Partition and unity: Ireland's last rugby international in Belfast

Rigby, Vic (2005) Partition and unity: Ireland's last rugby international in Belfast. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


The centre piece of this paper is original research that sheds light on an affair - covered up by the Irish Rugby Football Union - that came close to ending the IRFU's existence as an all-Ireland body. The crisis, ignited by the politics of Partition, occurred before Ireland's game against Scotland at Ravenhill, Belfast on 27 February, 1954. This match proved to be the last time that Ireland played a full international in Northern Ireland, all subsequent home internationals being played in the Southern capital, Dublin. A brief, and misleading, mention of the affair was made in Sean Diffley's 1973 book, The Men In Green: The Story of Irish Rugby, but the IRFU has refused to acknowledge that anything happened. Therefore an account of what occurred has been pieced together through oral and personal evidence from members of the Ireland team that day, as well as assistance from other contemporary Irish players. The paper will also put the match into a wider context by bringing forward the social background and by highlighting the complex relationship between sport and politics in Ireland. In addition the Ravenhill affair will be put into its contemporary political context by looking, in particular, at the issue of political symbols in Ireland. By examining the factors that resolved the Ravenhill affair and by taking into account the views of the players contacted, the thesis will also shed light on how and why rugby, in contrast to soccer, has retained an all-Ireland team.

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