Why Rory McIlroy is happier to be British and not Irish -- No history of Irish nationalism in area where he grew up
Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 08:11 AM
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|Graeme McDowell, right, and Rory McIlroy walk behind the Tricolour during |
the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup in Hainan Island, China, last year (Photo: Getty)
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.
SoMcIlroy 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 Catholiccity 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 the other day 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.
Read more: Rory McIlroy denies that he has decided to play for Britain in the 2016 Olympics
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