Anger at Croke Park insult
Anger at Croke Park insult

The London government has ruled out a gesture of reconciliation ahead of the controversial appearance of an English rugby team at the site of a notorious British massacre in 1920.

Republicans are set to protest the waving of the Union Jack and the playing of the British national anthem at Croke Park, the famous headquarters of the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) in Dublin’s northside.

The occasion on Saturday is the presence of the English rugby team, made possible by controversial changes to GAA policy which allows non-domestic codes to be played at GAA venues.

Croke Park was the site of the random massacre of fourteen football spectators by British RIC police during the War of Indepedence, the original ‘Bloody Sunday’. Until Saturday, no British presence, official or otherwise, hand been contemplated.

There had been speculation British Direct Ruler Peter Hain would lay a wreath in memory of the victims at next week’s match, but Downing Street has now overruled the idea. A spokesperson insisted it was “unaware of any plans for any ceremony”.

Mr Hain has now insisted he “never proposed doing anything other than attend and watch the match” at the specific request of 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British prime minister Tony Blair.

British officials also claimed that the decision not to hold a commemoration was taken following consultations with the GAA and the IRFU, the Irish Rugby Footbal Union.

Amid growing anger at the lack of sensitivity being shown ahead of next weekend’s match, writer and former GAA star JJ Barrett is to withdraw his father’s medal collection from the Croke Park museum in protest.

Mr Barrett, whose father Joe won six All-Ireland medals, has written to the director general of the GAA asking that the 23 medals be sent back to him prior to the game.

“I cannot reconcile the provocative words of ‘God Save the Queen’ being sung in the very stadium where Michael Hogan and others died at the hands of the crown forces on Bloody Sunday,” he said.

“The words run contrary to our constitution and I believe the GAA should have foreseen this problem when they rented out Croke Park,” he said.

Lansdowne Road, the usual venue in Dublin for rugby internationals, is currently undergoing a major refurbishment

While Sinn Féin has not commented on the controversy, Republican Sinn Féin has confirmed it will be holding a protest at the decision to hold the match at Croke Park.

“It is all part of the continued efforts to normalise the British occupation of Ireland,” said RSF Vice President Des Dalton.

“British occupation and rule in Ireland will never be either normal or acceptable; consequently the political symbolism of inviting the national team of a country which forcibly occupies part of Ireland to Croke Park is something which Irish Republicans are determined to publicly protest against.

“This game, just as any proposed visit by the Queen of England to any part of Ireland, visits by the British military to the 26-Counties or the playing of GAA matches between 26-County military or police teams against British Crown forces are part of this menu of normalisation.

It is our intention to provide a political focus to those wishing to protest at the symbolism involved in the flying of the English flag and the playing of God Save the Queen in Croke Park, the scene of a massacre of Irish people by British forces in 1920.

“Sadly this event is not simply a matter of history as the political situation which gave rise to it, namely British rule in Ireland remains a political reality. We are determined to ensure that this illegal occupation is never considered acceptable.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News