THE BLOG

Northern Ireland: A Divided Society That Can't Even Share Rory McIlroy

04/01/2013 15:08 GMT | Updated 05/03/2013 10:12 GMT

The politics in Northern Ireland is positively precarious. Its a politics of symbols, flags and traditions - of mutually opposing narratives and conflicting long term aspirations. In a sentence its a province dominated and divided by petulant identity politics.

This problem of petulant identity politics has been illustrated graphically by the most recent news from the world number one golfer Rory McIlroy. The news that the Northern Ireland native may chose not play at the Rio Olympics in 2016 for fear of stirring political controversy and dividing further an already divided province.

The announcement has come after he suggested in 2009 and again in 2012 that he would play for Great Britain. Somewhat naturally this irked a lot of people in Northern Ireland and the Republic. People on both the Protestant and Catholic side claim Rory as their own; and so for Rory to chose to play for either Ireland or the UK would be to estrange himself from half of his native fan base.

But ultimately the announcement is a sad reflection on Northern Ireland. Its a sad reflection on where we've come from and where were now going. The announcement shows just what we as a society are about. But more seriously its an indictment of Stormont politicians. Of Stormont politicians who've procrastinated and done little to heal wounds and unite divided communities.

At the core of recent efforts to tackle division and sectarianism has been the delayed and delayed again programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration. This is a document that has long promised to move things forward in Northern Ireland and bring together divided communities. However the parties and politicians at Stormont remain at an impasse. A political gridlock probably caused by some minor irrelevancy.

Ultimately political self-interest and top-end tribal politicking has come at expense of peace and communal unity. Poor leadership has exacerbated things. So little has been achieved and so much of the old has continued since 1998 - a year when Northern Ireland was supposed to have entered a new dawn - that we cant even share our greatest living son.

What a way to repay a young man that has done so much for Northern Ireland and Ireland. What a way to project Northern Ireland and Ireland on the global stage. What a way to live.