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Letter of the day: People from arts and sport should not be afraid to identify themselves as 'British' or 'unionist'

Declaring support


HAS anyone else noticed how rare it is that someone of note in the arts, sport, entertainment or the media from a unionist background to declare themselves, without qualification, as British, or unionist, when the occasion to do so arises? How different for those of a nationalist background, who seem to have no problem declaring for Ireland.

No need to qualify, for example, support for the Republic of Ireland football team by also cheering on the Northern Ireland team. No problem in wrapping themselves in the tricolour at boxing events. They lend support to all things 'Irish' - be it culture, language or the GAA. And why should they not, if that is their wish?

My problem is that personalities from a 'unionist' background seem unable to be unequivocal in their declaration to be unionist. It seems always to be apologetic, when they hint at their background, but always with a nod and a wink to nationalists.

Yet why, then, do we have the DUP as the largest party in the country? The reason may lie in what happened to Stephen Nolan, who had the cheek to declare himself British last week after the England football win. He was subjected to the usual social media intimidation that befalls anyone who dares to have a different opinion from the mob.

True to form, Stephen came back to reassure them he was Irish, as well, and for good measure he would support the Republic's team, if they were playing.

The same for Frank Mitchell, who declared support for the Northern Ireland football team and said that players from the nationalist community should play for Northern Ireland. He was seen as even worse that Nolan, as he is perceived to be from a nationalist background and, therefore, a traitor.

But good for Frank; he stood his ground and refused to change his opinion. Good for Rory McIlroy, too, who displays the Northern Ireland flag when appropriate, despite being criticised for doing so. What is needed is those of a unionist background to show the same backbone as Frank and Rory.

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This may all seem like small beer, but until such people 'come out' (to use the modern parlance), the relentless campaign to remove not only any semblance of Britishness from Northern Ireland, but any mention of it, will continue.


Ballyclare, Co Antrim

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