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Cork GAA to confiscate Confederate flags from fans attending matches

County board says flag associated with slavery has no place in supporting Cork teams

A Confederate flag held by a Cork supporter after the hurling All-Ireland quarter-final in 2015. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Confederate flags will be confiscated from any Cork fans attending hurling and football matches in Cork whenever games resume in front of fans, Cork County Board chairwoman Tracey Kennedy confirmed on Friday.

Ms Kennedy told The Irish Times that she believed that an appeal made by her predecessor Ger Lane in 2017 urging Cork fans not to fly the Confederate flag in support of Cork teams amounted to a ban on fans flying it. The flag has associations with slavery and racism in the Deep South in the US.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Confederate flag is banned. Ger’s statement in 2017 was very clear when he asked our supporters not to bring the flag to our grounds, not to use the flag, so as far as I’m concerned, it is banned.

“I’m happy to make that position explicit and say it’s banned from our grounds. It has no place in our grounds or in supporting Cork teams. We’re a community association and every part of the community is welcome in the GAA.”

Stewards at Cork’s home ground of Pairc Uí Chaoimh would be confiscating the Confederate flag from any fans before they enter the ground and, if they did bring it into the ground and fly it, stewards would also confiscate it, she said.

Ms Kennedy said that while she believed the flag was effectively already banned by the Cork County Board, she would be happy, if necessary, to bring a motion to the board when meetings resume seeking a formal ban.

Ms Kennedy was commenting after the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (Nascar) in the US decided to ban the Confederate flag from all its races and properties because of its racist associations.

Nascar, which is headquartered at Daytona Beach, Florida, took the decision to ban the flag in the wake of growing protests over racism in the US following the death of African-American George Floyd (46) who died in on May 25th after a white police officer in Minneapolis held him down by pressing his knee into his neck for almost nine minutes.

The issue was pushed to the fore this week as Nascar’s lone black driver Bubba Wallace called for the banishment of the Confederate flag and said there was “no place” for it in the sport and Nascar agreed to ban it.

“The presence of the Confederate flag at Nascar events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” said Nascar.

“Bringing people together, around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all Nascar events and properties.”

Use has diminished at games

Ms Kennedy said she believed instances of Cork fans flying of the Confederate flag at games had diminished hugely since Mr Lane made his appeal in 2017 and she was not personally aware of any instance of it being flown at games.

Cork GAA had no control over what happens to the flag, with its blue saltire and white stars on a red field, when Cork teams play in other stadia but she re-iterated that flying the flag would not be allowed in Pairc Uí Chaoimh.

Asked if Cork GAA would consider banning fans, who fly the flag, from going to games as some Premier League soccer clubs in England have done following racist chanting, Ms Kennedy said Cork GAA did not have the power to ban fans.

“We, as a county board don’t have power to ban fans - that’s something that would have to be imposed at national level by the GAA - we can confiscate flags but we don’t have the power to sanction people.”

Ms Kennedy’s comments came as Joe Moore of the Cork Anti-Racism Network re-iterated a call he first made in 2004 for the flag to be banned at Cork GAA matches because of its association with slavery and racism in the Deep South.

Mr Moore, speaking then on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party of which he is still a member, urged the Cork County Board to ban the flag but his call was ignored and prompted something of a backlash on social media in 2004.

“I called for the Stars and Bars to be banned back in 2004 but it fell on deaf ears at the time and people were dismissive of the call but it is well beyond time now for Cork GAA to come out and ban it,” he said.

“The Stars and Bars was the flag of the Confederacy which tried to secede from the United States back in 1861 in order to maintain slavery as the basis of their economy and they fought a civil war over it.

“And since the late 19th century and early 20th century, it’s a flag that has been used by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups so there should be no argument here about banning it.

“I know some Cork fans will say there’s a rebel connection but Rebel Cork stems from Cork’s role in an anti-imperialist rebellion rather than from a rebellion to protect slavery so that argument doesn’t stand up.”

Mr Moore said the issue was all the more important given the number of young black Irish children playing Gaelic games and while their families may be African rather than American in origin, it still had racist implications for them.

“Those kids are coming from an African background rather than an American background but the people who were enslaved in the US by those who pledged their loyalty to the Stars and Bars also came from African backgrounds.”

Mr Moore said the Confederate flag was just as offensive to people of African origin as a Nazi flag, which also has a red background, would be to Jewish people and should simply be banned forthwith by Cork County Board.

Cork fans have a long tradition of adopting all kinds of red flags including the Stars and Stripes, Turkish flags, Chinese flags, the Rising Sun flag of the Imperial Japanese army from the second World War and flags bearing the image of Che Guevara.