Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

‘Ireland a joke for not joining Team GB’ says Australian Olympics pundit

Boxer Katie Taylor won bronze for Ireland at the London 2012 Olympics
Boxer Katie Taylor won bronze for Ireland at the London 2012 Olympics
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08: Paddy Barnes of Team Ireland looks on during his bout against Devendro Singh Laishram of India during the Men's Light Fly (49kg) Boxing quarterfinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 8, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Team Ireland's Michael Conlon (blue) jumps for joy after beating France's Nordine Oubaali in their Men's boxing Flyweight 52kg bout at the Excel Arena, London

Social media reacted in fury today to remarks by a top Australian sports pundit that the Republic of Ireland is a joke for not teaming up with Britain in the Olympics.

Commentator Russell Barwick provoked an incredulous reaction when he compared Ireland not flying the flag for Britain to Tasmanian athletes not performing for Australia.



The ESPN star fronts the hugely popular and irreverent 'Pardon the Interruption' show.



He went on to say Irish athletes going for gold for their country was similar to a Hawaiian surfer claiming he wasn't from the United States.



He said: "It's a whole Irish joke, the whole thing. It just makes no sense.



"We, the rest of the world, can't understand. It's like a Hawaiian surfer not claiming that he surfs for the USA.



"It's not like Tasmanians say they don't want to represent Australia. You're all part of the one mix master."



He said: "I understand the history of Irish politics. Well. . . I don't understand the history of Irish politics."



He then told his baffled British co-presenter that half of Ireland was part of Great Britain.



He then claimed Ireland managed to forget about their national identity when it came to the British Lions in rugby.



He said: "Team GB has an enormous advantage over basically every other country in the world because it's four countries all wrapped up into one.



"What about the British Lions tour? They all kiss and make up for a British Lions and they kiss and make up for Six Nations."



Barwick's comments caused a storm of outrage on Twitter, prompting an apology.



"Ok a million apologies to those I offended. . . My initial question was 'Why does Ireland compete together in rugby but not at Olympics?'



“ I found out myself and sorry again for offence as none was intended ? God I hope Katie Taylor wins!!”



But the commentator got such a stream of objections from Irish people that he blocked his Twitter account.



And today the storm of protest continued on Twitter with users heaping criticism on him.



Dublin Derek David tweeted: “Hello, please inform Russell Barwick that Katie Taylor is on her way to punch some sense into him.”



Thomas Quinn said: “Russell Barwick...coward! Ran away from Twitter after realising he was talking a load of s**t and could not back it up.”



Tara Murphy tweeted: “Yeah, Russell Barwick you better hide. What a muppet, saying that Ireland should be part of Team GB. IDIOT!”



Chris Byrne said: “Disappointed Russell Barwick left Twitter. Wuda liked to send some abuse his way!”



And Orla Ellis said: “Russell Barwick owes the Irish people an apology.”



His comments came after the Daily Telegraph was forced to apologise yesterday for calling Katie Taylor British. After a storm on Twitter the newspaper tweeted: “We’re sorry for mistakenly describing the fantastic boxer Katie Taylor as British in our London 2012 section today. She is Irish, of course.”



Australian newspaper group Fairfax Media was forced into an embarrassing apology after an article about Katie Taylor's triumph over Britain's Natasha Jonas in the Olympic boxing ring was branded as "lazy stereotyping" of the Irish.



The article hit the websites of 'The Age', the 'Brisbane Times' and the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on Tuesday with the headline: "Punch Drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards victory boxing gold."



“For centuries, Guinness and whiskey have sent the Irish off their heads. Now all it takes is a petite 26-year-old from Wicklow,” the opening paragraph said.



“Dark-haired, deep-eyed and engaging, Taylor is not what you’d expect in a fighting Irishwoman, nor is she surrounded by people who’d prefer a punch to a potato.”



The Irish Ambassador to Australia, Noel White, quickly fired off a letter of complaint to Fairfax Media which resulted in the article being amended and the headline changed. The journalist responsible apologised for writing it.

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