Monday, May 28, 2012

Louginisland Commemoration

A controversy has emerged in recent weeks over the decision by the Football Association of Ireland to mark the anniversary of the Loughinisland massacre by having the Irish players wear black arm bands during the upcoming Euro 2012 match between Ireland and Italy which coincidentally falls on the same date as the 1994 atrocity which also occurred during an Ireland V Italy match. In my view, the significance on such a match on such a date would escape no objective person. It is entirely appropriate that the FAI and the Irish players mark the anniversary of the slaughter of their supporters. Some context is required.

On the 18th of June 1994 loyalist terrorists from the "Ulster Volunteer Force" made the short journey from Belfast to the quite and peaceful village of Loughinisland in Co Down. Two terrorists entered "The heights" bar, a small pub in the village where 15 people had gathered to watch Ireland's opening match of the 1994 World Cup against Italy. The two terrorists sprayed the pub with machine gun fire shooting 11 of the 15 people present. Six were killed. As people who had gathered in Northern Ireland to watch the Republic of Ireland playing a high profile soccer match this is how they were identified as Catholics and this was why they were targeted. It was one of the most blatantly sectarian atrocities of the troubles.

The scene after 11 people were shot in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland. Barney Green (87), had his back to the door and was the first to die when he was riddled with machine gun fire.

This was an outrage that affected me deeply at the time. I remember where I was when the atrocity took place. I was also in a pub watching the match. As a 13 year old kid I was completely obsessed with Ireland's entry into the World Cup and that day I was in my uncles pub in Belturbet Co Cavan surrounded by scores of friends and relatives all of whom were also dressed head to toe in green and waving our flags. In my mind the Irish soccer team being at the world cup was a source of joy that united the country. I had no idea why people would commit a massacre at a scene that was very similar to the one I experienced. In fact Belturbet, although not in northern Ireland is just South of the border and has been attacked by loyalists in the past. I wonder, did the brave defenders of Ulster consider attacking my uncles pub that day.

So, where is the controversy. Surely nobody would object to a simple act to mark the 18th anniversary of this atrocity on a day that ireland is once again playing Italy on the world stage. I for one can honestly say without any sense of causing annoyance that if a sporting event fell on the anniversary of the Enniskillin atrocity or another IRA outrage I would be completely supportive of a similar commemoration. Justice for victims is one area where the Good friday Aggreement has failed. I personally find it tiresome watching former terrorists and obstructionists getting paraded as peace making heroes. With the passing of time and the politcal process secure I think it is time we stared hearing more from victims. To be fair some of those critical of the FAI's decision they have simply been arguing that politics and sport shouldn't mix and I accept that point of view even if I disagree. But a more sinister element has accused the FAI of attempting to rewrite history and even of the whole thing being a provo stunt. These criticisms have come from some people in the Republic whose opposition to Sinn Fein is so intense that they have in some strange ironic political twist come to defending Ulster loyalism. Those who hold such views in the republic are in an extreme minority and in reality their opinions are probably based more on attention seeking that conviction. Nevertheless it is hurtful. When I am in Poznan on the 18th of June I for one will be moved by the sight of my heroes on the Irish football team wearing black arm bands as a mark of respect for those who were murdered 18 years ago.

9 comments:

cmg said...

Definitely,this massacre should be remembered.There should be no controversy regarding any attack as brutal as this,the same goes to other sporting events such as the Olympics,the 11 Israeli Athletes and the West German Police Officer butchered in 1972 should be remembered aswell.I don't see how this has anything to do with politics these people were innocent civilians enjoying a football game before they were murdered in cold blood,if people object to this because they see it as political,then there is still some problems that have to be resolved.

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With the passing of time and the politcal process secure I think it is time we stared hearing more from victims.
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