Only a Game? - C’mon Ian, get to Clones...

'On the Way In'....DUP's Ian McCrea who was successful in both the Assembly and Local Government Elections.mm19-120ar.
'On the Way In'....DUP's Ian McCrea who was successful in both the Assembly and Local Government Elections.mm19-120ar.

If Marty and Pete can mess about with golf clubs then surely Mid Ulster MLA Ian McCrea should have no problem cheering on his home county of Derry when they play Donegal in the Ulster Final in two weeks.

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson were in overdrive this week when they joined Rory McIlroy at Stormont Castle to try out their golf swing. Last weekend they raced one another, like Usain Bolt chasing another world record, to see who would walk Derry’s new Peace Bridge first - it was a dead heat, wouldn’t you know.

At the opening ceremony of the footbridge, the First Minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly, Peter Robinson, talked of inclusivity and emphasised the importance of both Protestants and Catholics, Nationalists and Unionists, Republicans and Loyalists, all moving forward together.

Whilst the DUP leader’s sentiments were to be applauded, his hard work was dealt a serious blow the next day when fellow party member Ian McCrea said that he was delighted to see Donegal beat Tyrone in the semi-final of the Ulster Championship.

McCrea, who is a member of the Apprentice Boys, is not from Donegal, nor is he from Tyrone - he is, whether he likes it or not, from the county of Derry; he was born in Magherafelt in 1976.

The Mid Ulster constituency covers parts of both counties Tyrone and Derry so you’d think with Peter Robinson’s philosophy in mind McCrea could be a bit more diplomatic when it comes to saying who he would like to see win. Not so.

A few hours after Donegal defeated Tyrone last Sunday McCrea felt obliged to log on to the social network Twitter and post the following messages.

“Great to see Tyrone beat in the Ulster semi’s today hope Donegal beat Londonderry in the final to keep the celebrations out of Mid Ulster.”

When asked by a Twitter user why he felt obliged to describe the county as ‘Londonderry’ McCrea replied with: “I don’t think the county is called Londonderry it is called Londonderry regardless what you or anyone else think.”

The narrative behind McCrea’s comments couldn’t be further away from the images conjured up by Peter Robinson on the banks of the River Foyle (it is called the River Foyle, isn’t it Ian?) last Saturday.

McCrea claims that the reason he didn’t want to see either Tyrone or Derry win was because he thought the money used to pay for a civic reception for the winning panel would be wasteful. How can this be?

The last time I checked, Ian, you are not Mid Ulster MLA for people who do not like GAA; you are Mid Ulster MLA for all of the people in that constituency - and that includes Derry and Tyrone GAA fans.

Many of the people who will be at Clones on July 17 pay their taxes in the North. Their contributions go towards paying the wages of MLAs including McCrea;. The least they can expect is a bit of value for money.

McCrea’s comments didn’t anger me the same way they did many Nationalists and GAA fans; I just felt let down and disappointed. I also remember thinking to myself that if a narrow-minded, intolerant member of the human race such as Ian McCrea can be elected to Stormont then there’s hope for everyone else.

It’s terribly naive of anyone to think that there is not intolerance on both sides. I am sure there are Nationalists and Republicans who would run a mile if they stumbled upon a sport traditionally associated with ‘the other side’. But if we are, as many of our politicians would suggest, to ‘move forward together’, then there has to be respect shown on both sides.

If our politicians are serious about inclusivity then they have to lead by example and comments such as those from Ian McCrea should be called wide as opposed to given the white flag.

McCrea’s comments on Twitter last weekend were deeply offensive to many and were not in the slightest bit constructive at all. In the context of the GAA the county has always been referred to as Derry, and I am sorry Ian but to say ‘Londonderry’ just suggests that you are looking to rile people.

Later that week, Ian’s father, the whistling William McCrea MLA, came to his son’s defence on Twitter saying that he was entitled to his opinion.

“@ianmccreamla is entitled to his opinion. You’ll find that the #GAA is a secterian [sic] organisation, and always will be,” he said.

I challenged William McCrea and he started on about how the GAA in the past refused to let members of the security forces join the association. That’s not the case anymore - the PSNI have a GAA team.

The problem with people like the McCreas is that they see the world as a very black and white place and will never entertain the possibility that somewhere in the middle there may be a grey area. I told William McCrea that both communities in the North of Ireland have moved on significantly and assured him that his local GAC would probably be more than happy to let him join in on a training session. I am still waiting for a reply.

The same can be said for Ian McCrea. If both he and his party are serious about a shared future and inclusivity, then why doesn’t he go along to Clones in two weeks and wave his red and white flag with pride as Derry aim to win their first Ulster title since 1996.

C’mon Ian, get to Clones... there’s a mineral and packet of Tayto cheese and onion just waiting for you!