Cork GAA team’s fans continued to hold flag high, the day after deaths at white-supremacist rally in Virginia
Two Irish groups regularly fly the Confederate flag and one of the flags was seen on television on Sunday at a major sporting event despite the weekend deaths in Charlottesville and the white supremacist supporters widely waving the Confederate flag.
It also flew Sunday at Dublin's premier sporting grounds in Croke Park in Dublin.
Supporters of the Cork team,which played Waterford in the All-Ireland hurling semifinal before over 72,000 people in Croke Park, were seen flying the flag during television coverage of Sunday's game.
The Cork hurling and football teams are known as “The Rebels” and have long used the confederate battle flag as a symbol. However, there has been major a effort made to ban the flag from GAA grounds because of its racist connections.
However, some fans are still flying it. According to the Irish Mirror newspaper, during Sunday’s game “TV images showed it being flown in the Hill 16 end with hundreds taking to Twitter to vent their disgust."
One person said, “the level of ignorance and stupidity is infuriating,” while another person said, “sad to see I’m getting mails from the states asking to explain why Cork fly the confederate flag.”
The Washington Post newspaper highlighted groups around the world that have appropriated the Confederate flag. The Cork GAA teams were mentioned, as was the Red Hand Defenders, a loyalist Ulster paramilitary group.
Confederate flag spotted in Ulster... Interpret it as you will.... pic.twitter.com/ZTh7phhAVY— Connor Go Eirinn (@ConnorGoEirinn) July 15, 2015
There are many in Cork who have no problem with the flag, however. Addressing the flying of the Confederate flag a poster on a local Cork site 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 its association with Rebels, and The South!
Another poster wrote:
“The Confederate flag has been seen at Cork hurling matches since the 1970s, 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.”
The year is 2076. Cork GAA fans are still waving confederate flags at games pic.twitter.com/i2tmmDtZzb— Brian Casey (@bocathasaigh) June 18, 2017
Red Hand Defenders, a Loyalist Ulster paramilitary group
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 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.
This is not the first time that controversy has arisen about Cork supporters flying the flag.
Confederate flag to be banned from Cork games
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 at the time, 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.”
The flag is widely used by Loyalist groups in Northern Ireland and often flies alongside Nazi flags and Union Jacks
Aogan O Fearghail when president of the GAA has been on the record as opposing the Cork supporters waving the flag. “The Confederate flag is not a flag I personally would be comfortable with,” he said on Tuesday, according to The42.ie
“I wouldn’t be comfortable with a Nazi symbol,” he added “it also has red.”
Ó Fearghail speculated that it would not be possible to search the flags of every match attendee and instead asked Cork fans to consider the message waving the Confederate flag could send.
“Certainly anything racist is against our rules,” he said.
“If people wave flags and one flag is taken away and one isn’t, that will always cause unrest.
“It would be nice if people took personal responsibility and did a little investigation themselves as to what their banner means.”