A controversial decision to suspend an Irish national angling team because of ‘overzealous’ use of the Irish tricolour flag at a major international competition has been reversed following a public outcry.
Tralee brothers Chris and David O’Sullivan from the Tralee Bay Angling Club were caught up in the fishy controversy following a competition in Weymouth, England in July.
They were part of an all-island Irish team who beat England and won gold in the ‘Home Nations’ tournament, a huge achievement. However, the victory was tarnished because of a bizarre complaint over the brothers’ use of the Irish flag.
The national association, the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers (IFSA) felt photos with the Irish flag were not inclusive of unionist anglers fron the north, without having suggested an alternative.
The IFSA stated that suspensions were for posting pictures online included the Irish tricolour, after being advised by team managers not to “promote” it or the national anthem, Amhrán Na bhFiann.
Many Irish anglers took to social media to express their anger at the decision to suspend the brothers for simply taking pride in having doing well for the country.
There was an extraordinary swell of public support. Athletes such as Irish and British Triple Crown swimmer, Elaine Burrows Dillane – who uses the flag for inspiration when competing – came out in support.
A turning point in the controversy came on Thursday last when angling clubs all over Ireland started issuing statements withdrawing from competitions and cancelling events as a mark of solidarity.
“Their support was exceptional. When you had clubs cancelling their own competitions in solidarity with us, that gave us some lift. When they started coming in, it wasn’t about individual voices anymore; it was a collective one,” said Chris O’Sullivan.
“I had Protestant friends in the north of Ireland messaging me to say, ‘don’t give up’ on the tricolour. And they’re on the other side of all this. They thought it was disgraceful. We also received huge support from anglers in England, Wales, and Scotland,” said Chris.
Chris and his teammates are adamant they did everything right at the tournament in Weymouth in July.
“110 percent certain,” he said. “We have done nothing wrong. We have mountains of correspondence to prove what we did was right. If anything, it was us who were wronged.
“The wrong anthem was played, it should have been Amhrán na bhFiann and Ireland’s Call (an ‘inclusive’ national song) together. But only the latter was played.
“We were robbed of the opportunity to stand up there in front of our peers while Amhrán na bhFiann is played. It’s a proud moment we had taken away from us. We’re not politicians or activists, we just want to represent our country.”