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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Is Jerome being a little precious?
BBC NI's Jerome Quinn
BBC NI's Jerome Quinn feels there is little encouragement for either a neutral or a nationalist to go along and support Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.

Give us your views on Jerome's comments?

HAVE YOUR SAY

BBC NI's Jerome Quinn feels that a NI game at Windsor Park has more sectarian trappings than a high-profile gaelic match.

And after travelling to Windsor Park for Northern Ireland's 3-0 victory over Iceland on Wednesday, he contends that a NI fan going to a major gaelic match at Clones in a NI shirt would have felt more comfortable.

Do you think Jerome's comments on Wednesday night's match are fair?

E-mail us with your views and comments.

HAVE YOUR SAY


As a Derry fan, I've been reading your column all summer, and despite everything, never sent you an email, but your latest column is exceptional.

I never thought the day would come where I'd see a picture of a Tyrone fan, wearing his team's jersey, at Windsor Park, on a BBC site of all places... but well done nonetheless.

I'm originally from Lisburn, but the family are from Moneymore, so I grew up equally familiar with both communities, and as such, until a few years ago, I would go with friends to watch Northern Ireland, and with my family to watch Derry.

I left Northern Ireland about three years ago, and live in London right now, so don't see Northern Ireland as often as I'd like (although I do struggle back to see Derry every once in a while).

As I have always supported Northern Ireland, some of my family have, and even you were there last night (and even the mascot was a GAA fan), surely there's a large part of the supporter base that sits quietly in the stands at Windsor wanting to make a fuss, but not knowing where to begin.

So if that's the case, how come the IFA haven't managed to sort the supporters out?

It seems, to me, that the media in Northern Ireland haven't really gotten behind previous attempts too, presumably because neither side of the fence really cares what happens to Northern Ireland.

Windsor Park is never going to be an all-inclusive stadium, but then again, it's not exactly equipped for international football anyway.

So clearly, we need a new one.

PS : I don't really want to argue with the content of your e-mail too much. but I've been at a couple of Antrim/Armagh games where I honestly think that anyone in a Northern Ireland shirt would be eaten alive.
Aaron Scullion

As a Northern Ireland supporter all my life I was extremely disappointed with your 'Precious Little Change' report.

I will be the first to admit that Windsor Park is certainly not most inviting places to attend for a Catholic, however in recent times things are beginning to change for the better.

For example if you listened the singing during the game there was one attempt by a small section of the Kop support (the same ones that shouted No Surrender during the national anthem) to sing a certain sectarian song ie the Billy Boys, however they were countered by a larger section of support in the same stand with the chant of 'Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland'.

You say you got funny looks as you entered Windsor.

Well I'm not surprised as every one knows you're a Gaelic man.

My God, if I had've seen you I would would be wondering "what's a Gaelic fan doing at a Northern Ireland game".

You also go on to mention the singing of 'The Great Escape' tune followed by the chant Ulster.

Bloody hell Jerome, you're clutching at straws here, Ulster (6/9's of it anyway) is part of Northern Ireland afterall, and the same tune followed by Norn Iron would sound a bit daft.

And by the way "Stand up if you're an Ulsterman, Stand up", is wrong - it's 'Stand up for the Ulstermen'.

I don't think this is sectarian.

"When the goals started to flow, two dozen fans in the Kop took their tops off and danced along the aisles. Good-hearted fun and no harm in that, but did the guy at the back really need to carry a Union Jack?"

Well Jerome, Northern Ireland is part of the UK and the Union Jack is the official flag of the UK.

"The GAA has its trappings as well, with the Irish anthem and the flying of the tricolour, but that is where it ends.

"Fans at gaelic games do not spend the rest of the time marking their territory. They wear their county colours and cheer for their team".

Well Jerome, I have seen plenty of ROI and Celtic shirts at Gaelic games, and they are not Gaelic football teams.

"I contend that a NI fan going to Clones in a NI shirt would have felt more comfortable. Funny looks, and a bit of slagging, but that would be all."

What a load of rubbish, do you actually think an average NI football fan wearing a Northern Ireland shirt going to a Gaelic game with 50,000 fans would feel comfortable. I don't think so!

To finish Jerome, I really do feel that you went to Windsor Park looking for controversy but failed in your mission and so decided to nitpick little things.

However, I do agree that No Surrender chants and sectarian songs such as Billy Boys (not the Great Escape) needs to be eradicated. Something the vast majority of NI fans are trying to do.
Michael Bashford

I did indeed see you at the back of the North Stand on Wednesday night with two children and my first thought was, "That's Jerome Quinn, GAA man. Good to see him here with a couple of wee'uns and he's not working either".

If I had seen your Tyrone shirt, rather than hatred, I know I would have smiled. By the time I had had that thought (slow, I know) you had passed and I couldn't enter into any banter. That said, I'm sure when many people see a celebrity they may be inclined not to say anything thinking that they are present in a private context (not at work), and therefore would not wish to be seen as public property as when on TV.

I too cringe when I hear "no surrender" during the anthem. I despise it.

As for "stand up for the Ulstermen", the number of syllables involved logically excludes "Northern Ireland men".

I know what Ulster means in an historical context and also how gaelic games is regionalised, but if the Ulster rugby team is identified by a red hand and the flag on top of the North Stand has a red hand then surely we should be allowed dramatic license for singing. Union flag?

There were plenty in Munich and at St. James's, doubtless also with the tartan army and likewise in Wales, yet they will still fly their own national flags alongside.

You were present at a NI game that had the best atmosphere in a number of years and all that singing started before the goals arrived.

Those songs, some not even football-related just happy songs, emanated from the away trips to Teplice and Copenhagen where we were very well received, as you may have seen by the pictures form Denmark on Monday evening. The irony of banners is that a number of Tricolours have been seen at Lansdowne with NI place names on them.

If anyone wants to go to Dublin and follow RoI go for it, just don't expect Union Jacks with NISC or the like written on it not to be present at Windsor. There is a Derry City NISC flag in existence.

I hope you can feel it in you to return to Windsor and maybe have Paddy's mates as the mascots!
Neill Brice

No-one could deny that the Northen Ireland support is almost 100% Protestant. It is a popular and frankly, convenient excuse, that Catholics will not go to Windsor due to the "sectarianism" in the crowd.

Certainly there is an element of truth in this. However, it is fact that the Northern Ireland support reduced dramatically at the time of the side's speedy decline after 1986.

Around this time the Republic's fortunes changed for the better. It seemed very easy for Catholics, who for years had supported Northern Ireland through two World Cups, to switch support to a Republic team who were now on the same glory trail as the North had been over the previous decade.

Many current Republic supporters from Northern Ireland will tell you how they were Windsor Park regulars in the eighties.

It seems that when we were the stronger of the teams in Ireland, they could live with the "sectarianism".

We have a team made up of both Catholic and Protestant players. Sadly, the support will remain largely protestant as, quite simply, most Catholics I know support the more successful Republic of Ireland.

A disappointing example being yourself.

A sports reporter, from and living in Northern Ireland, and reporting for BBC Northern Ireland, who admits he does not support his National Team.
Norman Boyd

I have just read your piece on your Windsor Park experience and have to say that I am disappointed that as a BBC presenter you have gone to watch the game with a closed mind on the subject.

When Jackie Fullerton, Waistcoat Watson or any other presenter walks into the ground people look at them.

Once they go past they usually say "wasn't that yer man from the telly?"

So why do you feel you must portray NI fans at Windsor as skinheads who stare you out?

The Union Flag is the official flag for NI and the NI Flag is the regional flag. In fact the Union Flag is not flown by the IFA and this actually seems to be out of sorts with the government who fly the Union Flag as the only official flag in Northern Ireland.

There is nothing sectarian about the flags due to the constitutional position, subsequently endorsed by the majority of people in Northern Ireland, commonly known as the principle of consent.

As for comparing your experience with going to a GAA match I am somewhat amazed and amused.

The GAA was set up to encourage Gaelic Irish traditions and political aspirations. The NI football team represents all those in NI regardless of community, religion or class.

Your problem with the Anthem, flags etc is nothing to with sport or the people at the matches, but because you have a problem with the state itself.

The GAA play a foreign anthem and fly a foreign flag and the whole ethos is to promote something that is totally exclusive of those in anything outside the Roman Catholic, Irish nationalist, Gaelic tradition. This has nothing to do with sport.

On top of that they have Rule 21! If I went to Casement Park, Clones or wherever in a NI shirt or Linfield shirt do you honestly think that I would survive. You also seem to think that it is sectarian for people to chant "Ulster" and "Stand up for the Ulstermen". This I just do not understand. Are you an Ulsterman? Does the Tyrone GAA shirt have a red hand on it? Is Tyrone in Ulster? Was any player on the pitch not an Ulsterman?

Trying to link this to loyalism is simply untrue. Is it easier to chant Ulster or Northern Ireland? Is it easier at Lansdowne Road to chant Ireland or Republic of Ireland?

The only part that I can agree with your article is the bit about the "no surrender" bridge in the National Anthem.

This is unfortunate and something that I hate to hear. True Northern Ireland fans do not sing this and the element that do are mindless prats. However, on the whole your article is one of the worst pieces of bias and totally out of sorts with all other reports on the game and the spectators.

Maybe you would like to write about the nice reception that Numan got in Dublin last Saturday.
Roger

Jerome, I did see you there at half-time and to satisfy yourself of your stardom I did recognise your face. When I seen you I turned to my mate and said "There's Jerome Quinn!!" and we reminisced about the times we regularly used to see you around the Upper Ormeau Road in our school days(back in the mid 90's).

The thought that "Whats that bloke who does the GAA doing here!!" never crossed my mind and I would like to think I represent the ordinary decent Northern Ireland fan who wants to come and watch their team play and admittedly on the odd occasion win.

Secondly, you seem to refer to most of the crowd joining in with the national anthem as a sectarian act, I would suggest this is a "sectarian" act you would have seen in many other stadia across Europe on the same night.

Admittedly, the chant of "No Surrender" from the Kop is regrettable, but I think it just sounds stupid more than anything.

I would not at all feel comfortable going to a GAA match wearing a Northern Ireland shirt, in fact to be perfectly honest I would not feel comfortable going to a GAA match full stop.

My perception of the GAA is that it is a completely non-inclusive organisation that does not make any attempt to engage the unionist population at all.

At least the IFA are trying to attract the nationalist population but the fact is that the nationalist community of Northern Ireland do not want to support a Northern Ireland football team and no matter what the IFA do it will be always be the case.
Ryan Magowan

You fail to point out that the IFA has made a concerted effort to stamp out sectarianism. There is no over night solution to this problem, but efforts have been made by several fans groups as well as one fanzine to eradicate sectarian chanting at NI games.

This is to be commended, although none of this is ever reported in the press, as "NI fans trying to stamp out bigotry" in no way makes as good a story as "Sectarianism at Windsor".

It is sad that you decided to write this article at a time when so much trying to be done about the problem. All genuine NI fans know that there IS a problem, but articles such as the one you have written only sets these efforts back.

I will admit now that I have never been to a GAA game, but there are reasons why I would never go. The GAA is held with much suspicion by the unionist community because of what is seen as it's links with the republican movement.

Not a month ago, I was walking through Belfast City Centre, and I saw posters for a rally commemorating hunger strikers at Casement Park.

I saw campaign leaflets for Sinn Fein featuring GAA players before the election.

There are problems throughout this country, so I find it disappointing that you would single out Northern Ireland games for criticism.

I hope to see you at Windsor again soon.
Paul Knox

I saw you at half time, Jerome.

We were the lads in the Red & White Viking Hats standing at the back of the North Stand - sorry we ignored you but reminiscing about our wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen trip.

I hope you will return in future and support 'Sammy McIlroy's Green & White Army'.
Darren Graham

Why did you feel the need to paint such a negative picture of Northern Ireland fans when you know in your heart of hearts that the vast majority of supporters at Windsor Park on Wednesday are light years away from the sectarian beast you went to great lengths to portray.

Do you not think it highly was highly irresponsible of you to take your two nephews and your son into Windsor Park if you really believed that the venue was an unsafe place to be?

I have yet to park close to Windsor Park. Indeed, I have always parked on the Lisburn Road. Does this make me a gaelic fan?

Does this make it obvious to bystanders that I am a gaelic fan? I think we both know the real answer to that.

Believe it or not but the majority of fans in the North Stand probably have no interest in gaelic.

Like the skinheads they probably "sort of" recognised you but were either too shy to approach you or dismissed the possibility that it could be you.

After all, you're "the boy who does the GAA" - what would you be doing at Windsor Park?

The vast majority of the support joined in the singing of God Save the Queen.

Well, what did you expect? It is the national anthem of our country after all.

At one point during the anthem, a number of fans in the Spion Kop yelled out a chant of ''No Surrender''.

This is an unfortunate 'ad lib' which a few brain-dead morons somehow believe is part of the anthem. Although, as you say, it was a only a 'number of fans'. Not that many I'll wager.

What is sectarian about yelling the word 'Ulster'?

OK, it may not be 100% correct (the Northern Ireland team only draws it's players from the six counties) but, c'mon, if rugby fans started singing that at Ravenhill would that have provoked a similar reaction from you?

What would you prefer? 'Stand Up For The Ulstermen', or 'Billy Boys' or 'The Sash'? The 'ulsterman' chant was started a couple of years ago by the very fanzine you were given in an attempt to get away from the more traditional 'party songs'.

I do have memories of being jostled in a west Belfast shopping centre for committing the heinous crime of wearing a poppy.

If I wore a Northern Ireland shirt in Clones I somehow suspect I'd receive similar, or maybe worse, treatment.

You claim that a NI fan going to Clones in a NI shirt would have felt more comfortable.

I'd love to put this to the test, I really would.

How about it? Actually, why Clones? Why not somewhere a bit closer to home?

I can't profess to know the first thing about gaelic although I do have faint memories of watching my father play during my childhood summers in Cushendall.

I would probably stick out like a sore thumb, though, because I wouldn't have a clue what was going on.

At least give the IFA some credit (a hard thing for a Northern Ireland fan to say!!!!) for trying to bridge the cultural divide.

Funnily enough, though, I can't remember the last time the GAA came round my way handing out free tickets or offering any of my children the chance to be mascot for the day.

I hope I've responded to your article in a fair and reasonable manner and I look forward to seeing you at the next Northern Ireland home game.
Martin Harris

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06 Sep 01 |  BBC Pundits
Precious little change
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