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The Irish Times: Football's own-goal in struggle for reconciliation in North

Politics and International Relations 25 April 2018

Paul Breen

Dr Paul Breen, Senior Lecturer in the Westminster Professional Language Centre and Irish affairs expert, wrote an article for the Irish Times on the Good Friday Agreement and national identity in football.

In his piece, Dr Breen explained how the mutual goodwill from the Belfast Agreement “evaporated as peace process gathered pace.”

According to the article, cultural ‘wars’ in Northern Ireland, including battles over language, symbols and identity, have been further exacerbated by Brexit and the current political climate.

Dr Breen sees sports rivalry as a microcosm of the divide between Ireland and Northern Ireland, saying: “Over the past decade and a half, there have been concerted efforts to reduce the influence of Ulster loyalism’s songs and symbols at Northern Ireland games. However, the team remains steeped in Britishness. […] Therefore, Northern Irish football remains a cold house for many Catholics and nationalists who do not see equal accommodation of their identities.”

He added: “Sadly, this does not make football a social anomaly. Rather, the issues that polarise football supporters in the North are a microcosm of the broader cultural war within this society.”

Read the full article on the Irish Times official website.

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