• Mary Hannigan: Ireland’s basketball team left in impossible position as they travel to play Israel

      Meanwhile, Dublin need to get their act together in the league while Gordon D’Arcy was suitably impressed by Friday’s win over France

      Mary Hannigan. Wed Feb 7 2024 - 12:17

      After all the discussion on the rights and wrongs of Ireland’s basketball team playing Israel in a European qualifier in Latvia on Thursday evening, the game is set to go ahead and, writes Malachy Clerkin, “no amount of noise or pressure from the outside is going to change that fact”. Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan reiterated his sympathy for the people of Gaza, but insisted that a boycott of the game wouldn’t make “a blind bit of difference”. “I’m not prepared to destroy my sport for a gesture that will have no impact,” he said of the fine of up to €180,000 and a potential five-year ban from international competition that Ireland would incur if they refused to play.

      Dublin Gaelic footballer Martha Byrne has sympathy for the Irish players who have been put in this impossible situation, five of them opting not to play in the game. Last month, before their league game against Kerry, the Dublin team held up a banner calling for a ceasefire in Palestine. Byrne tells Gordon Manning that she is sure the players will look back at that protest as “something we’ll be proud of”.


    • Irish Examiner view : Calling foul on basketball boycott comments

      Regarding a boycott, Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan went further, referring to €1bn worth of trade between Ireland and Israel, and adding: “Is it going to make a blind bit of difference if we make a grand gesture? The simple answer is ‘no’, and I am not prepared to destroy my sport for a gesture that will have no impact.”

      Citing the volume of trade between Ireland and Israel was a careless point to make, as it invites some obvious questions: If there were less trade between the two countries, would a boycott then be justified? How low would the value of the trade have to be to justify such a stance?

      Those comments also contain a profound misreading of the purpose of a boycott.

      Nobody expects Ireland refusing to play a basketball game to have any impact on Israel’s conduct.

      Where it might make a small difference is in Gaza itself, as a small gesture of solidarity to those living there, a reminder that they have been neither forgotten nor forsaken.

      It would also create headlines around the world, and could lead to further gestures of solidarity.

      Ireland’s opponents have already shown no reticence when it comes to symbolic gestures: The Israel team has been pictured with members of the Israeli defence forces in recent days, thus endorsing its military activities.

      The Irish team has already suffered callous accusations of antisemitism by an Israeli player, something Basketball Ireland rightly criticised as “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate”.

      Basketball Ireland may feel aggrieved at being pushed into this situation, and it is not fair, but the challenge to do the right thing — no matter the cost — rarely occurs at the most convenient time.