Rory McIlroy – reared in the ‘rough’

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Recently I asked the question on this website and in an article in the Belfast Telegraph “are you a bigot?” It was and is an uncomfortable question.

That question occurred to me on the back of what I detected as less than a warm welcome for the success of the Coleraine rowing Olympians among the GAA fraternity.

TeamGB didn’t sit comfortably with those GAA enthusiasts.

Rory McIlroy pictured at Hollywood Golf Club in June 2011


Rory McIlroy has triggered the mother and father of all debates in an untimely interview in which he declares how his sense of Britishness wins out over his sense of Irishness.

“Au secours” I hear some cry, and others, smirk.

An untimely intervention I say because the feat just realised by this whizz kid on the golf course against the best in the world is now somewhat overshadowed.

In other words he has hoisted himself on his own petard…

“F… the Olympics” declared a Derry man to me last night “they’re irrelevant in this field. Tell that young fellow to stay a thousand miles away from this stuff.”

An extreme view? Judge for yourself. Like it or lump it the genie is out of the bottle and it is going to be hard to put it back.

Katie Taylor leads the Irish team holding the flag at the 2012 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
Image courtesy of: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy


McIlroy has put us all on the spot.

We are all forced to ask ourselves who am I?

Am I British, Irish, Northern Irish, European or what?

I do wonder why history has put us in this unenviable position?

Cards on the table – I am Northern Irish. This is not a cop out. Geographically, born and reared in South Armagh there was a magnetic pull towards the South.

To what did this add up? Smuggling and bucking the system by many North and South down the years. It has been like that for over a century at least.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Rory McIlroy at the 2011 Irish Open Pro-Am, Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, Co. Kerry 27/7/2011. Image courtesy of ©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan


Did looking South for assistance amount to anything more than John Hume’s two balls of roasted snow? No.

Most of our fathers in the fifties and the sixties took the boat to England in search of work.

In the Aisling genre of 17/18 Century Gaelic poetry, a planted Ireland dreamed of the descendants of the Flight of the Earls in 1607 returning to restore the old Gaelic order.

This notion is appropriately expressed in the Gaelic song Róisín Dubh.

A Róisín ná bíodh brón ort fé’r éirigh dhuit:

Tá na bráithre ‘teacht thar sáile ‘s iad ag triall ar muir…’ (Roisín, (Ireland) be not sorrowful… your brothers are on their way)’ but it was a case of live horse and you will get grass…

They didn’t come.

Forget about those Northerners who might have favoured political intervention by the Irish Government in places like Derry in 1969, the Republic did nothing economically for the people of South Armagh during the last century.

If we looked South it was emotionally.

We didn’t look North. We saw ourselves as far away from Stormont as Outer Mongolia.

We lived in no man’s land: There was a sense of being unwanted and unloved North and South.

No flag fed us as former SDLP leader John Hume regularly stated.

Irish Open 2012 at Royal Portrush – Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy pictured on the third tee.


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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt” – Bertrand Russell

    I happen to be an Irish Republican with the utmost respect for the ambiguity of our identities as a people here in the North, and the right of each of us to carve and interpret our own as we see fit.
    When you consider how similar Ireland and Britain are compared to the rest of the world you realise the stupidity of this cultural animosity, bereft of politics and relying on infantile insecurities and prejudices.
    I voted SF last election, Im a proponent of a united Ireland and see myself as Irish, but as someone moderately ‘of the left’ I cant stand the kind of narrow minded right wing ethno-nationalist intolerance spouted by so many of my so called fellow left wingers and Republicans which has been evidenced in their facebook and twitter ramblings since Sunday night.

    Besides, as a golf fan I despair that this is a talking point. Any one who watches that lad play the way he can… and is able to think about politics, I pity them.

    • A thoughtful, thought provoking contribution and I only wish I knew your true identity. Feel free to join the conversation here. It is edifying to come across quality writing where one is not emoting.

  2. Sport and politics never mix. Rory has opened up Pandora’s Box. He should not let politics and identity entangle him at this stage in his career.

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