A Methodist minister whose father was shot dead by the IRA in the 1980s has said to see a successful Irish football team celebrate “by chanting ‘Ooh ah, up the ‘Ra’ turns my stomach”.
Rev Dr David Clements has said, in building any new future for the island of Ireland, “how can we drain the putrid puss of this revisionist indoctrination that allows a new generation to celebrate the violence of the IRA”.
Seanad Éireann held a meeting to listen to unionist and other voices as part of its public consultation on the Constitutional Future of the island of Ireland on Friday.
Rev Clements had been due to attend the meeting as a representative of the Methodist Church in Ireland but could not because of a family bereavement and a statement was read out on his behalf by Rev Steven Foster.
Rev Clements said his father was born and bred on the Shankill Road in Belfast, was a unionist, though “he was happy to be both Irish and British and an Ulsterman as well, but above all he would have labelled himself as Christian,” he said.
“He was shot dead by the IRA on a dark Saturday night in December 1985. I have asked both publicly and privately why he was shot, usually I get no answer. Presumably he was not shot because he was a unionist, a Methodist, a Protestant or a Christian.
“The obvious answer is that he was shot because he wore a bottle green uniform. It has been suggested that the IRA did not want to shoot Bill Clements, they shot at the RUC uniform. I like to think that I am not easily offended or angered but that answer makes me boil.
“My father loved sport, in a competition for a finals place between Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, he would, like me, have cheered loudest for the Irish.
“To see a successful Irish football team celebrate by chanting ‘Ooh ah, up the ‘Ra’ turns my stomach. If I were able to be with you this morning you would be asking me questions, can I pose a question for you to think about in your deliberations — in building any new future for this island, how can we drain the putrid puss of this revisionist indoctrination that allows a new generation to celebrate the violence of the IRA.”
A video of the Republic of Ireland’s women’s national team singing ”Ooh ah, up the ‘Ra” following their World Cup playoff victory over Scotland in Glasgow on Tuesday night has been widely circulated on social media. Both the Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw and the Football Association of Ireland issued apologies over the incident.
Rev Foster, also a representative from the Methodist Church in Ireland, said he understood the women’s team were “caught up in the emotion of such a joyous occasion and we want to mark and celebrate the positivity of that”.
“But I suppose, to step back and look at what lies behind this, I think there’s a real lack of education and understanding of the issues,” he said.
“I think young generations in Ireland today, particularly in the Republic, need to be well educated about their history, about the last 100 years or certainly of others’ experience and I think it has to happen at an educational level for people to appreciate why a chant like that might be offensive.”
Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly said people needed to understand that such chants “aren’t simply just a chant”.
“There are people hurt by such things, they need to understand that there are consequences when they are celebrating in that manner, that it causes hurt,” he said.
“Once people understand it causes hurt I think it will then put a stop to it but they need to understand that in the first place.”
In the second session on Friday, unionist voices said the way in which the debate around the potential for a united Ireland was being held was “highly divisive”.
Peter Shirlow, of the University of Liverpool, said the progress that has been made so far through the Belfast Agreement “must be recognised and endorsed”.
Alison Grundle, who previously worked as a special adviser to the Northern Ireland’s former justice minister Claire Sugden, said there was a desire to build a shared island with prosperity for all.
However, she added: “I do not think at this point we can actually plan for a united Ireland because British government will not engage. The northern assembly will not engage.”
Ms Grundle said unionists were being “promised the land of milk and honey” when it comes to conversations around a united Ireland.
However, she said if you read Sinn Féin’s last election manifesto, you’d see that it is not the case.
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