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So An Irish tale

English 5 December 2018

Paul Breen

Dr Paul Breen, Senior Lecturer at Westminster Professional Language Centre and Irish affairs expert, was interviewed by the French outlet So on the history between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland national football teams, as part of the historical game which took place on 15 November.

Dr Breen explained: “Before the 1980s, I feel like the Northern Ireland national team were more able to separate politics from sport. However, from the beginning of the 1990s, it has significantly been more associated with the protestant population.”

Speaking about a game which took place on 17 November 1993 in Belfast, one of the most competitive games between the two teams in football history, he said: “The attack, which took place on Halloween day, has since then been named the ‘trick or treat massacre’. Some Northern-Irish supporters mentioned this massacre in their chants during the game. The atmosphere was terrible… It was a time when you could have been killed in some parts of Belfast if you held certain views.”

Concluding, Dr Breen explained how the situation appears to have eased since the Good Friday agreement but the question of national identity still remains stong between the two teams: “The Northern-Irish Catholics, including football players, generally identify themselves as Irish citizens rather than British. […] Symbolically, the Northern-Ireland team remains closely related to the UK whilst these players claim to identify as Irish citizens.”

Read the full article here.

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