\"\"

Why Rory McIlroy is happier to be British and not Irish

\"\"

I think I know why Rory McIlroy is happier with his British identity rather than his Irish one.

It starts with North Down, the area he comes from.

For the length of The Troubles, North Down was never a hot bed of nationalism, preferring most of the time to send very moderate nationalist politicians to the parliament in Britain.

To this day Sinn Fein has no real traction in the area and despite the death of a relative at the hands of Loyalist killers, McIlroy grew up unaffected by the aftermath of the Troubles.

It is also an historical legacy. Unlike Tyrone and Armagh where the planters were brutal and drove the Catholics off the land and persecuted and damned them, in Down the occupation was much more gently handled.

This led to better relations between the communities there than almost anywhere else in Northern Ireland.

McIlroy is following men like Lord Ballyedmond, formerly Eddie Haughey, another highly successful Catholic businessman from close by to McIlroy, who assumed the British mantle as well.

So McIlroy was insulated from much of the bad stuff growing up and indeed in the post-troubles era his choice of British as his identity is not a complete shock.

He is too young or too successful to have studied the history too much I imagine or his family has made peace with the other side a long time ago perhaps.

Yet when you visit Northern Ireland you immediately become aware of the scope and intent of the original plantation.

All the good land was taken by the Protestants and their holdings tended to literally look down on the Catholic patches where they drove off the natives.

If you visit Stormont, the seat of government, you see how the massive building with its triumphal statue of Carson looks down from a height on the deprived nationalist neighborhoods below.

The history is rife with Protestant triumphalism, Derry, the leading Catholic city still does not have a proper motorway to Belfast – the best roads always led to Protestant towns.

Equally, when a second university was to be built it was sited in Coleraine and not Derry so that Protestants could take better advantage.

Up until the 1970s and the civil rights movement, there was not even one-man one-vote. People with property, always Protestants, were entitled to extra votes.

Ironically, an example of this arrogance was on display with McIlroy's former golfing counterpart, David Feherty, now with CBS Sports. During the Notre Dame game in Dublin, Feherty, a Protestant, made the claim that Gaelic football and hurling were not played in Northern Ireland - even though they are by far the most popular games in nationalist areas.

Those bad days are behind us but driving through the North recently I could not miss the triumphal Ulster flag flying that still goes on both on the motorway to Belfast and then from Belfast to Derry.

The bad days are over, nationalists are now in a power sharing government and men like Rory McIlroy are free to make a choice that would have been almost impossible a generation ago.

It is still one that will grate with many, especially many Irish Americans I’d wager. Then again I’d rather cheer Padraig Harrington anytime just to see the Tricolor wave after a major tournament.

The Northern Ireland flag, flown by a Protestant like Graeme McDowell, will never bother me in the slightest, flown by a Catholic like Rory, however, will never seem quite right to me.

COMMENTS

Log in with your social accounts:

Or, log in with your IrishCentral account:

Forgot your password ?

Don't have an account yet? Register now !

Join IrishCentral with your social accounts:


Already have an account ?

For Newsletter Subscribers – Draw for 1 Prize on December 31st.

Prize: Your Piece of Ireland – a Square of Land in the heart of the Glens of Antrim, Ireland

More details here (or you can buy a little piece of Ireland directly): http://bit.ly/1zew9ox

Terms & Conditions

Or, sign up for an IrishCentral account below:

By clicking above you are indicating that you have read & agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.


Make sure we gathered the correct information from you

By clicking above you are indicating that you have read & agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.


You already have an account on IrishCentral! Please confirm you're the owner.


Our new policy requires our users to save a first and last name. Please update your account: