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Labour MP Accuses NI Secertary Of State James Brokenshire Of Snubbing Irish National Anthem

Labour MP Accuses NI Secertary Of State James Brokenshire Of Snubbing Irish National Anthem
By Conor Neville
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Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire attended his first Gaelic football match at the weekend when he travelled to Newry for the McKenna Cup Final between Tyrone and Derry.

Lovely. But he's copping flak from an Armagh born Labour MP Conor McGinn, who sits for St. Helen's in Lancashire, who asserts that Brokenshire delayed his arrival so as to avoid standing for Amhrán na bhFiann.

McGinn accused the Secretary of State of "snubbing" the national anthem in an interview with Good Morning Ulster on BBC Radio.

I think that's quite a regressive step. I'm confused and bemused by it and I've asked him to clarify why he did it.

Four years ago Her Majesty The Queen visited Dublin and Croke Park, we've since had a reciprocal visit from the Irish president where both anthems were played with mutual respect, were attended by the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister), the prime minister, other ministers.

So what I want to find out is: Is this a change of protocol and why Mr Brokenshire didn't observe the normal courtesies and protocols around the playing of the national anthem?

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When he attended the same fixture in 2012, then First Minister Peter Robinson arrived in the brief interval between the end of Amhrán na bhFiann and the throw-in.

Just as a reminder that this is a cross-community practice, Sinn Féin Minister for Sport Carál Ní Chuilín waited until 'God Save the Queen' was finished before taking her seat at her first Northern Ireland soccer international in 2011.

McGinn says this is par for the course but he is adamant that Brokenshire should be above such gestures. He is a UK minister and as such should be "above the fray".

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He should observe proper respect and protocols for the Irish national anthem, in the way that I would expect the Irish foreign minister to observe the protocols of the UK national anthem.

For what it's worth, he is far from the first British politician to attend a GAA match. Some high profile examples include Neil Kinnock, who attended the 1989 All-Ireland hurling final between Tipperary and Antrim.

Then there was the late Tony Banks, the colouful and witty Minister for Sport and Chelsea nut, who attended the 1998 All-Ireland football final between Galway and Kildare. Afterwards, he was interviewed by Marty Morrissey, praised the match to the skies (rightly so) and insisted that Kevin Walsh ("Kevin here beside me") was "undoubtedly the Man of the Match." The panel disagreed and gave the Waterford Crystal to Michael Donnellon.

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Brokenshire's predecessor Theresa Villiers also attended the 2013 All-Ireland final, where she was supporting the Tyrone minors.

Read more: The Football Stadiums Which Dublin Could Have Today - But Which Were Never Built

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