Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Sadly, Rory identity row is just par for the course here

It's not enough to be a credit to "this place". We still get in a tizz about whether Rory McIlroy considers himself British or Irish.

Why don't we just have done with it and have him ask for HP Sauce, tell us what school he went to and say The Lord's Prayer live on UTV, so some of us can get on with the business of hating him.

Of course, Rory brought some of this on his own head by saying, "I've always felt more British than Irish. Maybe it was the way I was brought up, but I have always felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland."

This is a statement of complicated emotions. Not exclusively British; "more British than Irish".

In other words, like the rest of us, he's on a sliding scale, part of an identity continuum. Solid unionists have represented Ireland at rugby and other sports and no one calls them turncoats. Some of our greatest Northern Ireland footballers have come from the nationalist tradition. Only the morons regard them as 'Castle Catholics'.

If there is one thing we have learned over the last 40 years, it is that we have to make the best of the hands we are dealt.

Sensible unionists can't pretend that RTE is from some incomprehensible country where things are vastly different to our own wee country; reasonable nationalists can't pretend that football or speaking English are the habits of 'the foreigner'.

Our local heroes may represent Northern Ireland, Ireland or Great Britain. Whatever their nominal colours, it doesn't make them any less 'one of us' - if only in that they face the same confusing, sometimes deadly, questions that faced us day in, day out, at the barrel of a gun.

As a Catholic, Rory broke the shibboleth that all Catholics are nationalists and all Protestants are unionists. That was never true.

But after nearly 20 years of peace, McIlroy is saying something profoundly true: you are what you feel you are, not what other people say you are.

Rory is 23 years old. Leave him alone.

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