Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 Jul 1990

Vol. 125 No. 14

Tribute to Irish Soccer Team.

Before I call on the Leader of the House for the Order of Business, I am sure the House would wish to pay tribute to the Irish soccer team and to the management of that team. I suggest that we ask the leaders of the various political groupings in the House to make whatever contribution they wish in that regard and to bear in mind that they should not extend the words of congratulations into any other areas that may have arisen in public debate after the match.

It goes without saying that on this side of the House we warmly congratulate Jack Charlton and the Irish team, and indeed the Irish supporters, for a magnificent achievement in the recent World Cup. They were certainly a credit to Ireland on the football field and in the various cities in which the games were played. I was in Palermo for one of the games, I was in Germany last year for the European games and I continue to follow the team. I would like to congratulate them warmly on their achievements.

I am very happy to have the opportunity to follow Senator Fallon on this matter. In one sense all that can be said about our team has been said and politicians should be careful about elbowing in on the act. It is a great occasion today, an opportunity for us as a House and all parties to put on the record our sense of national pride, to say thanks for the hours of pleasure our team has given us, to say thanks, too, for the great sense of national uplift throughout the country and to thank them for the marvellously positive image of this country which they have conveyed right around the world.

What was particularly encouraging to see was the support which our team got from all sides in Northern Ireland. Even some of the Orangemen who came down last week had to get back on time to support Ireland in the match. Perhaps it is too much to hope that for the next World Cup there could be a team from all Ireland playing in green and orange jerseys. That would do more to bring together people on this island than all the speeches and motions we pass in the Parliaments on this island. Like Senator Fallon, I would like to thank our supporters. With their sense of fun, their great behaviour and their enthusiasm, they were the best ambassadors this country has ever had.

On behalf of the Fine Gael Party I want to join in this vote of thanks and congratulations to the squad of 22 and Jack Charlton.

May I join with the other groups on behalf of the Progressive Democrats in congratulating the marvellous achievement of the Irish team in Rome, and indeed throughout the whole campaign. I was fortunate enough to be at the match on Saturday night and I must say it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my lifetime. The way in which the Irish fans conducted themselves throughout the campaign and particularly on Saturday night was a matter of inspiration to us all.

I go back to a question which I asked the Leader of the House last week, and that was in what way Jack Charlton's achievement and that of the team could be marked. I suggested that he might be made an honorary Irish citizen and I repeat that question more seriously now. That man seems to me to talk more sense in five minutes than we talk here in a week.

I take your point, a Chathaoirligh, about not introducing irrelevancies but I wish to make one point. I felt very strongly on Sunday morning about the way the people who were in Rome, who had stayed there and supported our team so well were treated so badly at the airport. I do not know who was responsible. It seems to be difficult to get to the bottom of that matter.

I want to ensure——

They behaved with extreme good humour and the utmost patience in trying circumstances and they, too, are to be congratulated.

In the light of the fact that you were congratulating the supporters of the team I have allowed it.

I am very glad Senator Shane Ross and myself had the foresight to place on the Order Paper for today motion No. 101 which reads:

That Seanad Éireann notes with pride the outstanding performance of the Irish team in the World Cup in Rome and also the exemplary behaviour of the Irish football fans.

A brilliant piece of inspiration. Very original.

Senator Norris, without interruption.

I think it is proper that it should be marked. It is not just a question of entertainment——


Senator Norris, without interruption please.

Perhaps the interruptions could be a little more intelligent and intelligible. I think it is important because it gave the country a great sense of pride. In the motion Senator Ross and myself referred to both elements, the achievement of the Irish team representing a small nation getting through to a late stage in the competition and also, perhaps even more importantly, the exemplary behaviour of the fans which gave us all a great sense of pride and unquestionably led to them being regarded as ambassadors. I believe this is very important because there is no question of doubt that it will lead to a considerable increase in tourist revenue as a result not only of the behaviour of the team but also of the fans.

The one small regret I have is that that moment of triumph was not allowed to remain untarnished by the political equivalent of football louts, the Provisional IRA, who would not even allow one night when there was unblemished praise——

I made the point at the beginning that only words of congratulations were to be allowed in the contributions of leaders of the political groupings here in the House. You have departed from that and I must remind you that unless you get back to it I will have to ask you to resume your seat.

I had, in fact, concluded but I am very glad that remark will remain on the record because I feel strongly about it, and so do most of the people in the country.

I, too, would like to join with all the other Senators who have spoken in adding the congratulations of the Labour Party to Jack Charlton and to the Irish team. What was particularly gratifying for me at a local and personal level was that quite a number on the Irish team, namely, Niall Quinn, Paul McGrath and Kevin Moran come from the area of Dublin where I had the honour to try my hand during the last general election.

This success is partly derived from fundamental things such as the efforts of people who run youth and junior soccer clubs throughout the city of Dublin day in, day out, at weekends, on frosty, cold Sunday mornings and so on. The success of the team derived from such work.

The other gratifying thing I found about the success of this Irish team was that quite a number of them had a very strong connections with the GAA. That is particularly true of people like Niall Quinn who played hurling for Dublin and, of course, Kevin Moran who also distinguished himself in the Dublin jersey. It is welcome that those people who had such connections with the GAA should now find themselves distinguishing themselves in the international arena of soccer.

I would like to say a few words of congratulations——

We were restricting the words of congratulations to the group leaders.

Sorry, I did not know that. I cannot continue?

You can continue if you wish and get the agreement of the House to do so. Is it agreed? Agreed.

At my age one is entitled to some privileges. I would like to join in the words of congratulations to the Irish team and to the Irish supporters. There were so many things that were impressive about the World Cup games it is difficult to pinpoint anything but I would like to mention one thing. During the magnificent turn-out at Dublin Airport and on the streets of Dublin for the team any man would be forgiven for being completely carried away with the visible signs of admiration shown to Jack Charlton. Rather than being carried away, it should be noted that what he did was to sound a note of concern for the children and for the people who were assembled in the streets of Dublin. He spoke about his terrible anxiety that children would fall under the wheels of the buses. He asked the people to go home quietly. Is he not a wonderful man? With all the admiration that was being shown to him when a half a million citizens turned out to greet him and the team, his concern was for the people and particularly for children.

Senator Upton spoke of his pride that a number of the players are from Dublin. He spoke about Niall Quinn. I must make a comment about that. Niall Quinn's father played for the Tipperary team. Senator Lanigan will not like to be reminded that Billy Quinn, Niall's father, scored four goals off The Diamond Hayden at a particular final. His uncle, Niall Condon, also from Thurles, played with the Tipperary team and on an all-Ireland team. I do not know how any man who has father like Billy Quinn and an uncle like Niall Condon, who played for Tipperary, could be from Walkinstown. However, if it gives you any satisfaction to claim it, you are welcome. We just happen to know better.

A Chathaoirligh, I want to draw attention to the fact that like your own father, Kevin Moran's father came from County Leitrim.

It seems a pity that nobody seems to have noticed that almost the entire football team is resident in England so perhaps we should congratulate them, too.

Any many others, unfortunately.