Derry MLA Raymond McCartney has described the Irish Football Association's (IFA) refusal to waive the performance of ‘God Save the Queen’ before tomorrow's Irish Cup final between Coleraine and Cliftonville as a chilling factor for nationalists.
Mr. McCartney questioned the decision of the IFA board to refuse a request by Cliftonville Football Club that the British royalist anthem should not be played.
In a statement the IFA confirmed: "Following a written request from Cliftonville Football club the Board of the IFA met tonight (Thursday) and considered the playing of the National Anthem at the Irish Cup final.
"The members expressed sympathy for Cliftonville's position, but decided that the current Board policy, agreed in August 2013, should stand.
"Therefore, the National Anthem will be played before the match."
The Derry MLA said the playing of the anthem before cup finals and international matches was a massive turn off for nationalists.
He said: “The decision by the IFA to play the British national anthem, 'God Save the Queen', at Windsor Park this Saturday before the Irish Cup Final, is yet another example of that organisation making Windsor Park a cold house for Irish nationalists.
“In 2013 Cliftonville reached the Irish Cup final and the British national anthem was not played. The IFA at the time said this decision was about fostering a ‘politically neutral environment’.
“Now here we are in May 2018 and the IFA have refused a request by Cliftonville Football Club for the British national anthem not to be played at Windsor Park at the Irish Cup Final this Saturday.
“It looks like the IFA have made the decision that a politically neutral environment at Windsor Park is not for them. What does this say for the IFA’s attitude towards Irish nationalists living in this part of Ireland?
“This is a disappointing decision and Sinn Féin is calling on the IFA to review this immediately and reverse this decision ahead of Saturday’s Irish Cup final.”
Mr. McCartney's comments come two months after Sinn Féin Niall Ó Donnghaile senator stated (see video above) that footballers from Derry who choose the Republic of Ireland over the North are likely to have been put off by the prospect of having to observe ‘God Save the Queen’ while standing under ‘the defunct flag of the old unionist regime’.
In a statement Cliftonville said that the club noted the "IFA statement following the decision of the majority of the IFA Board in regards to the playing of an anthem at this year’s Irish Cup final".
"We will be making no further comment until after the final," it stated.
While avowedly anti-sectarian with attracting supporters of all creeds and colours, the North Belfast club, situated off the Cliftonville Road between the New Lodge, Newington and the Ardoyne, has a considerable number of fans who would self-identify as Irish nationalists.