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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 20, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    British? Irish? Does it really matter?

    Carl O'Malley

    Why are you celebrating a British golfer?’

    The above was one of the texts received by Newstalk this morning as they discussed the stunning display produced by Rory McIlroy in the US Open at Congressional at the weekend.

    As his final round unfolded towards victory, families across the island and the world gathered to savour a remarkable achievement for a 22-year-old golfer from Holywood, Co Down.

    Rory McIlroy and his dad, Gerry, show off the US Open trophy after his eight-stroke victory in the 111th US Open at Congressional Country Club. - (Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images)

    A young man, who with every cheeky smirk and grateful wave of acknowledgement to the crowd, epitomised what it is to be a champion – brilliant, but humble. Ruthless, but sportsmanlike.

    His embrace with his father Gerry was a truly special moment, the culmination of a shared journey, during which there must have been a multitude of emotions – stony silences, tearful reconciliations, slammed doors and high fives.

    Most of us took our little piece, because ultimately that’s why we watch, so we can share the tiniest morsel of excellence that we will never experience.

    And then, on Monday morning, as we strut to the bus stop like Wee-Mac coming down the 18th, some gobshite dumps all over it by texting a snide question that doesn’t matter.

    There are three ways of looking at it, as far as I can see.

    1. Rory McIlroy is British

    If it suits you, he holds a British passport and has said he would like to represent Britain in the 2016 Olympics. And who has any right to argue with that?

    2. Rory McIlroy is Irish

    If you’d prefer, he can be seen as a product of Irish golf, having travelled the world as an amateur under the umbrella of the Golfing Union of Ireland and represented the island of Ireland (all 32 counties) at the highest level.

    3. Rory McIlroy is Rory McIlroy

    He belongs to himself, his parents, his true friends and Holywood Golf Club. He’s a sportsman. He entertains. He captivates. He amazes. He makes people happy.

    None of the three are mutually exclusive. Three can go with one, two can go with three, and – deep breath – two can go with one as well. Ye Gods!

    • Conor says:

      When asked about the irish open in killarney next month, rory said, “The Irish Open is very high on the list of tournaments that I would like to win in my career one day. I think every golfer has a special place in his or her heart for their national Open and I am no different. To win in front of a home crowd is something we don’t get the chance to do that often, so I’d love to win the title.” Would that not suggest he considers himself more irish than british?

    • Kevin Byrne says:

      Born in Ireland. I presume that covers it. If he plays for Britain in the Olympics someone should get him a map. He always wears an Ulster flag around his shoulders as he did after the Ryder Cup with Harrington beside him with the irish flag. It has been said he wants to play for Britain in the olympics, then he’s a Brit. Sounds like one of Jack Charlton’s brigade. Well Rory, time to stand up and be counted, well done anyway.

    • Alan Caroll says:

      There’s two sides to the argument.

      One, is that as a Catholic born and reared on the island of Ireland who played golf for Ireland since he was young it is a bit weird that his own ethnic group – Irish Catholics – can’t rejoice and feel closer to the victory of one of their own on the world stage yet ‘Britsh’ ie. English, Welsh or Scottish people can. That is a crazy situation which the partition of Ireland faciitates.

      However, as another poster mentioned, many people in the Republic don’t give a damn about Northern Ireland or partition until someone like Rory McIlroy or Grame McDowell do well in international sport. Then we want to claim them as Irish, nothing else. So there is gross hypocrisy from my fellow Southern people in their attitude to partition and the people of the north.

      I for one want to see a united Ireland as soon as it is achieveable. It is our island, after all, and we are entitled to lay claim to all the people on it . But to do that we need to open the hand of friendship to Unionists in Northern Ireland. And expecting them to embrace the tricolour is not the way to start.

    • Sean says:

      Rory, to the best of my knowledge identifies himself as “Northern Irish”.
      I respect his right to do so and can’t see why anyone would have a problem with that.

      As an aside, Northern Ireland is on the island of Ireland. Therefore, it is legitimate to call him Irish, in the same way that South Africans are Africans.
      Unless Northern Ireland floats off and lodges over in Scotland, it is ridiculous to call him British. British people are from Britain. Britain is the island next door. Northern Ireland is not part of Britain, it never was and never will be.
      Northern Ireland is indeed part of the United Kingdom, so he could always call himself “UKish”, but there isn’t much of a ring to it.

      As far as flags go, the tricolour has no relevance to NI, so I can understand him being uncomfortable with it.
      Northern Ireland is represented by the Union Jack, but it has a sectarian symbolism in NI so I can understand why he wouldn’t be too hot on that either. Ulster /= Northern Ireland, so that flag is out too I guess. This is still a bit of a tricky one unless an official NI flag is invented.

    • Sean says:

      “Also Northern Ireland didn’t make a deal out Padraig winning the open twice, so why when a Northern Ireland golfer does so well do the republic of Ireland claim he’s there’s..

      Comment by Phillip ”
      …he’s from our island. He’s Northern Irish, a subset of Irish. Thus we identify with him, the same way someone from Cornwall or Cardiff would like to see Andy Murray do well. Ditto Ulster Rugby, who many would support throughoput our island, despite the team being overwhelmingly from NI and overwhelmingly on the Unionist side.

    • Glen Malure says:

      It’s depresing having to read the countless comments here from the “either or” brigade. Placing a tricolour around Rory McIlroy’s shoulders was an attempt to “claim” him for the Republic of Ireland. Mr.McIlroy obviously felt uncomfortable and did the right thing. If I understand correctly he bears a United Kingdom passport and is a therefore a subject of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I so the tricolour is as out of place as would the French tricolour or the Black, Red, Gold of my adopted country, Germany be. Can we please stop this “he’s one of us, no he’s one of us ” debate and accept him for what he is: a great golfer. Well done Mr.McIlroy

    • Zach says:

      Carl, I think you forgot a very important and the most obvious categorie 1) Rory McIllory is Northern Irish. Indeed the international golfing circuit and the media predominately referred to him as N.Irish. Technically Britain only refers to mainland Britain, N.Ireland falls into the United Kingdom along with Falkland islands etc. He doesn’t hold a British passport he holds a passport from the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Note the offical title of a UK passport; “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So I think it is very short sighted of you and others to refer to him as British he is not, officially he should be recognised as Northern Irish .

    • Oliver Morgan says:

      @Stephanie Burke

      In a bar with a Dutchman once I got the feeling that he didn’t see these islands with exactly the same precision as we usually demand. I teased a little out of him to try to learn how he saw us to truly be. This is how he pictured things:

      “England is an island. In the middle of England is a large nature reserve. This is Scotland. Wales is city. It is quite old and industrial, but small. Ireland is on the northern part of the island. Because of its location on the island, the full name of Ireland is Northern Ireland.” (Not an actualy quote, but approximately what he said.)

      We really have an over-infalted sense of seperatedness from our neighbours that others just don’t see. Is Rory British, Irish or Northern Irish? Only people on these islands care to make that difference.

    • John C says:

      He is British. He holds a British Passport. Sorry to correct Conor Brennan. He is not from the island of Great Britain, but like it or not he is still British. Please check your definitions.

    • Claudio Quintino says:

      Expanding on John B. Reid’s well-informed comment, the Latin name Britannia derives from “Pretanni” – the name given by the Romans to the Celtic tribes of tose parts and that means the ones that paint their bodies. It is the same origin of the term “Picti” – the Picts from Scotland – and ultimately shares the same root of “Cruithne”, the Celtic people that settled in modern day Antrim and the sorroundings – so at least linguistically the Pretani/Britons/British and the Cruithe/Irish are related.

    • Jonny says:

      Rory is Northern Irish first and British second. However, equally he has said that it’s great to come “home” and play in the south for the Irish Open. I would say he’s a moderate unionist.

    • Shane says:

      Please see direct quote from Rory below. Now you decide.

      “The Irish Open is very high on the list of tournaments that I would like to win in my career one day,” added McIlroy, who arrived back in Belfast last night.

      “I think every golfer has a special place in his or her heart for their national Open and I am no different. To win in front of a home crowd is something we don’t get the chance to do that often, so I’d love to win the title.

      “The event was a real success last year with so many people coming down to Killarney to support myself and the other Irish guys. Obviously G-Mac and Pádraig were huge draws as well last year and I am sure it will be the same again this year.”

    • william o' connell says:

      Rory, congratulations to a great golfer and an even better human being.

    • Rory O'D. says:

      I think we (everyone except Rory McIlroy that is) are the ones who need to see past the nationality thing. I doubt that Rory McIlroy begrudges people all over Ireland, or Britain for that matter, celebrating his remarkable success. By the looks of things there could be many more ahead for the lad.

    • Fergus Doggett says:

      Firstly Rory is a credit to himself and his Mam and Dad. He gave a Mastyer Class in golf at the US Open
      which I for one was very proud and honoured to watch. It will be a long time before we see
      the likes of that again Yes Rory will win more Majors and many tournaments along the way in his choosen career. We are blessed to have five Majors for such a small island, with Padraigh and G-Mac. What Rory has done for
      all the boys and girls who play golf and those who have not taken up the game yet is just brillant. All these kids will
      be Rory GMac or Padraigh and indeed Darren Clarke in their own minds and good luck to them. If Rory wishes to play
      for Britian in the Olympics well I hope he wins Gold.

      When one looks at Rorys, G Mac and Padraighs background neither of them came from wealthy background Good Luck Lads on future sucess I am proud of each one of them and Darren

    • june G says:

      We’re all European now. Get over it

    • edricht says:

      This debate just goes to show what a parochial and small minded country we continue to be. History continues to be the Joycean nightmare from which we Irish peasants cannot escape. We continue to be a country of narrow minded back biters. I am a futbol supporter first and long to see the day that Ireland can play as a united team. We all want to beat the English and think we would have a stronger team just like the United rugby team. Unfortunately Schadenfraude seems to be the dominant trait of our psyche. It would be laughable all over Europe to question the religion of a world cup winner,but apparently not in Ireland. The fact of the matter is that the English screwed us over, all of us Catholic and Protestant collectively. We have forgiven the English. Now let’s forgive ourselves and get on with it. GO RUARAIDH!!!

    • William Campbell says:

      THE McIlroys are very Irish and must have a love for the country as they,from what I have seen all have traditional Irish names.Well done Rory and hopefully your cousin Fergus will achieve great things also.
      Enough said

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      He obviously sees himself as either/or/both depending on his form / who he’s talking to / what he’s talking about. Plenty of people not born on the larger island lthink themselves British; plenty people who WERE born on the larger Island regard themselves as anything but. Your nationality is really far more a state of mind and heart than what it might say on your passport. Speaking as one born on the larger Island who grew up along the border that had been forced by my birthplace upon the smaller island, the birthplace of my ancestors. Those of them who weren’t born on the larger Island that is. I would say that ‘nationality’ is something engraved in the shadowlands of the heart, as distinct from citizenship. But anyway. Congrats to Mr McIlroy and long may he continue to win and prosper at his game. If he ever gets tired of people arguing and fightiing over his nationality then all he has to do is lose a few major competitions and they’ll shut-up, or even reverse their initial positions. Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.

    • John Ryan says:

      Firstly massive congratulations to Rory. I sympathize strongly with Michael’s comments, unionist in Dublin, who says that Irish people south of the border don’t appreciate the coming together of 2 traditions to play rugby for Ireland. I’ve had heated disputes in favor of the 2nd anthem whilst a certain minority here don’t get it. I’m a huge Irish rugby fan, Munster first, all others after. (It can be faulted of course on melody but not on intent). Fair dues to Trimble and co who stand still while Amhran Na BhFiann is played. The Irish team should be considered to be somewhat like the Lions, a coming together of local traditions. Rory is hopefully a product of the Peace Process which us southerners have to accept. Of catholic origin,declaring his first loyalties to his local state/province regardless of religion or ethnicity. Its healthy to see a Catholic support Ulster Rugby and this should be part of the whole healing process in Northern Ireland. It would be nice to see Catholics supporting the Norther Irish soccer team though I understand the concerns there. This is hopefully the normalization of Northern Irish society.

    • william o' connell says:

      Who cares what country he comes from, he is going to be the greatst golfer of all time.

    • MRK says:

      I suppose he’s as British as everyone on the island of Ireland was pre-partition…..

    • garret says:

      I heard barry mcguigan on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and he spoke so eloquently about the issue of nationality and how he was perceived. does it really matter? perhaps by trying to put a label on it you can accidently create divisions?

    • Shane O'Neill says:

      He continually draps himself in the flag of the old Orange state, a flag flown by Loyalist paramilitaries wherever, and whenever they can; therefore the original texter is quite right to identify him as “British”. There is no official Northern Ireland flag, it is thus incorrect to state that the Ulster Banner represents this part of Ireland.

      As an Irishman from Ballycastle, County Antrim, I find the flag he has on his website to be far more offensive than the Union Jack, but if he wants to be identified as a Loyalist, so be it. Individual liberty and all that, eh.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Didn’t Seamus Heaney say ”My passport’s green / No glass of mine was ever raised / To toast the Queen” or words to that effect? But then subsequently he won some literary prize that’s only supposed to be for British citizens so I dunno.

    • someguy says:

      Its depressing to see that to quite alot of people Irish nationhood is a meaningless triviality. For the “who cares” brigade, I care. Alot of people care.

    • Lord Stanley says:

      Rory is a European who won the US Open. His country, just like David Feherty and Darren Clarke is Northern Ireland. Stop trying to claim it. In some sports, think football/soccer Northern Ireland is a country. Look at the golf commenatators when they talk about Rose or Faldo. Do they say British golfers or English golfers? And Padraig Harrington, do they say dopey or what?

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      ”Irish lood, English heart, this I’m made of /
      There is no-one on Earth I’m afraid of /
      And I, will die, with oth of my hands u-u-untied..’
      Nobody ever said it better than that.

    • Paul Cadier says:

      Usually if a famous person has an Irish sounding name he is reported in the Irish press as “Irish”, no matter what is says on their passport. There is one exception and that is if they are infamous, in which case they are described as foreign or British.

    • Paul McAllister says:

      Lads, despite what your RoI education has taught you, “British” does NOT merely mean “of the big island”. “British”, just like “Irish”, is an ambiguous term that also can mean “of the United Kingdom” and shock-horror it also can mean “OF THE BRITISH ISLES”.

      The British identity of many traditional Unionists in NI is one that relates to the entire British Isles. IMO this is the most progressive and inclusive form of Unionism because it is one which desires to form relationships with other people in not only Scotland, England and Wales, but also with you in the south of Ireland.

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