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12 March 2021

James McClean has again indicated recently that the level of abuse directed against him and his wife Erin is on the increase. It’s a sad state of affairs that this happening once more and it seems to me to be connected with Brexit. James has endured sectarian and racist abuse for years. It started when he refused to wear the poppy on his jersey and has continued unabated since then. It now appears to have increased following the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

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James McClean is a wonderful example of someone standing up for his rights. He is a hugely courageous person. Arising out of this brave stance he and his family have been the target of vile abuse and of death threats made against him.

It is clear that the British people have little understanding of Irish history. It is not understood that there was a struggle of eight hundred years before independence was finally achieved and that most of this country eventually achieved said independence almost one hundred years ago. It seems clear that this is not within the knowledge of a significant body of people in the UK. It seems to me that a large minority of people there are not very well versed in current affairs and are lacking in all but the most basic education. They do not understand the difficulties relating to the border in this country and are unable to grasp the reasons as to why it was necessary for their country to sign the protocol relating thereto. They have never heard of the great famine.

Is seems clear that people there place the blame for the problems arising out the Brexit negotiations on this country. They failed to understand their obligations to the north in this regard. They lacked understanding in respect of the Good Friday agreement and the obligations that flowed therefrom in relation to the necessity for an open border on this island. Some of the ignoramuses are not even sure as to the borders of their own country in that some still seem to think that this country is still a part of the UK [one hundred years after we left] and they haven’t a clue as to why this country has placed difficulties in their way [as they see it] in relation to their leaving the EU.

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In addition, they have no idea as to the border they were responsible for creating in this country. Some seem to think that there is a line down the middle of Ireland from Dublin to Galway and that we have Northern Ireland to the north of that line and “Southern” Ireland [as they call it] to the south of the line, a bit like Korea. This ignorance is simply mind-boggling.

It is in this context that the abuse directed at James has increased recently. It is particularly prevalent on social media but also on the field of play, even from his own supporters! This is unacceptable. This is the worst form of racism and sectarianism directed at Irish people. I am now convinced that it is dangerous for Irish people to work in Britain or even to go there on holidays in that we are being blamed for the problems they themselves created in the context of Brexit. The same is also happening to another Derry man, Shane Duffy. That is not to say that everyone living in Britain is lacking in knowledge and harbours enmity towards this country but is does appear that there is a certain minority that are.

What are the authorities in England doing about this? In a word, nothing. It appears that the authorities, both in the political and the football spheres, are conscientious in stamping out racism and this is shown in the “taking the knee” in order to raise awareness of racism. And this is a good thing. It is clear that racism against black people exists in Britain and everything must be done to stamp it out. However, as James has stated, why is nothing being done by the authorities in relation to the sectarianism and racism when Irish people are the victims?

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The only “crime” committed by James McClean has been his refusal to wear the poppy. I believe he is correct in his decision. I believe that it is inappropriate for people from this country to wear the poppy having regard to the terror visited upon this country by Britain, but more than that, there are more fundamental reasons relating to players from Derry City, that is Bloody Sunday in 1972, when members of the “paratroopers” murdered thirteen people in that city. Are they seriously expecting James to wear the poppy? Or, maybe nearer the truth, these events have been forgotten or they took no notice of them in the first place.

Some people say that James McClean brings a lot of this abuse on himself and I would have to admit that he doesn’t help matter himself sometimes. I think the video clip with the balaclava when he was teaching history to his children was ill-advised. However, this is not an excuse for the type of sectarian and racist abuse directed at him. The authorities in Britain [both political and sporting] need to put a stop to this disgusting behaviour. They are not doing so at present.

Another thing that bothers me is the lack of support from his own colleagues, those playing with Stoke City but particularly those of his team-mates on the international team. Irish players should be more vocal about this. Maybe it’s time to teach a history lesson to the ignoramuses mentioned above.

Tim Molloy lives in Drogheda with his wife of 35 years and with (on occasions) his three grown up children. He is a life-long Celtic supporter and an Irish language enthusiast. He also speaks some Spanish and French and a few words of Polish and Czech. He also follows the fortunes of the Munster rugby team.

He is a law graduate of London University and is a High Court Registrar.
Other than an interest in all things Celtic, he is long time observer of the League of Ireland. His other hobbies include walking, cycling and he is a member of St. Peter’s Male Voice Choir in Drogheda.


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