The Sunday Business Post has been sold the line that the "Belfast Giants’ success is ‘crucial for peace’"
It quotes Belfast Giants owner Jim Gillespie as saying that "it is "essential" that cross-community sports survive to ensure lasting peace in the North".
Now who, bar a real Grinch, would have a bad word to say about something as wholesome as Ice Hockey?
Well, this blog, for one, and this is why.
The Belfast Giants are not 'just' an ice hockey team – they are a specifically British ice-hockey team. They play in a league of ten teams: Sheffield, Coventry, Nottingham, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Hull and Basingstoke, which are all, bar Belfast, in Britain. The promotion of ice-hockey as a 'non-sectarian' alternative to GAA or soccer is nothing more than an attempt to tie young people into a completely Britain-centred sporting project, and to turn their eyes and their attention towards Britain. It is, in a very clear way, a cultural weapon designed to increase the identification of young people with Britain, and thus away from Ireland.
So when Jim Gillespie says that 'it is essential that cross-community sports survive to ensure lasting peace in the North', he means that he sees 'lasting peace' as the integration of Northern Ireland into Britain. He is not promoting north-south sporting integration – on the contrary, where it exists he ignores it: "If Belfast loses ice hockey," he is quoted as saying, "we’re in trouble. It’ll go back to having nowhere to mix. This was a part of the peace process that was virtually forgotten about; kids getting together realising they’re not different from one another in reality. It’s essential that the games continue, to move the North into the real world."
"Nowhere to mix"? Has he not heard of rugby? Cricket? Hockey? Athletics? Etc, etc, etc. All integrated all-Ireland sports, in all of which the 'kids can (and do) get together'. Is his blindness deliberate? Does he see no merit in all-Ireland mixing? Could it be that, to him, the "real world" is Britain, and the rest of Ireland is unreal?
Jim Gillespie's attitude is far from neutral. He is, wittingly or unwittingly, promoting a unionist agenda. That he claims to be doing so for 'well-meaning' reasons is not credible. He is an intelligent man who knows what he is doing. This is simply another example of unionism in its broadest sense, including the British authorities, using a Catholic from Northern Ireland to promote unionism on the sly. It can be seen more and more in different fields - Eoghan Quigg in the X Factor was another recent example - everyone, even unionist politicians, were supposed to support him - but only, of course, because he was in a British talent show. If he had been a finalist in an Irish talent show the silence, from the media and unionist politicians, would have been deafening.
There are, no doubt, many other examples of this silent campaign being waged by unionism and its friends in the media. Nationalists need to be aware of the manipulation, in order better to resist it and to identify the people behind it.