Belfast Telegraph

Nailing your colours to the mast always splits opinion

By John Laverty

The abuse meted out to James McClean on Monday night was deeply unpleasant and it demands condemnation.

But here's a question for you: would McClean himself condemn it?

He is, after all, a man who clearly believes in free speech, and free expression of beliefs.

We know what he thinks about certain issues because his opinions have been posted on Twitter.

We know why he refuses to wear a Remembrance Day poppy because last year he wrote an open letter to fans about it.

And we know he won't face the Cross of St George flag because virtually every news outlet in the English-speaking world - and beyond - has published the picture of him turning away from it prior to a pre-season friendly.

James is entitled to choose the Republic of Ireland football team over Northern Ireland's and, like everyone else, he's entitled to his views.

But he must have known there would be a negative reaction from, presumably, the English-born fans of an English Premier League team - even one you happen to be playing for.

He upset them via the medium of a football match, and they have used the same medium to have their say.

The Derryman now 'has form' for controversy and will always divide opinion.

But there's one thing both critics and supporters agree on: this is a man who says what he means, and means what he says.

Belfast Telegraph


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