Eamonn McCann - No honours for local sport

Darren Kidd/Presseye.com
Darren Kidd/Presseye.com

There’s another reason Rory McIlroy shouldn’t opt to play for Team GB at the Rio Olympics in 2016: -Northern Ireland isn’t part of GB.

It’s surprising unionist commentators didn’t make more of the fact that the British team at the London games was named so as to exclude the North. The “official” explanation is that, from the point of view of marketing the brand, “Team GB” has a more congenial ring than “Team UK”.

Even so, “GB” is constitutionally and factually inaccurate. You wouldn’t have to be a flag-waving Loyalist protestor to feel a surge of resentment.

The crowd over in London never fail to claim us as their own when they are slashing benefits or curtailing workers’ rights. But when it comes to “national” glory, we are not on the guest list. The same message emerged from the New Year honours list

It goes without saying that in the somewhat unlikely event of someone offering to make me a Companion of Honour, I’d sue for defamation of character. But the Council of Nobs, or whatever they are called, who dish out the gongs regard them as golden tokens from a grateful nation. When they ignore the North, they are confirming that they don’t see the North as part of what they are.

At Melbourne in 1956, Thelma Hopkins, who took silver in the high jump, and boxing bronze medalists Johnnie Caldwell and Freddie Gilroy delivered the North’s best-ever Olympic performance - until last summer, when rowers Richard and Peter Chambers lifted silver in the lightweight fours, Alan Campbell finished third in the single sculls and boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan won bronze.

Meanwhile, the North’s Paralympians came home with five golds and two bronze: Derry sprinter Jason Smyth won two events - putting up a world record time in each; Newtownabbey’s Michael McKillop also won double-gold, in the T37 800m and 1500m. Sixteen-year-old Seaforde swimmer Bethany Firth triumphed in the S14 100m backstroke; Eilish Byrne of Armagh and cyclist James Brown from Portaferry - both 47 - won bronze in the dressage and road time trial respectively.

Brilliant, unbelievable, unprecedented. But not though worth of even a measly OBE.