds of Protestant supporters issues of a political nature are much more to the fore amongst Catholic supporters. This difference maybe partially explained by the choice of clubs; despite recent successes Crusaders would still rank as one of the smaller Protestant clubs and would be less likely to attract supporters on the basis of their loyalist heritage than, for example, Linfield. In contrast Cliftonville are the only club with Catholic associations operating in Belfast and the only prominent Catholic side in the Irish League. This is reflected in the fact that their support is more widely dispersed through nationalist areas of Belfast, from Ardoyne in the north to Short Strand in the east and Finaghy and Poleglass in the south of the city.
However, beyond this there does appear to be some residual alienation on the part of the Cliftonville supporters. When asked the question posed to governing bodies in the sample survey regarding the extent to which the Northern Ireland conflict impinged on the sport, Crusaders supporters provided an estimate of 3 on the 5 point scale whilst the Cliftonville respondents selected 5. The former estimate was identical to that offered by the IFA. This view of Catholic supporters as more politicised and more alienated is borne out by the statement issued in early 1992 by Cliftonville Supporters Clubs which criticised various aspects of the organisation and operation of the game in Northern Ireland. They said, "Over the last 20 years Cliftonville and their long-suffering supporters have had to endure countless examples of discrimination and double-standards from both the football authorities and the security forces"(32).
Despite these apparent differences in attitude, responses from both sets of supporters to quest ions about specific ‘Political’ issues within the sport were, to a degree, similar. On the question of Derry City’s re-admission to the Irish League, both Cliftonville and Crusaders respondents were strongly in favour. Both considered that this would provide a major boost for football in Northern Ireland However, when probed further as to the practicalities of Derry Competing in this environment differences did emerge. Whilst Crusaders fans felt that matches between Derry and Linfield might pose Problems they considered that these would not be insurmountable Cliftonville Supporters, pointing to their own experiences believed that there would almost certainly be major trouble if Derry were to be re-admitted They also thought that the Irish League would not want the bother of having them back.
A follow-up question as to whether a successful club with a large Catholic support should compete in Northern Ireland today elicited similar responses. Crusaders respondents felt the problems which might arise could be overcome whilst Cliftonville supporters considered that such a club could compete but whatever success it achieved would only create the potential for more trouble. In support of this view they pointed to problems which had arisen when Cliftonville played in the Irish Cup semi-final in 1993.
Supporters were also invited to express their views on the restoration of the Cliftonville infield fixture at Solitude. Again, both Crusaders and Cliftonville respondents were strongly in favour of this development. However, as with the Derry City issue, when questioned further on the topic very different reasons for supporting the restoration were offered Crusaders fans were Primarily Concerned with the unfair advantage the extra home game (or games) gave Linfield Bearing in mind that their side had just lost the championship on goal difference to Linfield the fact that their Opponents had this advantage may be seen as of particular Concern on a practical level. Their attitude can perhaps best be summarised as, "If every other team has to go there, why not Linfield?"
Cliftonville Supporters, in contrast considered the ban fundamentally unjust in principle and an example of prejudice and discrimination against their own club. They recognised that the fixture would need special Consideration by the authorities but thought there was no insurmountable problem with the location and Pointed out that special arrangements for games against Glentoran and Crusaders had worked successfully. Such options as making the game all-ticket, playing the match in the morning and/or bringing in the Linfield fans via certain authorised routes existed.
They believed that with certain security measures the game could be played without giving rise to major disruption. However the longer the ban went on the more difficult it would become to lift it. They also pointed out that in normal circumstances the size of crowd concerned would be relatively small whilst the authorities in mainland Britain were perfectly capable of handling attendances 5 or 10 times larger, a prime example being Celtic v Rangers.
Certainly, in respect of this particular issue, there can be no mistaking the strength of feeling amongst the Cliftonville supporters who are directly affected by the ban. It is perceived as an indefensible anachronism since the circumstances which led to its imposition, the mass sectarian disturbances of the late 1960s and early 1970s have long been absent. It also appears that lifting the ban would not antagonise feelings in the Protestant community where football supporters, for more practical reasons, favour, or at least do not object to the Solitude fixture being restored. Evidence from Linfield fanzines suggests that they would also support the Cliftonville game going ahead since the ban is seen as a slight on their supporters.
The difficulty in lifting the ban appears to be two-fold. First, it is unclear what the reaction of the football authorities would be if security clearance were to be given. The restoration of the fixture, particularly the first time it is replayed, would present problems, which past experience suggests the authorities would find most unwelcome. Second, the lifting of the ban, due to the publicity such a move would engender, risks becoming a highly political issue, along the same lines as the venue of the Donegal Celtic-Linfield match. If the issue was to be taken up by politicians on either side of the community divide the likely consequences are a polarisation of attitudes, increasing the potential for predictions of sectarian violence around the match to become self-fulfilling prophecies. If these difficulties are overcome, the lifting of the Solitude ban would surely be a positive step in paving the way for better community relations through sport. Before any major initiatives can work there has to be and, perhaps more importantly, has to be seen to be an even playing field.
Directly questioned about the merits of community relations initiatives in football both sets of supporters are highly sceptical. Neither believed that formal initiatives would make a significant difference bearing in mind the long-standing bitter rivalries between supporters on different sides of the community divide and the nature of the wider environment in Northern Ireland. Cliftonville fans suggested that the most that could be expected would be to bring people together for 90 minutes and they doubted whether people from the two communities really wanted to be integrated.
Some further questions were asked, attempting to gauge the views of the different sets of supporters in respect of international soccer. First, respondents were invited to state their preferences amongst the 5 national sides in the British Isles. A specific question was then posed as to whether or not there should be an all-Irish side in international competition. Finally, reactions to the selection policies of the two Irish national football squads were canvassed.
Generally, differences between respondents from the different footballing camps were deepest and most explicit as far as the international soccer domain was concerned. Both sets of supporters were also asked to identify their preferences in a fictional championship of the British Isles, featuring the four British ‘home’ nations and the Republic of Ireland. This aimed to replicate work done in 1991 from random samples of Protestant and Catholic respondents (33). The responses from the two sets of supporters are shown below in Table 2.
Table 2 - Preferences Between ‘British’ National Sides
||1(a): Crusaders Supporters||1(b): Cliftonville Supporters||
Rep of Ireland
Rep of Ireland
Whilst both sets of supporters held identical preferences in respect of the three national sides from the British mainland, there was a complete polarisation of preferences with regard to the two Irelands. This seems to reinforce the view that whilst out with their own national concerns there is substantial common ground between people from the two communities in Northern Ireland, when issues concerning nationality rear their head there is precious little room for compromise or manoeuvre.
The more qualitative reactions to the two Irish national football teams tell a similar story. Questioned on the merits of an all-Irish structure for their sport and having one national side as in rugby union, the Crusaders-supporting respondents were totally against. They claimed that in an all-Irish team very few players from the north would be selected. They pointed to Northern Ireland’s success in the 1982 World Cup and how both communities had united behind them, emphasising their pride in the side’s achievements, particularly since it came from such a small province. They feared that the status of Northern Irish football would be lost in its absorption in an all-Irish set up and explicitly voiced concerns that it might be seen as a step towards unity in the wider political domain.
Some of the respondents who supported Cliftonville mentioned having gone to see the Northern Irish team play in the 1970s and early 1980s but said that they had been put off by the sectarian atmosphere at-the games. Although the team was mixed, it’s supporters appeared to be 100% Protestant and they felt intimidated merely standing on the terracing at Windsor Park. There was some difference of opinion as to whether the footballing decline of the Northern Irish team had contributed to a significant degree to their alienation. It was acknowledged that the recent success of the Republic of Ireland team had increased their interest although they claimed always to have prefered it to Northern Ireland. On the subject of there being an all-Irish team the Cliftonville supporters said that in theory it would be a very good thing and they would love to see this happen but considered such a development to be totally unrealistic due to the politics of the Irish situation.
Differences in responses concerning the international selection policies of the two Irish footballing associations were, once again, wide. Crusaders supporters were highly critical of the Republic of Ireland’s flexible approach, questioning the Irish credentials of many players in their team. However, conversely, they thought Northern Ireland had not done enough to attract players in the past and supported the change to more flexible rules as long as they did not bring in too many players born outside the province. In contrast, Cliftonville supporting respondents said they had no problems with the Republic’s pragmatic approach. They considered it to be a good thing to bring in the best players of Irish descent who were available.
Over the range of issues associated with international soccer the views of respondents from the two different communities in Northern Ireland appear to be almost totally polarised. Protestant supporters seem to offer unequivocal backing for the Northern Ireland team and to reject any suggestion of a move towards an all-Irish setup out of hand. Catholic supporters claim to have been alienated by the sectarian nature of support for the Northern Ireland side and solely to be interested in following the fortunes of the football team representing the Republic. Whilst favouring an all-Irish structure for the game they believe it would be wholly impractical in the prevailing political climate.
What this suggests, again perhaps not surprisingly, is that in terms of bringing the two communities together football, at national level, does not offer very favourable prospects whilst, if anything, these prospects have reduced over recent years. The problem seems to be that issues which are seen as affecting nationality inevitably arise, for example in suggestion of adopting an all-Irish team, and these issues tend to be perceived as zero sum, where a gain to one community is interpreted as a loss for the other Success on the part of one or other national team may bring people together temporarily and rather tenuously but until and unless issues of national identity are resolved, such unity is always likely to dissolve.
The evidence does suggest, however, that this is not the case at a] levels of the game. In perhaps more mundane ways it does seem as if positive measures can be, and to some extent are, being taken toward improving relations between the different communities in Northern Ireland. The cross-community football schemes for young people, when allied to initiatives in schools such as the Education for Mutual Understanding programme, may have beneficial effects in breaking down psychological, if not physical barriers between people from different religious backgrounds in the longer-term. The simple fact that participation in the game at virtually all levels is mixed, unlike most other popular sports, should also not be overlooked. Opportunities do exist.
At higher levels substantial numbers of supporters are also brought into the equation. As has been seen they tend to be made up of the kin of people in sociological terms most likely to be found at the ‘cutting edge of the community conflict. In contrast to the more even division o Protestants and Catholics who play the game at senior level, the vas majority of supporters tend to be from the Protestant community, and most senior clubs are associated with that tradition. In this regard the potential for football to act as a kind of safety-valve for community tensions is reduced. Indeed the alienation expressed by Catholic supporters at various aspects of the senior game within Northern Ireland is likely to hell consolidate or exacerbate the divisions in society as a whole.
The case study seems to show that there are ways in which this sense of alienation can be addressed without necessarily impinging upon the sensitivities of people from the Protestant community. The restoration of the Cliftonville-Linfield fixture is one such example. A review of policing methods at matches involving clubs from the two communities may be another. Whilst expectations should not be raised that any such measures shall resolve conflict or heal basic divisions they can at least be seen to create a more even playing field upon which footballers and supporters from both communities inter-relate, in whatever way. That, in itself, may be seen as an important step forward.
As with association football, the sport of cycling has cut across both religious communities in Northern Ireland fairly widely in terms of participation. According to the estimates in the sample survey cycling, again like football, has many people from working-class backgrounds involved in the sport. It has also been afflicted, particularly over recent years, by a series of problems with parallels to those found in the soccer sphere, currently reflected in the fact that its 1,000 or so participants are divided between two separate governing bodies.
This study examines how and why the organisational division exists in the sport, the consequences with regard to community relations, and the likely shape of future developments. It is divided into three sections. The first outlines the background to the split and the nature of the two organisations currently controlling cycling in Northern Ireland. The second considers how the sport operates in the province as a whole. The third looks at the effects of the split at local level, focussing in particular on the Bangor/North Down area.
The history of cycling in Ireland is one punctuated by organisational schisms, shifting allegiances and interventions by external bodies which have serious repercussions for the balance of forces within the sport. As has been noted the divisions can be traced back to the way Irish cycling was originally developed on twin bases, one associated with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and one independent of its influence.
NACAA relatively short-lived and far from harmonious union in the 1920s between the two all-Irish bodies led to the breakaway, establishment and international acceptance of a cycling organisation based on the six counties of Northern Ireland which became part of the National Cycling Union in Britain. A further breakaway from the British body occurred after the end of the 2nd World War. Between 1948 and the mid 1970s there were 3 cycling bodies in Ireland; the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation (NICF) in the 6 counties, the Irish Cycling Federation (ICF) in the Republic of Ireland and the National Athletic Cycling Association (NACA), the body originally associated with the GAA and organised on a 32 county basis.
In contrast to the international football sphere, the NICF and ICF were able to co-operate to the extent of selecting a joint Irish squad for competitions such as the world championships. However their right to do so was contested bitterly by the NACA, which was not officially recognised by the world body and which disrupted a number of events during the 1950s and 1960s. As scenes like those at the Rome world championships in 1955 became a thing of the past moves were made to reconcile the rival organisations and in 1977 the Irish Cycling Tripartite Committee (ICTC) was set up with the very limited role of co-ordinating and sorting out differences between the three Irish cycling bodies.
Having brought the NACA back into the fold the ICTC operated largely harmoniously until changes in the rules of the world governing body (UCI) led to it refusing to accept separate membership fees from the individual organisations making up the ICTC. Proposals which followed for amalgamation of the three into a single Irish cycling organisation were accepted by the ICF and NACA but were fiercely opposed by elements within the NICF. The issue was put to the vote at the Annual General Meeting of the NICF in 1987 but ended in turmoil as a result of a procedural dispute over whether the required 2/3 majority had been obtained. Since the majority in favour of the proposal was a fraction short of that required the chairman of the meeting used a casting vote which opponents of the amalgamation considered illegitimate. Subsequent court action led to the vote being re-taken and narrowly failing to reach the majority needed. In the process considerable ill-feeling was engendered between the different camps, giving rise to a further split.
The majority of clubs within the NICF decided to break away from the organisation and ally to the fledgling all-Irish body, the Federation of Irish Cyclists (FIC). As a result a new regional organisation, the Ulster Cycling Federation (UCF) was set up on a 9 county basis in March 1988. Whilst the division in terms of the former membership of the NICF was around 75:25 towards the new body and about 70:30 in respect of clubs, some minorities were unhappy about their individual club’s decision and in certain areas, such as Ballymena, Newtownards and Bangor/North Down rival clubs were formed. The Sports Council for Northern Ireland withdrew funding from the NICF in favour of the UCF, which through the FIC was officially recognised by the world governing body.
Relations between the UCF and NTCF were initially very hostile, particularly between officials of the two bodies. A major source of grievance to the NICF was that their riders were not granted British licences allowing them to race in many events for a period after the split since the UCI considered that they should be part of the Irish organisation.
Efforts were made to mediate between the two bodies, promoted by the Sports Council but, ultimately, little progress was made. The major stumbling block appeared to be that whilst the world body considered Ireland to be the appropriate organisational basis for the sport the NICF believed that as British citizens they were entitled to be associated to the British Cycling Federation (BCF). In the early 1990s, following protracted discussions, NICF riders were given permission to race under BCF licences but the NICF was not allowed to take a full part in the British organisation, occupying a kind of ‘semi-detached’ status. UCF proposals for further discussions aimed at reconciling differences between the organisations were not taken up. Today, cycling in Northern Ireland remains split between the two bodies.
The NICF remains the smaller of the two cycling bodies but claims that contrary to the general trend, its membership has grown since the split and that there are currently over 500 people involved in the organisation. It points to the fact that over the 5 years since the division the number of clubs within its ranks has grown from 6 to 18.
In the sample survey the NICF estimated that its membership was almost exclusively male, predominantly in the 16-40 age range and evenly divided between people from the middle and working classes. On the question of religious background it was unable to provide an estimate but thought there was likely to be a Protestant predominance. However, the NICF stressed that, contrary to allegations made at the time of the split, it was a totally non-sectarian organisation which was open to all.
The UCF is the larger cycling organisation with a current membership of around 800, representing a loss of approximately 100 people since the breakaway from the NICF in 1988. It pointed out that this was a very small reduction in numbers compared to the other Irish regions. Total membership of the FIC had fallen from a peak of 4,200 to around 2,800. 16 clubs (of the 22 in the old NICF) had originally joined the UCF along with those in the Ulster region of the NACA and, despite one or two losses, there had been no major changes.
In the sample survey the UCF estimated its membership was again almost exclusively male and predominantly in the 16-40 age range, but, in contrast to the NICF, was heavily (80:20) weighted in favour of people from working-class backgrounds. On the question of religious background the UCF estimated there to be an even division between Protestants and Catholics although it was thought that there were more Catholics represented in the higher echelons of the organisation. However the UCF categorically rejected suggestions that it was in any way "representing nationalist interests"(34).
Cycling in Northern Ireland
Perhaps the most striking thing to emerge from background information on cycling within Northern Ireland, confirmed by the data arising from the sample survey, is that, in contrast to association football, the problems which have arisen in this sport can be located largely at elite level, particularly between officials of the two bodies. As a result the case-study focussed on this level and officials from the NICF and UCF were interviewed about the situation which existed in cycling both in terms of the province as a whole and in respect of particular localities. Bearing in mind that the individuals spoken to were officials the interviews were left more open-ended than those conducted with the sets of football supporters, in order to allow the issues of greatest concern to the different bodies to emerge more clearly.
In respect of cycling within Northern Ireland as a whole, both bodies had strong arguments to support their current organisational basis. The NICF pointed to its long-standing associations with the British governing body and said that it had been happy to play an active part within the ICTC as long as it did not threaten its relationship with Britain. Mention was made of the fact that divisions within the ICTC tended to leave the ICF isolated against the NICF and NACA rather than the NICF standing alone.
On the issue of the proposed amalgamation the NICF argued that the action taken was in breach of the constitution and rules of the ICTC which required the unanimous approval of all three bodies for any such proposals to be accepted. In this sense the NICF had been the only body acting legitimately and therefore it resented being subsequently treated by the world governing body and the Sports Council for Northern Ireland as a pariah and being labelled as a bigoted and sectarian organisation.
The basis of the views put forward by the UCF was that the minority within the old NICF who had acted to block the amalgamation proposal were motivated largely by political interests. This had been reinforced by their subsequent inflexibility in having recourse to the law over procedural matters and in their refusal to compromise or even respond to efforts at mediation. It pointed to the fact that the majority of sports are organised on an all-Irish basis and, even those largely played by Protestants within Northern Ireland, such as rugby union and hockey are able to operate fairly successfully on that basis.
The UCF emphasised that it had made efforts to reconcile the differences between them, offering to organise on a 6 county basis, being flexible about the granting of licences to NICF riders, and suggesting joint championships and meetings but the response from the NICF had been disappointing. It had been particularly disturbed by the involvement of local councils in the dispute, refusing to support races staged by the UCF and, in certain cases, accusing it of discrimination. This was cited as another example of the extent to which Northern Ireland’s political divisions had been brought into the sport.
As far as international competition is concerned NICF riders are eligible to compete for Britain and UCF riders for Ireland at world and Olympic level. However, for the Commonwealth games, a Northern Ireland squad is entered with riders from both orgamsa4ons taking part. Not surprisingly, since the split, this has given rise to some difficulties. For the 1990 games in Auckland, although both NICF and UCF competitors were selected, only officials from the NICF were represented on the Commonwealth games selection committee. For the 1994 games in Victoria, Canada, one coach with each organisation is involved in the selection process, reporting to a working committee under the supervision of the Sports Council for Northern Ireland.
Funding presents a further problem as 50% of travel costs to the games have to be met by the two cycling organisations. This has led to something of a difference as the UCF, likely to have the majority of cyclists in the squad, prefered to split the costs on a 50:50 basis whilst the NICF was only prepared to fund its own competitors. Whilst not a major source of grievance, the fact that such issues do arise reflects the difficulties in having two organisations controlling the sport within such a relatively small region. As with football rules governing eligibility for selection create further uncertainties, although on a lesser scale.
Attempting to assess the different viewpoints expressed by officials from the NICF and UCF, it should be stressed firstly that for the majority of riders the divisions within their sport do not significantly impinge on their activities, particularly since the rules governing the granting of licences to NICF competitors were relaxed. Nonetheless at elite level the divisions do run deep and they can impose restrictions throughout the sport, as in rival meetings being staged on the same days.
There can be little doubt that these divisions are enmeshed in those which exist in Northern Irish society as a whole and, in this instance, can be closely related to the differences manifested by the political representatives of the two communities. The apparent reluctance to compromise on the part of the NICF has echoes in the ‘Not an inch’ stance of elements within unionist politics. This is reflected in the nature of local councils which have most vigorously supported their case.
At the same time the actions of the world body in forcing the issue of amalgamation and refusing for some time to allow NICF riders to compete out with their own events smacks strongly of insensitivity, particularly bearing in mind the importance of the issue of nationality in this context. However well-meaning the UCF’s suggested compromises may have been the fact they involve some perceived dilution of the right of the NICF to maintain its British identity indicates at least a degree of naivety. The extent to which the positions of the two bodies have become bound up with conflicts of nationality is perhaps reflected in the comment of the Sports Council mediator that their dispute would only be resolved when the political crisis in Northern Ireland is settled (35).
Cycling at Local Level
The case-study also examined the effects of the split within cycling at local level, once again focussing on the views of officials from the two bodies. In addition, one or two informal interviews were conducted with participants and former participants in the sport.
At the time of the division there were 22 cycling clubs in Northern Ireland belonging to the NICF and 15 within 9 county Ulster which were affiliated to the NACA. 16 clubs broke away from the NICF and along with the NACA clubs joined the UCF, forming one of 6 regions within the internationally recognised FIC.
As has been noted the differences which arose between former NICF colleagues over the issue of amalgamation and the procedural disputes and court case which followed ran deep and grew increasingly bitter. Decisions by individual clubs as to whether they should join the break-away or remain within the NICF were not always accepted universally by members and in several localities rival clubs were set up.
One such example was in the Bangor and North Down area. This area, in stark contrast to North Belfast, is one relatively untouched by sectarian conflict. It is considered to be a highly desirable residential area, predominantly middle-class and generally mixed in respect of the religious backgrounds of people who live there. In political terms Bangor and North Down has a tradition of conservatism and unionism and is represented in Westminster by Popular Unionist MP, James Kilfedder. Until 1993 the Conservative Party was the largest group on the local council but subsequently the Official Unionist Party re-gained much of the support it had lost to the Northern Ireland Conservatives.
A cycling club was established in the area in 1977 by a number of people active within the sport who lived in Bangor and North Down. It grew rapidly and by 1982 had become the biggest club in Ireland, catering especially for younger people interested in the activity. Riders from the North Down club have been highly successful, a recent example being Alistair Irvine who won a bronze medal at the Auckland Commonwealth games in 1990. The club obtained lucrative sponsorship deals, the most prominent leading to it being re-named Toyota North Down. Several individuals from the club went on to hold official positions within the NICF.
As a members’ club, at the time the proposals for the amalgamation of Irish cycling were put before the AGM of the NICF, a vote was held to establish its position. This was reported to have been 22 votes to 4 against the proposed amalgamation. When the vote was taken at the AGM of the NICF the proposal was 2/3 of a vote short of the majority required. A subsequent motion was carried, empowering the chairman of the meeting to use his casting vote on the issue. The chairman, a member of the Bangor and North Down club, cast his vote in favour, giving rise to the controversy documented above which precipitated the NICF-UCF split.
At club level, relations between the officials who had been active in campaigning against the amalgamation, supported by the majority of members, and the individuals who were in favour of the proposal and considered the NICF vote to have been legitimately carried, became extremely hostile. It was reported that some members of the minority group proposed a vote of no confidence in the North Down club committee for their refusal to accept the original decision of the NICF and when the vote of no confidence failed were asked to resign. When the breakaway by the majority of clubs from the NICF got underway a new club, Veto Club Bangor, was set up in the North Down area by those members in favour of the amalgamation. It was affiliated to the UCF and, ultimately, the FIC.
The net result was bitterness between officials of the two cycling clubs which had consequences both in the personal and political realms. Individuals involved in the disputes reported receiving abuse and hate-mail of a sectarian nature. Riders were subject to similar abuse whilst competing in races.
Coverage of the division in cycling in the Bangor/North Down area spread from the sports to the news and comment pages of the local press, which helped push the issue onto the party political agenda. Local councillors took up the case of the NICF, particularly in respect of the refusal of the world body to allow its riders to race under British licences. In 1988-89 the North Down council refused to sanction a reception for visiting cyclists competing in an event organised in the area by the UCF.
Other councils went a great deal further. Ballymena council circulated other local authorities with a proposal that no support should be offered to clubs within the UCF due to the ‘discrimination’ clubs and riders belonging to the NICF were subjected to. It suggested contacting the Sports Council for Northern Ireland concerning its refusal to grant-aid the NICF and the world governing body for cycling over the issue of licences. Whilst other local authorities were far from receptive to this proposal, perhaps partially due to legal representations made on behalf of the UCF, it demonstrates how deeply and directly political conflict permeated the sport in the aftermath of the split.
Since this time and particularly since NICF riders were permitted to race under British licences, relations between the two organisations, at least at local level, have improved somewhat. Cyclists from clubs affiliated to one organisation readily compete in races organised by the other body and at the grass-roots personal relations are reported to be quite amicable. In the North Down area the established Toyota North Down club is by far the stronger and individuals from the UCF club are reported as being happy to recommend young people to join the rival organisation since it can offer special coaching and better facilities to them.
Between officials, however, substantial differences remain and whilst personal animosities may have faded somewhat, the issues which separate them have become tangled up in Northern Ireland’s political conflict and are unlikely to be resolved without a sea-change in the wider political and social environment. As one of the most apparently straightforward and least confrontational activities, what has happened to cycling in Northern Ireland suggests that political inputs into sport, particularly in a context of community division are most difficult to contain, and when mixed with issues relating to nationality create a cocktail of elements with potentially damaging consequences for all those involved in that activity.
Whilst in the case of association football, the most serious problems from a community relations perspective appear to exist at mass level, in cycling, by contrast, they seem to be found at the level of sporting elites. The case study suggests that as a result these problems are much more difficult to address without becoming bogged down in Northern Ireland’s zero-sum politics. This may reflect the increased socio-economic and political resources of these cycling elites compared to the individuals who stand on the soccer terracings. It may also be indicative of the related fact that whilst some community relations issues in football can, to some degree, be divorced from conflicts of nationality, the latter are inexorably bound up with the issues which have caused the sport of cycling within Northern Ireland so much difficulty.
Having said all this, in cycling, as in football, participants are, to a great degree, shielded from these problems. Nonetheless, the atmosphere created can have an effect, reflected in the comments of cyclists from the nationalist community that although NICF clubs are open to all and they were happy to compete and socialise with NICF riders they would not feel comfortable about joining such clubs due to the NICF’s perceived political leanings. When the politics of community division have become so deeply imbued in a sport, for whatever reasons, it may take more than limited community relations initiatives within the confines of that activity to break down these barriers.
The study of boxing is divided into four sections. The first sets out the background to the sport in Northern Ireland. Its social bases are explored in the second section and the third follows this up by examining the role of boxing in the province’s divided community context. Finally, some conclusions regarding the wider implications of individual boxing success stories are set out in section four.
Boxing has its origins in maritime and commercial centres such as London, Bristol and Dublin. A knowledge of and ability in bare knuckled pugilism was a staple element of the occupational subculture of rough and ready British and Irish sea-farers who helped to spread an interest in the sport throughout the British Isles and the developing world. More than commodities have been imported into Ireland through ports such as Dublin and Belfast. For generations the ways of life of other countries including their distinctive sporting preferences have been carried across the seas by sailors, merchants and various classes of immigrant workers.
Organised boxing in one form or another has been taking place in Belfast for at least 200 years. During the first quarter of the 19th century, at a time when British favourites such as Tom Crib and Jim Molineaux fought bare knuckle before large crowds in fields and boxing booths in and around London, Ulster people would gather at Chapel Fields and Points Fields on the outskirts of Belfast to wager on fighting animals and cheer on local pugilists. Since that time boxing has been integral to the city’s sporting heritage.
In addition to its sea-faring heritage, Belfast has long been a garrison town. There is a mistaken perception, in some circles, that the British army have only been in Northern Ireland since the current episode of political, violence began in 1969. A long history of civil unrest and civil war in Ulster has meant that the British ‘army has maintained a strong presence in the Province for more than three hundred years. It has also recruited and based several regiments in Northern Ireland such as the Irish Rangers, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Enniskilling Fusiliers.
Boxing has always been an important part of physical training and recreational life in the services and the army has produced more than its share of amateur boxing champions. Indeed, the British army helped to lay the foundations for organised amateur boxing in Belfast. Before the onset of the ‘troubles’ , Belfast based regiments would open their recreational facilities for community use as well as take part in a full range of local sporting competitions including boxing. Regimental boxing matches and contests between regimental teams and local boxing clubs were a regular feature of the city’s sporting calendar before the late 1960s.
Likewise, prior to partition in 1921 the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) played a significant role in the development of the sport in Belfast. After partition this role was enthusiastically embraced by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (R.U.C.) which, until the onset of the troubles in 1969, was a leading force in Ulster boxing, both within the ring and in the administration of the sport.
The Social Bases of Boxing
Social class is recognised as being one of the most important influences on sports preference and participation. A necessary precondition for boxing to take root and thrive is the existence of a sizable and largely impoverished working class. Alongside trade and commerce, in the second half of the 19th century, Belfast built a significant industrial infrastructure around textiles, ship building and engineering. The rapid and accelerating increase in the city’s population which occurred throughout the last century centred on a burgeoning working class.
The population of Belfast at the turn of the 18th century was 20,000 and it doubled approximately every 25 years during the 19th century reaching 80,000 by 1850 and almost 200,000 by the beginning of the 20th century, levelling off at roughly 300,000 in the 1950s. Wages among the workers in Northern Ireland are lower than other regions of the United Kingdom and rates of unemployment are usually significantly higher. The affluent worker is as rare as the snake in Northern Ireland and a combination of low rates of pay and high rates of unemployment has led to the emergence of a large lower working class population.
The relationship between the lower working classes and boxing is well established. For our purposes it is sufficient to note that the boxing subculture is sustained by a mixture of aggressive masculinity; the capacity of the sport to provide a positively sanctioned channel for this trait; and the belief that the sport can offer a form of sanctuary from urban poverty and related social problems.
In Northern Ireland to this general equation we have to add the impact of two decades of political conflict, terrorism and community division. Furthermore, the fact there is a higher proportion of impoverished working class Catholics than Protestants in Belfast, helps to explain why the city produces more Catholic than Protestant fighters.
The Catholic Church has also played some part in the growth and development of boxing in Belfast. Mainly through uniformed youth organisations such as the Scouts and the Boys Brigade, Protestant churches have shown a considerable commitment to youth sports but they have been more reluctant than their Catholic counter-parts to include boxing as an appropriate activity. Sustaining a belief that idle hands make work for the devil, parish priests have been instrumental in setting up a number of boxing clubs. This can be seen as an attempt to instill physical and spiritual discipline while at the same time turning boys and young men away from the ill-discipline and vice of the streets.
In some cases boxing clubs are housed within church premises and even where there is no direct association between church and ring it is quite common for boxing clubs in Catholic neighbourhoods, such as the Holy Family and the Holy Trinity, to take on the names of their respective parish churches. Boxing clubs in Protestant districts, on the other hand, are usually associated with works, factories or secular youth clubs and are often set up by local ex-boxers who combine an interest in their former sport with a concern for the welfare of youngsters in their local communities. To some extent the different attitude of the churches to the sport is a further factor which helps to explain why the majority of boxers in Northern Ireland are Catholic.
Even though participation in boxing is in general decline throughout Britain and Ireland the rate of that decline seems to be less pronounced in Belfast. Currently, there are more than thirty amateur boxing clubs in central and suburban Belfast which are registered with the Ulster Provincial Council and which box under the auspices of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (I.A.B.A.).
While the density of boxing clubs per capita may be greater in Belfast than in other cities, religious affiliation notwithstanding, the socio-economic context of boxing here is the same as can be found in towns such as London, Dublin, Liverpool and, to some degree, New York and Detroit. That context is the ghetto. The trend towards the compartmentalisation of poverty which is so noticeable in modern British cities is exaggerated in Belfast, where 20 years of community violence has accelerated Belfast’s inner-city ghettoisation into an orange and green patchwork of neighbourhood stockades.
Following the contours of the city’s sectarian geography, almost all of Belfast’s boxing clubs are located either in long standing inner city neighborhoods such as Shankill, Short Strand, Divis, Docks and the Markets or within dislocated, low income housing estates such as Andersonstown, Twinbrook, Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge, Rathcoole and Monkstown. All of these neighbourhoods can be categorised either as Catholic/nationalist or Protestant/loyalist.
Boxing and Community Divisions
Thus, at one level, boxing in Belfast follows a pattern of community division, but in other important ways the sport has been able to resist sectarian stereotyping. Of the 30 or so clubs in Belfast more than 2/3 are in nationalist neighbourhoods, catering for fighters who are predominantly Catholic. The same dynamic operates in favour of Protestants for clubs in unionist districts. There is nothing surprising or sinister about this observation. In the case of boxing, it is the city’s demography which is sectarian rather than elements within the sport itself. It is only to be expected that when youngsters first take up the sport they elect or are directed to train at the club nearest to home. However, teams of boxers and their supporters travel to and from each others clubs and arenas free from the fear of molestation to be warmly received and well treated, even though these venues are likely to be in the hearts of the most vehemently nationalist or loyalist neighbourhoods in the whole of Northern Ireland.
For instance in the early 1970s, during the height of the troubles, while many other community based sports such as basketball and youth football went into decline because people were not prepared to travel outside of their immediate areas, amateur boxing managed to continue. Fighters from the nationalist Falls district regularly went to box at a venue on the Shankill Road even though it was within a social club run by Protestant paramilitaries.
Moreover, once boxers get older and become totally dedicated to their sport they will change clubs if they believe they will get better coaching elsewhere, even if this means relocating to a gym in a district which is dominated by the other religious tradition. In the case of the Holy Family Boxing Club, in the Catholic New Lodge estate, the clientele are actually mixed, with young boxers from areas with radically different political reputations training and fighting side by side each night of the week, supervised by trainers and coaches from both sides of the sectarian divide.
At one level, the presence of young working class Protestants in the heart of a Catholic community such as the New Lodge is very surprising. After all, while the troubles pervade all quarters of Northern Ireland’s social terrain, the most bitter and violent manifestations of the Province’s political crisis generally occur within and between working class communities and it is here that sectarian polarisation is most intense. Moreover, it is working class young men who are most likely to be at the giving and receiving ends of sectarian violence. This is the same social context which provides the setting and raw material for boxing, arguably the most violent sport in the modern world.
Take a violent sport such as boxing and locate it in the heart of a violent society and one would not be surprised to discover evidence of the sport exacerbating existing community divisions and worsening conflict.
However, evidence suggests that while boxing is an intrinsic part of Belfast’s inner-city culture, to some extent the boxing fraternity manages to remain apart from those forces which promote cross community conflict. In short, in a context where most other sports are deeply involved in the politics of community division, boxing appears to remain true to those corinthian principles which enshrine the separation of sport and politics. How can this be so?
Boxing in Belfast is sustained by old fashioned working class traditions and values. It is a sport for ‘hard men’, but in a pre-1950s rather than post 1960s vintage. The ‘hard men’ of the pre-1950s were those who worked in the shipyards, mills and factories, inhabiting a proud, physically tough and exclusively male occupational culture which cast along shadow into popular recreation outside of the workplace. From an early age boys learned physically to stand up for themselves. They also learned an ethical code which valued disciplined toughness but admonished gratuitous violence. Disputes in the school yard or street fights featured punches not kicks or head-butts and never weapons. It was from this environment that the pre-1950s ‘hard men’ emerged. Some, including the legendary Rinty Monaghan, took their talents into the ring while others such as Buck Alec and Silver McKee were content to fight for informal neighbourhood titles in bars and alleys throughout the city.
Many of the factories have long since closed and, like so many other degenerating industrial landscapes, Belfast’s working class neighbourhoods have lost much of their traditional cultural cement. The city’s post-industrial working class culture remains tough, but endemic unemployment, sectarian polarisation and enduring political violence ensure that toughness is edged with suspicion, cynicism and ruthlessness. The status of today’s ‘hard men’ is measured in terms of their capacity to engage in boundless violence and there is no place for their appetites and attitudes in the boxing fraternity. In this regard boxing in Belfast is a refreshing reminder of a bygone era when, for the majority of people, life in the city was hard, but fair and relatively safe and when local heroes earned respect in terms of a creed rooted in the morality of natural justice rather than the jungle.
The central core of boxing is physical aggression, but its existence as a sport is dependent on the strict delineation and control of the boundary between aggression and violence. These are the conventions of truce which characterise the boxing subculture world wide and demand of its members and camp followers a high degree of self and collective control. Ascetic qualities such as self denial, personal discipline and deferred gratification are held in high regard in the boxing world. In addition, while the ultimate focus of the fighters’ consciousness is the defeat of a given opponent, respect for that opponent is also one of the boxers enduring principles.
The boundless violence which seems to be endemic within the modem inner-city, whether it be random, gangland or politically motivated has no place within the subculture of the boxer and this is as true in Belfast as it is in Chicago, Detroit and Mexico City. Boxing thrives in Belfast not because of the city’s violent heart, but despite that violence. The gatekeepers of the Holy Family and other boxing clubs in Belfast are well aware of this and they carefully police their boundaries to ensure that the malevolence, wildness and disrespect often associated with street youth culture are not allowed to contaminate the atmosphere of their sport.
In addition, because politics and sectarianism are such close relatives of violence in Belfast, great efforts are made to ensure that politics and sectarianism are left at the gymnasium door. Without these conventions of truce and their careful policing, boxing in north Belfast would surely degenerate into barbarism. Thus, while there is a surface logic to the fact that boxing, by reputation one of the world’s most violent sports, thrives in the heart of a famously violent city, under closer scrutiny this logic breaks down.
The capacity of boxing to attract people from both communities is undoubtedly helped by the fact that the sport is not automatically associated with one or other cultural tradition. Even though the English may have been responsible for the initial development of boxing in its modern form, in no way could the sport be described as anglophile. Boxing has been able to grow as a genuinely universal sport which is not intrinsically bound up with a particular nationalist or post-colonial tradition.
The same cannot be said of sports such as cricket, rugby union or hockey which, although played in many different countries, are still redolent of their distinctively English heritage and as such do not attract Catholics in significant numbers in Northern Ireland. Similarly, Gaelic games are so clearly bound up with the symbols and traditions of all Ireland that very few Protestants are inclined to become involved. In contrast, boxing is perceived as a neutral sport. Participation in boxing is not taken as an indication of a person’s religious or political persuasion and as such Catholics and Protestants can mix in the name of the sport without fear of sectarian stigma.
Teams are not built in boxing clubs in the same sense that they are when the context is association football, rugby union or Gaelic games. The further a boxer advances in his career, the more individualistic he becomes and the further away he gets from identification with groups of other fighters. Much of a serious fighter’s training is conducted alone, outside of the gym. Even though he may train regularly at his club in the company of fellow members, the nature of that training is quite solitary and there is little time set aside for social bonding.
Very little intimate social interaction takes place among senior fighters within clubs such as the Holy Family and even less occurs outside of the boundaries of the sport. It is only on the few occasions when a club travels away from home to box as a team that any significant socialisation takes place and even then the themes for communication are invariably selected from the world of boxing and other non-aligned sports. The lack of an intimate social dimension to boxing means that there is no serious exchange of the views and values which have a bearing upon social and political division.
Thus, while boxing does have a measure of cross-community support, it is a mistake to overstate the contribution that the sport can make to community relations in Belfast. If boxing has any impact on social division in Belfast then it is at the level of the individual and only of relevance to the serious boxer. Along with a decision to become a serious boxer comes an implicit rejection of many of The degrading aspects of life in Belfast including terrorism and the subculture which sustains boundless violence.
Also, the more successful a serious boxer is in his career the more opportunity he will have to travel and experience longer term relationships with people of different religious, racial and national backgrounds. However, the individual fighter’s rejection of the sectarianism and boundless violence which may be characteristic of certain areas of his home town has little impact on the underpinning structure of cross-community conflict there. The most likely result of a serious fighter from Belfast having his horizons broadened through involvement in boxing is that he will move house.
Boxing in Belfast is a political to the extent that people from rival communities are prepared to suspend their beliefs while within the boundaries of their chosen sport. However, the extent to which this influences social values, political beliefs and notions of national identity outside the ring is limited. As Barry McGuigan and Wayne McCullough have discovered, the moment a sport in Northern Ireland reveals its potential to have a positive impact on community relations beyond its own boundaries, no matter how slight, is the same moment that the sport becomes a target for political exploitation by forces which thrive on community division.
Wayne McCullough won a silver medal for Ireland at the Barcelona Olympics having, as the squad’s youngest competitor, carried the Irish national flag in the opening ceremony of the Seoul Olympics in 1988. McCullough is a Protestant from Belfast’s Shankill Road. Northern Irish amateur fighters must box under the governance of the I.A.B.A. (Irish Amateur Boxing Association) and in international tournaments, with the exception of the Commonwealth Games, must represent Ireland. This is not necessarily appreciated outside of boxing circles in Northern Ireland, especially in hard-line loyalist areas such as the Shankill Road where representing the Irish Republic is considered by some to be nothing short of treason.
The glare of publicity which accompanied McCullough carrying the Irish Tricolour in Seoul reflected badly on his family back home who were intimidated by hard-line loyalist elements. More recently the politics of national division were more formally revealed by the actions of the unionist dominated Belfast City Council. After taking (what was for them) the enlightened step of hosting a civic reception at City Hall for McCullough on his return from Barcelona, they refused to invite fellow team member and Olympic champion, Michael Carruth, from county Cork, even though McCullough had been guest of honour at the reception held for Carruth in Dublin a few days earlier. The council argued that they could not honour Carruth because he was a corporal in the army of a state which still claimed constitutional jurisdiction over Northern Ireland (articles 2 and 3 of the constitution of the Republic of Ireland). With this kind of treatment fresh in his mind, McCullough has spurned opportunities to join professional boxing stables in both England and Ireland electing instead to box professionally in the United States.
Circumstances in the career of Barry McGuigan, arguably the best boxer to emerge from the island of Ireland in recent memory, may also have influenced McCullough’ s decision to fight professionally in the United States. McGuigan was born and brought up in Clones, County Monaghan, in that part of Ulster which is in the Irish Republic. As an amateur, like all Ulstermen, McGuigan fought within the embrace of the I.A.B.A.. However, when he turned professional he was advised by his then mentor/manager, B. J. Eastwood to box in pursuit of British rather than Irish titles - presumably because the former offered a more lucrative return than the latter and a better chance of world recognition.
In an attempt to appease Irish nationalists while at the same time not offending unionists, McGuigan entered the ring under the flag of the United Nations and the Londonderry Air (Danny Boy), rather than the British or Irish anthems was played. However, many Irish nationalists outside of the boxing fraternity never forgave McGuigan for contesting British titles, becoming, as they saw it, a ‘turn coat’. When the boxer paraded through the streets of Belfast with his world title slogans such as ‘Barry the Brit - sold his soul for English gold’ were daubed around nationalist areas of the city. Since retiring from the ring McGuigan has elected to set up home in southern England, ostensibly to be closer to his business interests. However, it is possible that in deciding whether to live in England or Ulster, death threats which McGuigan received from nationalists helped to tip the balance in favour of Kent over Armagh.
The study of hockey is divided into three sections. The first looks at the background and development of the sport in Northern Ireland. The second focusses respectively on the problems which have arisen in the mens and ladies games. The third examines the implications from a community relations perspective and offers some pointers for future research.
As has been noted, the roots of Irish hockey can be traced back to the origins of the Gaelic sport of hurley. However, as an organised and codified sport hockey, in common with such activities as cricket and rugby union, developed from the English public school system and was taken up in Ireland largely in the heartlands of British influence, being played primarily by the middle to upper classes. After partition, again like other sports with British middle-class associations, hockey developed within an all-Irish structure, competition being organised on the basis of the four Provinces. However, reflecting the game’s demographic background, the Province least touched by British influence, Connaught did not readily take to hockey and still does not participate at senior inter-provincial level.
Within Northern Ireland the perceived associations of the sport combined with a divided educational system have meant that hockey has become the preserve of the Protestant community. In keeping with its social class base, the game’s strongholds have been in Protestant grammar schools which have provided many of the teams in Ulster’s senior and junior leagues.
Estimates in the sample survey suggest that around 75% of all hockey players are from middle-class backgrounds and that about 90% are Protestant. Perhaps due to the absence of a major rival sport, such as rugby union or association football, for women from such backgrounds, the numbers actively involved in the ladies’ game are estimated to be more than twice those for men’s hockey.
At least partially as a consequence of it being played primarily by one community, hockey has not suffered from the sectarian problems found in association football. However it has encountered difficulties with parallels in the conflicts observed at elite level in cycling. Whilst there has been little controversy within either game of hockey about the sport’s organisational basis, issues linked to national allegiance have proved divisive, particularly in respect of the selection of players for international duty. Long standing modi vivendi which have worked especially well in the realm of flags and anthems have been threatened by changes which, as in cycling, have been largely precipitated from outside Ireland. Although common to both games, the repercussions there have been in men’s and ladies’ hockey have taken subtly different nuances and merit separate treatment.
Reflecting the emphasis in the sport on compromise, perhaps heightened by the middle-class sensitivities involved, hockey players from Northern Ireland have traditionally been eligible to play for either or both Irish and British national teams. As with the situation which prevailed in international football until the 1950s, the fact Ireland did not take part at the highest level of world competition, in this case the Olympic games, meant that such a compromise was tenable since Britain and Ireland could not clash at that level. Also, the number of players affected was likely to be small.
Nonetheless there was disquiet, particularly from outside, about players being able to represent two national teams simultaneously. Rule changes within the International Olympic Committee meant that for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics a qualifying tournament was to be held, thus opening the door to Irish participation. Perhaps again reflecting the national allegiances and middle-class sensibilities of those concerned, officials from the Ulster branch of the Irish Hockey Union are reported to have opposed Ireland’s entry to the qualifying process bearing in mind all the implications it held for the sport in respect of changes to flags, anthems and selection policies, but were out voted.
As a result the best players from within Northern Ireland who are selected for international duty now have to choose between competing for Ireland or Great Britain. Whilst the numbers likely to be affected are very limited the choice does present a dilemma given the likely social and political backgrounds of players at the highest level and the juxtaposition of the best routes to personal advancement within the game, with all the NACAOs wider implications contained therein.
In particular it appears liable to generate discord at elite level within the Irish Hockey Union and between players and officials inside Northern Ireland. Given the traditions of compromise exhibited in hockey, this is unlikely to be manifested in the kind of divisions and conflict which emerged in cycling, but nonetheless, by emphasising issues relating to national identity there is a risk of increasing politicisation. The differences in views expressed in the sample survey suggests that it may not take too much pressure to bring such issues to the forefront of the sport.
In the ladies game players at the highest level from Northern Ireland have long had to choose between representing the Irish or British national sides. Reflecting the conflicting aspirations involved in such a choice and the wider implications involved, the issue has proved to be highly contentious.
In 1980 the Irish Ladies’ Hockey Union (ILHU) imposed a 6 year ban on two senior players within the Ulster province, Jenny Redpath and Violet McBride, who opted to play for Great Britain rather than Ireland, when selected for both. A similar decisions by two Ulster competitors, Joanne Menown and Jackie Burns in 1991 gave rise to further controversy, particularly since Ireland were to play against Great Britain in the Olympic qualifying tournament. The fact that the British squad went on to win a bronze medal at the Barcelona games highlights the attractions of such a choice, quite apart from questions of nationality. When the likely community background of such players is added to the equation it seems reasonable to conclude that discord would result from any attempts to remove the British option.
What also emerges from consideration of developments in the ladies’ game is that gender appears to make little substantial difference to the complexities which afflict sport within Northern Ireland when issues relating to national identity gain a hold. Indeed, in hockey, the problems which have arisen seem to have caused greater upset to the ladies’ game, although this may be explained to a great extent by circumstances, in particular the fact that it has only been in the 1990s that the men’s Irish hockey team has competed at Olympic level. Nonetheless, in this very limited example, there is little evidence of the intrusion of community divisions into sport being an exclusively male phenomenon.
This study of hockey within Northern Ireland merely brushes the surface of the issues impinging on community relations which are to be found therein. It should be emphasised that for the most part both mens and ladies’ hockey are free of political conflict and efforts are being made to broaden the cross-community base although the residual influence of Northern Ireland’s educational system makes it likely that any changes in this regard shall be on a fairly small-scale. The problems hockey has encountered at elite level reflect less on the sport itself and more on the extent to which community divisions permeate all aspects of social life in Northern Ireland and prove especially tortuous when issues of national allegiance become entwined.
The experience of hockey, to some extent reinforced by developments in cycling, suggests that the conflicts which occur at elite level are in many respects the most difficult to resolve or contain. This suggests, where hockey is concerned, that future research exploring the relationship between social background, sporting achievement and the perceived strength of national allegiances may be worthwhile, perhaps comparing the responses of participants at grass-roots level to those of the top players and high ranking officials. In addition a more detailed and sophisticated analysis of whether gender makes any difference in respect of this relationship may be of value.
Hockey has not been blighted by the same scale of conflict and division as that found in cycling, although the most contentious issues within the sport are of a similar nature and are concentrated again at elite level. The reasons that hockey has not suffered so intensely thus far seem to lie in its social origins, history of compromise and, perhaps most pertinently, the fact it is played almost exclusively by one community. If its community base should broaden, bearing in mind the problems which have already arisen, hockey’s officials may be advised to look carefully at what has happened in cycling and be sensitive to changes that may take shape in the sphere of conflicting national allegiances.
1. M Brodie, Northern Ireland Soccer Year-book 1989-90, Howard Publications, 1989, p4.
2. J Sugden and A Bairner, 'Northern Ireland - Sport in a Divided Society' in L Allison (ed), The Politics of Sport, MUP, 1986, p116.
3. M Brodie, 'The time when Ireland had one national team' , in N Ireland v Republic of Ireland official match programme, 21 November 1979, p9.
4. M Brodie, Op. cit., p9.
5. M Brodie, Op. cit., p9.
6. Republic of Ireland v N Ireland official match programme, 20 September 1978, p5.
7. M Brodie, Op. cit., p9, and H McDowell, 'An Ulster pair who won caps in the Free State', N Ireland v Republic of Ire land official match programme, 21 November 1979, p27.
8. Irish Times, (Weekend Supplement), 13 November 1993, p1.
9. J. Sugden & A Bairner, Sport, Sectarianism and Society in a Divided Ireland, Leicester University Press, 1993, p78.
10. Belfast Telegraph, 15 November 1993, p26.
11. Ireland’s Saturday Night, 23 October 1993, pp l4/l5.
12. N P McGivern, 'The Examination of Patterns of Association Football Support as a Way of Determining National Identity in Northern Ireland', unpublished BA (Hons) dissertation, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, 1991, pp 59-61.
13. Daily Mirror (NI edition), 2 November 1993, p1.
14. (Scottish) Sunday Mail, 31 October 1993, p59.
15. One Team in Ulster, Linfield FC supporters unofficial fanzine, no 1, January 1989, p5.
16. R Allen, 'Football’s Bigots', in Fortnight, no 266, November 1988, p29.
17. Belfast Telegraph, 30 November 1993, p11.
18. Op. cit., 18 November 1993, p1.
19. Ibid, 18 November 1993, p1.
20. Ibid. 13 October 1993, p2.
21. J Sugden & A Bairner, 'Northern Ireland - Sport in a Divided Society', in L Allison (ed), The Politics of Sport, MUP, 1986. p116.
22. J Kennedy. Belfast Celtic, Univ Press, 1989, p97.
23. M Ticher, ‘Football - Healer, Threat or Victim’, in When Saturday Comes, No 7, September 1987, p14.
24. J Sugden and A Bairner, Sport, Sectarianism and Society in a Divided Ireland, Leicester Univ Press, 1993, p78.
25. Belfast Telegraph, 1 December 1988, p40.
26. J Sugden & A Bairner, 'Northern Ireland - Sport in a Divided Society', in L Allison (ed), The Politics of Sport, MUP, 1986, p113.
27. N Ternahan, 'The Gorman Conquest', in When Saturday Comes, no 78, August 1993, ppl0/11.
28. Ireland’s Saturday Night, 22 February 1992, p2.
29. Belfast Telegraph, 15 February 1990, p1.
30. Sunday Life, 18 February 1990, p56.
31. I Ridley, Season in the Cold, Kingswood, 1992, pp 168/169.
32. Ireland’s Saturday Night, 22 February 1992, p2.
33. N P McGivern, Op. cit., pp159-161.
34. J Sugden & A Bairner, Sport, Sectarianism and Society in a Divided Ireland, Leicester Univ Press, 1993, p69.
35. J Sugden & A Bairner, Op. cit., pp69/7O.
Abbreviations used in the diagrams:
ANG = Angling
BAD = Badminton
BAS = Basketball
BOW = Bowls
BOX = Boxing
CYC1 = Cycling (Ulster Cycling Federation)
CYC2 = Cycling (Northern Ireland Cycling Federation)
EQU = Equestrian
FOO = Football
GAA = Gaelic Athletics Association
LGO = Ladies Golf
LHO = Ladies Hockey
MHO = Mens Hockey
MCYC = Motorcycling
RUN = Running