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Anger at Republic of Ireland team's Easter Rising tribute shirt


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Republic of Ireland football star James McClean and his team-mates will wear shirts with 1916 badges

Republic of Ireland football star James McClean and his team-mates will wear shirts with 1916 badges

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

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Plans by the Republic of Ireland's footballers to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising have been slammed by a unionist politician.

The players will wear jerseys containing a reference to 1916 in two games later this month.

The friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia take place around the Easter weekend, coinciding with the centenary of the revolt.

News that the jerseys were being considered emerged last week.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has now given the go-ahead for them to be worn in both matches.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland hit out at what he termed an "uncritical endorsement" of the Easter Rising.

"The uncritical endorsement of the Easter rebellion by the government and others in the Irish Republic, including the FAI, reinforces a republican narrative which has, down through the years, drawn young people into the IRA and other republican terrorist organisations," he said.

The Easter Rising was a landmark event in the battle for Irish independence.

Rebels mounted an armed insurrection in Dublin during Easter week in 1916 in a failed bid to establish an independent Irish Republic.

The rising resulted in more than 450 deaths and the insurgents' defeat. Most of the leaders were executed in the days that followed. However, it is still credited as a turning point in the quest for Irish independence.

The centenary will be marked by a series of events taking place across Dublin and Ireland around the Easter period.

The Republic's footballers will wear jerseys referring to 1916 during the two home matches played on Good Friday and then on Easter Tuesday.

Martin O'Neill's side face Switzerland on March 25 and Slovakia on March 29.

The Republic of Ireland crest is an Irish Government logo and requires permission to be altered.

Discussions have taken place between the FAI, kit manufacturers Umbro and the Irish Government about the change.

An FAI source confirmed yesterday the shirts would be worn in both friendlies.

But Mr McCausland said: "This is the football team of another country, and in that regard it is a matter for that country

"However, the people of Northern Ireland have suffered and continue to suffer from the violence of those who see themselves as the successors of the 1916 rebels."

The North Belfast MLA, who chairs Stormont's culture, arts and leisure committee, said he was not surprised by the FAI's decision.

He referred to previous controversy surrounding the association's chief executive John Delaney.

In November 2014 Mr Delaney was recorded on a mobile phone singing the Wolfe Tones' song Joe McDonnell.

McDonnell, an IRA hunger striker, died in 1981 after 61 days without food.

He had been imprisoned in 1977 following a bomb attack on a shop.

Mr Delaney was shown leaning against a bar and singing after an international friendly victory over the USA in Dublin.

He later apologised for any offence his actions had caused.

Mr McCausland added: "We should not be surprised by what the FAI has done.

"The chief executive of the FAI, John Delaney, was filmed in a Dublin pub in 2014 singing a republican ballad about a Provisional IRA hunger striker.

"When he was challenged about this he explained that singing rebel songs was part of the Irish football scene.

"He said Sean South, a song about an IRA gunman, 'has been sung on the Irish team bus for years'."

It is believed that the 1916 jerseys will be worn only by the players and will not be available to fans.

The design will not be used at the Euros because Uefa does not allow political, religious or personal slogans.

Last month European football's governing body charged Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow and one of its players with improper conduct after he revealed a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin on a T-shirt after a politically-charged game in Turkey.

Midfielder Dmitri Tarasov took off his team shirt to reveal the image after his team lost to Turkish side Fenerbahce 2-0 in the Europa League.

Emblazoned beneath the image of Putin wearing a Russian navy cap were the words in Russian: 'The most polite president.'

Belfast Telegraph