Republic of Ireland soccer players plan to mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising by wearing jerseys containing a 1916 reference in two games later this month. The move has been criticized by a unionist politician, who called it an “uncritical endorsement” of the Easter Rising.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has given the players permission to wear the jersey during matches against Switzerland and Slovakia, both of which take place around the Easter weekend, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
Said DUP MLA Nelson McCausland: "The uncritical endorsement of the Easter rebellion by the government and others in the Irish Republic, including the FAI, reinforces a republican narrative which has, down through the years, drawn young people into the IRA and other republican terrorist organizations."
The Republic of Ireland crest requires permission to be altered, and discussions have taken place between the FAI, kit manufacturers Umbro and the Irish government about the change.
Last week the FAI confirmed that the shirts would be worn in both friendlies, but North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland slammed the decision.
"This is the football [soccer] team of another country, and in that regard it is a matter for that country,” he said.
"However, the people of Northern Ireland have suffered and continue to suffer from the violence of those who see themselves as the successors of the 1916 rebels."
McCausland, who chairs Stormont’s Culture, Arts and Leisure committee, made reference to a previous controversy surrounding the FAI’s chief executive John Delaney.
In November 2014, a recording was made of Delaney singing the Wolfe Tones’ song "Joe McDonnell," about the IRA hunger striker who died in 1981, at a bar following an international friendly victory over the USA in Dublin.
He later apologized for any offense his actions caused.
McCausland said: "We should not be surprised by what the FAI has done.
"The chief executive of the FAI, John Delaney, was filmed in a Dublin pub in 2014 singing a republican ballad about a Provisional IRA hunger striker.
"When he was challenged about this he explained that singing rebel songs was part of the Irish football scene.
"He said 'Sean South,' a song about an IRA gunman, 'has been sung on the Irish team bus for years.’”
The Republic's soccer team will wear jerseys referring to 1916 during the two home matches. They will face Switzerland on March 25, which is Good Friday, and Slovakia on March 29, Easter Tuesday. The design will not be available to fans.
The 1916 jerseys will not be used at the European Championships this summer because political, religious and personal slogans are not allowed by UEFA.