VOL. NO: 54      DATE:
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OVER the weekend I found myself cutting across 'Irish territory' at the Archway after attending the ill tempered Arsenal/Wigan football match at the mesmerizing Emirates Stadium. (Holloway Road tube station had been made an exit only station due to the congestion from the game.)

I found myself surrounded by hordes Irish rugby supporters who had just watched the closely contested Irish/French rugby match. Unperturbed by the loss, their attention was elsewhere. The focus was on the impending RBS Six Nations encounter between Ireland and England in a fortnight's time.

A rugged looking middle-aged Irishman with piercing hatred in his eyes showed me a text on his mobile phone that that was circulating the Irish community in North London. It read something like 'we might be without O'Driscoll and O'Gara but they will be without their machine guns and bullets.'

He was of course referring to the Bloody Sunday Massacre which occurred at Croke Park where the Dublin Gaelic Football team was playing Tipperary on the 21st November 1920 when British forces opened fire on the crowd in retribution to the IRA's execution of a network of spies in the morning [in all 14 people were killed and 6 were injured.]

There are conflicting reports about what happened on that dreadful day-but two things are certain and that is 14 innocent men, women and children were massacred and the British Auxiliaries who were responsibility for terrible cruelty not only to IRA suspects but the general population as a whole-were present at the time.

As sure as the sun rises in the east- the impending encounter is set be a thriller. There is no place on mother earth I would rather be but sitting in the Hogan Stand in the third largest EU sport stadium amidst the 82 500 supporters.[Two footballers, Michael Hogan and Jim Egan were shot. The latter survived.]

The richest and largest rugby playing nation is in a woeful state and is desperate to reclaim the title and boost their dismal IRB ranking {England are ranked 7th] thereby placing themselves in a position of strength for the Rugby World Cup in November. Irish rugby of late has also been pretty lackluster and a loss against England will mean an early exit from the championship. Both desperately need a win.

There has been speculation that the Secretary of State, Peter Hain is set to apologize for the atrocity and lay a wreath in remembrance. The token has been spurned by rugby officials and politicians.

My first encounter of the Irish was in the World Cup in 95 against the mighty All Blacks. For the first time I experience the pride and fighting spirit synonymous with this great nation.[My heritage is Irish] It is important to remember that strength and weakness are concomitants and not mutually exclusive and that the events that occurred in the Gaelic stadium some 86 years ľamongst the terrible suffering inflicted on them-have made this nation what they are.

The best and only way to serve the memory of the victims of the unprovoked and unmeasured actions of that terrible day is put in the performance of their lives in an atmosphere of competitiveness and fairness and forgiveness.


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