Ex-Northern Ireland manager calls for team to drop ‘God Save the Queen’ like Wales
A former manager of the Northern Ireland football team has called for God Save the Queen to be dropped at international matches.
Michael O’Neill, who the first Catholic in 50 years to manage Northern Ireland when he was appointed in the post, argued that it negatively affects the team and leaves them “disadvantaged” because they do not sing the pre-match anthem together.
In the UTV documentary, ‘Game of Two Halves’, O’Neill who was manager of the team for nine years, and who currently manages EFL Championship club Stoke City, urged the Irish Football Association to look at the issue.
He suggested that people from Northern Ireland could use their identity in a similar way to “someone from Wales”, who will “tell you” that they’re Welsh, and “won’t say they’re British”.
He said: “I felt we were at a disadvantage in the anthem, because I could see how other countries would either sing their anthem or display, real patriotism, you know, a real togetherness, real emotion during the anthem. And we never really got that.”
O’Neill also said he urged players from nationalist backgrounds in the current squad not to bow their heads during the anthem.
“I just felt we needed something that potentially, we could use as our identity the same way, as you know, if you ask someone from Wales or Scotland, where they’re from, they’ll tell you they’re Scottish, or Welsh, they won’t say they’re British.”
The programme also featured Northern Ireland women’s captain Marissa Callaghan, who spoke of her experience as a Catholic player.
“You know it’s quite sad,” she said.
“Northern Ireland don’t really have their own identity.
“As a Catholic player, unfortunately I don’t get that experience of standing tall and singing the anthem as loud as you can.
“But it doesn’t take away the pride and the passion and what it means to put on the green shirt. It will take someone to think outside the box won’t it? And be brave enough to move it forward.”
Former Ulster and Ireland rugby player Rory Best suggested that ‘God Save The Queen’ was “not very inclusive” andthat he believed the singing of ‘Ireland’s Call’ was a unifying anthem at rugby matches.
‘Archbishop of York’
Back in August, the Archbishop of York sparked a fierce backlash when he called for Wales to sing God Save the Queen before international sports games.
Stephen Cottrell suggested that when the different nations of the UK play each other in sporting contests that they “belt out our individual anthems” before they “sing our national anthem together”.
Cottrell also complained about Scotland singing the Scottish national anthem Flower of Scotland before its Euro 2020 match with England, instead of both teams having “sung one national anthem”.
But he did praise the “impressive zest” with which the Scottish anthem was sung.
He made the suggestion in a column in the Telegraph, in which he said many people in England feel left behind by “metropolitan elites in London and the South East” and are “patronised as backwardly xenophobic”.
He also called for “an expansive vision of what it means to be English”.
In his column he said: “I’m also a big fan of any game that stops for tea. In fact, after the horrors of Covid, our whole nation would benefit from a tea break.
“A chance to pause, reset and rediscover who we are: a courageous and compassionate community of communities, serving the common good, and delighting in our diversity across these islands.
“Then when the different nations of the United Kingdom find themselves pitched against each other on the sports field, we could belt out our individual anthems. Then sing our national anthem together. And love our neighbour.”
He also said: “When England played Scotland in the Euros a few months ago, we faced a conundrum. What to sing before the match?
“Both nations, England and Scotland, belong to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We should, surely, have sung one national anthem.
“But the Scots, with impressive zest, sang Flower of Scotland. And the English sang God Save the Queen. The national anthem of both nations became just the English anthem.
“The question is something more than just coming up with an anthem. It is something about Englishness.”