A Cork hurling fan waves the Confederate flag at a game.INPHO/Patrick Bolger

The Washington Post has named two Irish groups who continue to fly the racist Confederate flag.

In a round up of countries where the Confederate flag still flies, Cork GAA supporters are highlighted as using it as are the Red Hand Defenders paramilitary group in Northern Ireland (who have killed an estimated ten Catholics to date).

After the murder of nine churchgoers in South Carolina by racist flag devotee Dylann Roof, the argument has begun again in Cork over whether the time has come to examine the flying of the Southern Cross at games where Cork hurling team is playing.

Charleston massacre suspect Dylann Roof.

Charleston massacre suspect Dylann Roof.

Many in Cork, however, revel in the flag’s rebel image, as made clear by one poster to the highly popular People’s Republic of Cork website.

Addressing the flying of the Confederate flag, the poster stated: “As someone who abhors racism of any kind I'd still be reasonably comfortable flying a Confederate flag at a Cork GAA match – not to indicate support of racism, not because of the "Dukes of Hazzard," not even because I like Country and Western music, but because at Cork matches I like to show the Red and White and it's association with Rebels, and The South!

Another poster wrote:

“The Confederate flag has been seen at Cork hurling matches since the 1970's, it's a rebel flag, those who fly it do so in support of the Cork teams, not in support of racial issues in the southern states of the US.”

In terms of the other Confederate flag-fliers, the Washington Post stated that the Red Hand Defenders, a Loyalist Ulster paramilitary group, carries Confederate flags during marches and that they do so because many Confederate soldiers were originally from or had family connections to Northern Ireland.

The Red Hand Defenders, a Loyalist Ulster paramilitary group, march with Confederate flags in Newtownstewart in Northern Ireland in 2011. Photo: YouTube/AdiProd256

The Red Hand Defenders, a Loyalist Ulster paramilitary group, march with Confederate flags in Newtownstewart in Northern Ireland in 2011. Photo: YouTube/AdiProd256

The Red Hand Defenders were formed in 1998 by loyalists who opposed the Belfast Agreement and the loyalist ceasefires. The group claimed responsibility for a blast bomb attack on September 7, 1998 that killed a policeman, and since then they have killed nine others – most notably human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson on March 15, 1999.

Now is not the first time that controversy has arisen about Cork supporters flying the flag.

In 2004, calls for the Confederate flag to be banned from Cork games led nowhere, with the Cork County Board claiming fans were unaware of its history and connotations.

The campaign against the flag was led by the Socialist Workers Party.

“We know the [Cork] county colors are red and white but it’s unfortunate one of the flags being flown is the Confederate flag from America,” Joe Moore, then the SWP Cork spokesman, told BreakingNews.ie at the time.

“It represents the promotion of racism and slavery, but Ireland is a multi-cultural society and such symbols should not be on display.

“Cork is the Rebel County, but the name comes from the fight for national independence. The rebel flag comes from a totally different context where people in the US were protecting slavery.”

However, the county board argues that fans had latched on to the flag simply because of its colors and were therefore not at fault.

“It’s ridiculous, the flag’s just red and white. Our fans also wave the Japanese rising sun flag, the Canadian flag, the Ferrari flag, but they mean nothing except for the colors,” Mick Dolan, then vice-chairman of the county board, told BreakingNews.ie.

“I don’t think the people waving the Confederate flag even know what it stands for and it would certainly not be my place to tell them what flags to use.”

Two years later, in 2006, documentary filmmaker Peadar King wrote a searing op-ed in the Irish Times, calling for GAA officials to take action on fans’ use of the flag.

“Of all supporters, Cork's ‘rebel army’ are truly a colorful and eclectic lot. Not just for them the simple red and white,” King wrote. “Lurking in the midst of the blood and bandage are the flags of Croatia, Cuba, Japan, Canada and the US. Not just the official flag of the United States, however, but also the deeply racist Confederate flag that remains anathema to all African-Americans in the United States, particularly those who have lived and suffered in its southern states.”

Cathleen Price, an African-American civil rights lawyer King spoke with in Montgomery, AL, described the confederate flag as "a hostile symbol of race-based white supremacy, a central feature of which was the complete subjugation of black people on the basis of their 'natural' inferiority.”

King noted that while “clearly not everybody carrying the Confederate flag to Croke Park [in the summer of 2006] or indeed flying it in their front garden is aware of its oppressive symbolism and its power to hurt and offend,” GAA officials “ought to know and take action. It is most unlikely that the GAA authorities would allow the swastika of the Third Reich be flown in Croke Park, yet the Confederate flag has the same power to offend African-Americans as the swastika has for the Jewish community.”

Do you think it’s time for Cork fans to re-evaluate their connection with the Confederate flag? Share your views in the comment section, below.