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James McClean weighs into Derry name row

By Claire McNeilly

Controversial footballer James McClean has become embroiled in another political furore after tweeting his views on the Derry/Londonderry debate.

McClean, who was warned by his club earlier this week to show respect for the English flag and British national anthem, posted a lunchtime tweet yesterday that stated: "Training finished, gym finished, Derry's getting its rightful name back, have a great day folks", followed by a smiley face.

Followers who had been expecting the 26-year-old to respond to news that a rival footballer received a record ban for abusing him verbally with sectarian remarks, instead got a post - which has been retweeted hundreds of times - about the proposal by Derry and Strabane Council to officially rename the Maiden City as Derry.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the player was putting his future with West Bromwich Albion in "serious jeopardy", but Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff defended the Republic of Ireland winger.

"He has had a litany of political issues and a series of managers who have had words with him," Mr Campbell said.

"Less than a week ago he was in trouble with his manager for disrespecting the English flag and British national anthem, and now he has waded into controversy again. This time it isn't something he was provoked into doing. This was something of his own making.

"He may have been able to explain treating the national anthem with disdain by saying he had to walk out with his team and he was put in a position he couldn't avoid, but in this case there is no justification. He proactively sent a tweet and embroiled himself in politics yet again."

Read more

What's in a name? Handling the Londonderry/Derry issue  

But Mr McElduff said the player had the right to express his opinions. "James McClean is true and loyal to his own identity, upbringing and beliefs," he said.

"I don't think he's trying to make a name for himself on these matters. He deals with a lot of situations which challenge his identity.

"Let's face it, there is an Ireland-England dispute going on which has lasted hundreds of years.

"In this world, in public life, if you're a strong Irish nationally-minded person, you will take a lot of flak if you stand up strong for your beliefs and you are true to your background."

McClean was banned from Twitter when he played for Sunderland after a sectarian row on the social networking site.

The move came after the footballer tweeted his love for rebel song The Broad Black Brimmer by The Wolfe Tones.

The song tells the story of a boy whose father is killed fighting for the old IRA.

The title refers to the wide-brimmed hat worn by many IRA fighters in the Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil War.

Meanwhile, another professional footballer has been suspended for a torrent of on-field sectarian abuse directed at McClean.

Rotherham defender Kirk Broadfoot was slapped with a massive 10-game ban by the Football Association.

The suspension is the longest ever handed out in English football for a verbal attack, beating the eight games imposed on Luis Suarez for racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011.

The incident occurred during a Championship match between Rotherham and Wigan, McClean's former club.

Belfast Telegraph


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