The Case Of The National Cycling Association
The case of the National Cycling Association, like that of its parent body, The National Athletic & Cycling Association, is a simple one. It simply demands that Ireland be given her rightful status of nationhood in international competition, and it opposes any attempt to misrepresent, curtail or partition the athletic manhood of Ireland.
Only a body representative of all Ireland can represent all Ireland internationally. Any group or organisation which is confined in its alleged jurisdiction to a part of Ireland does not and cannot represent all of Ireland; and, likewise, neither can any individual athlete who is affiliated to any partitioned organisation, be that organisation of six or twenty-six county origin. One can build good intentions on injustice and it is an injustice to misrepresent one’s country.
The idea, that one can strive and compete for the athletic glory of Ireland, when at the same time one recognises the right of an alien body to deprive our country of her greatest glory…. the glory of nationhood, is something acceptable only to a fool or a knave.
Very briefly, the origin of the present so-called ‘split’ in Irish athletics is as follows:
In 1924, two years after the setting-up of the Irish Free State, Ireland, as represented by the N.A.C.A., was unanimously accepted for membership of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (I.A.A.F.). Ireland was accepted as a thirty-two county nation, and she was recognised as such when Dr. Pat O’Callaghan won the hammer title at the 1928 Olympic Games. In 1932, the position was unchanged when O’Callaghan retained his title, and Bob Tisdall won the 440 yards hurdles crown
Meanwhile in 1925 a number of northern clubs ceased to be affiliated to the N.A.C.A., and later these clubs applied for membership of the British Amateur Athletic Association (A.A.A.). After a period of alleged consideration by the British body the breakaway Irish clubs were granted membership. This action by the British A.A.A. was indirect conflict with the rules if the I.A.A.F.
At the International Council meeting of the I.A.A.F. held in London in 1931, Britain raised the question of the N.A.C.A., being confined to the twenty-six counties. Discussions was deferred until the following year when, in Los Angeles, the so-called ‘Irish question’ was raised again by Britain. After some discussion, the Polish delegation, seeing how unjust and opposed to principle the British case was, proposed that the whole matter be dropped. Italy seconde the motion and it was carried by twelve votes to six.
England was not, of course, yet beaten. At the 1934 Congress of the I.A.A.F., held in Stockholm, she once again proposed that the N.A.C.A. ‘be confined to Ireland’s political boundaries’. After a long debate the British motion was carried by nine votes to one with ten abstentions.
The N.A.C.A. Annual Congress, held shortly afterwards, naturally refused to confine itself to twenty-six counties, and so Irish athletes were debarred from International competition. Dr. Pat O’Callaghan attended the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin, as a spectator deprived of the right to defend his hammer title.
From 1934 to 1937, Irish athletics was, although suspended, at least united. Then came ‘ the unkindest cut of all’ A group of Irishmen decided that they would barter their nationhood for the paltry price of international competition.
These individuals applied for membership of the I.A.A.F., stating that they would accept the British motion and confine themselves to the political boundaries imposed upon us by Britain… this body became the Irish A.A.U.
England was now satisfied, at least as far as Irish athletics was concerned. Ten years later she put forward the same partition motion to the Cycling Union International Congress and again, by virtue of the support coming from Commonwealth countries and by the many other methods which she has always been capable of and debased enough to use, the motion was carried.
The N.C.A. now joined the N.A.C.A. as suspended from international competition.
Again history repeated itself; the compromisers appeared and following in the footsteps of the A.A.U., they applied for affiliation to the world cycling body. They received it together with England’s blessing, and so the C.R.E., was born.