Friday, 25 February 2011


Is now the right time for Northern Ireland to have it's own anthem played at it's international football matches?

Recently, I posed this question to a number of Northern Ireland supporters.  Not to be confused with newly acquired goalkeeper Lee Camp, there emerged two further camp's on the issue...


- "The other Celtic nations have their own anthems, so Northern Ireland as a constituent part of the UK, should be no different."


- "The official National Anthem of Northern Ireland is 'God Save The Queen'.  We shouldn't replace facts."


- "We represent Northern Ireland, not the UK as a whole.  We are playing Scotland tonight (Feb, 2011) who will be singing 'Flower of Scotland', however we will be singing 'God Save The Queen'. Why?"


- "I don't think we should replace GSTQ just to appease our 'haters' - mainly the republican community.  Next on the agenda would be to change our flag then change the name of Windsor Park  ...the enemies of Northern Ireland will not stop until the very name of Northern Ireland ceases to exist."


- "GSTQ divides our so-called 'cross-community' squad.  Our players should be proud to stand together and sing together.  It should a shot in the arm for our players, not a shot in the foot."


- It shouldn't matter what players mightn't like GSTQ.  The clearly divisive 'Soldier's Song', which some of the Ulster lads have to stand to before Ireland's rugby matches, doesn't seem to impact on their performance."


- "The Commonwealth Games should set the precedent.  'Danny Boy' is played for those representing Northern Ireland.  It's widely seen as our National Anthem already."


- "I sing GSTQ before every game we play with immense pride.  We should be proud of our British heritage and not be seen to be sweeping it under the carpet."


The argument's for and against a new anthem for Northern Ireland are not a new phenomenon.  They have come to prominence in recent times for a number of reasons, most notably for me, the reception it received in Dublin for the Carling Nations Cup match between NI and Scotland.

Sat in so-called 'neutral' East Stand Lower of the Aviva Stadium, I watched on as Scottish fans mixed well with their Northern Irish counterparts.  As the few locals in attendance would say 'the craic was at ninety'.  However, that was until it came to the National Anthems.  The first to be played was 'God Save The Queen' representing NI, but on this occasion, might as well have been England with a few tint's of green.  The sheer volume of boo's and jeers from the Scots during the anthem was deafening.  The doubtless 'Buckfast fueled' venom coming from large sections of Tartan Army was quite startling, and at times hostile, with one such fan's face almost turning the colour of his country's shirt as the anthem reached it's end.  Cross Rab C Nesbitt with Gordon Ramsey and you will get a rough idea of the sort of chap.

Yet, as much as I disagree with how disrespectful the booing of any national anthem may be, I understood this aggression was not directed at the Northern Irish support in-particular. The message was read loud and clear - Scotland consider GSTQ to be exclusively an 'English anthem'.  Of course, we know this is not the case.  It is after all the anthem of the United Kingdom of which Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England are all equally entitled to, and is rightfully played when the UK complete as a single country in athletics for example.

But this international football where all four home nations compete independently as separate entities in FIFA.  The thought of Scotland and Wales reverting back to GSTQ wouldn't bare thinking about as the world governing body would surely have to question why exactly a separate UK team wasn't created instead.

Northern Ireland needs to relinquish it's current 'UK anthem' and opt for an anthem of it's own.  We're not Brazil, we're not the United Kingdom either.  Quite simply we are Northern Ireland.  Now is the time for the 'revamped' Irish Football Association to step up to the mark and finally give Danny Boy his long overdue call-up to international football.

If not, then perhaps I should get used to the chant's of "Are you England in disguise?" which are still ringing in my ears from the Aviva this year.