'Angela Merkel' flag flies again

Fri, Oct 12, 2012, 01:00

Nothing captured the spirit of the Irish fans who travelled to this summer’s European Championships better than the Irish Tricolour with the words “Angela Merkel thinks we’re at work” written on it.

A joke conceived by seven former University of Limerick students, they had no idea that the flag would become such an iconic symbol both home and abroad of the Irish willingness to party despite the fiscal straitjacket imposed by outside forces, most notably the Germans.

The flag even made the front page of Bild, Germany’s biggest and most influential newspaper, which is essential reading for the German Chancellor who has seen the funny side of it.

Appropriately enough, given tonight’s opposition, the flag will be in the Aviva Stadium for the World Cup qualifier against Germany.

After returning from Poland, the former students auctioned the it through 2fm’s The Tubridy Show.

It was bought by Oonagh McInerney, a Kerry woman who owns a company in Barcelona, and by her brother-in-law Martin Digby. Their winning bid was €15,800. In addition, Dublin nightclub Copper Face Jacks pitched in €5,000 from its losing bid.

The money was divided equally between Crumlin children's hospital and the Oscar Knox Appeal, set up to aid the Northern Irish four-year-old who has a rare form of cancer that needs specialist treatment abroad. It was agreed to hand the flag over to Oscar, but his family gave it back to its original owners to continue fundraising.

The six former students - the seventh is abroad - will be guests of the FAI at the match tonight and hope to ensure that the flag gets a prominent position for those German viewers who might have missed it the first time.

The flag particularly caught the eye of the German ambassador, Dr Eckhardt Lübkemeier, who invited them to the embassy twice, most recently last week for the German national holiday celebrations.

It has been to John B Keane’s pub in Listowel, which is Ms McInerney’s hometown. It will travel to Barcelona at the end of the year and Australia next year. A further €5,000 has been raised since it was auctioned.

“When we go to pubs, people give us cash,” said Richie Touhy, one of the seven. “I still don’t believe it has happened the way it has happened. It’s surreal.”

The flag and its entourage went to Belfast last night for a gala ball to raise funds for Oscar’s treatment. By coincidence Oscar started treatment in Philadelphia this week, but it did not go as well as expected. It was discovered that that he had a heart condition and could not undergo the immunology treatment that he needs.

A spokeswoman for the family said they had not giving up hope of him receiving the necessary treatment elsewhere in the world. One of the alternative options is in Germany. “There is still hope that he will find the immunotherapy treatment elsewhere,” she said.

Despite being one of the perennial superpowers of world football, tonight’s match is a sell-out, with the Germans taking up their allocation of 4,000 tickets.

The match coincides with Oktoberfest, which is being run by the Porterhouse chain of pubs. The German-Irish Chamber of Commerce will be screening the game to its members in the Conrad Hotel this evening.

A minute’s silence will be held in memory of James Nolan who drowned in Poland while following Ireland. The winning Olympic and Paralympic athletes, with the exception of Katie Taylor who is not available, will be paraded on the pitch at half-time.

A spokesman for the Aviva Stadium said the pitch will be in mint condition for the match despite criticism that it cut up very easily during the recent Leinster-Munster game as a result of concerts that were held there during the summer.

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