In Brief

England new boy Declan Rice in hot water over old social media post

Former Ireland midfielder apologises for message which appeared to show his support for the IRA

England vs. Czech Republic
  • What: Euro 2020 qualifying group A 
  • When: Friday 22 March 
  • Where: Wembley Stadium, London 
  • Kick-off time: 7.45pm 
  • TV channel: live on ITV

England open their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign this evening against the Czech Republic but the match has been overshadowed by a controversy involving new boy Declan Rice.

The West Ham midfielder, 20, has apologised for an old social media post in which he appeared to show his support for the IRA.

In a 2015 post on Instagram, Rice wrote “#UPTHERA”. At the time he was an Ireland youth player but Rice recently switched international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England and he is expected to win his first senior cap for the Three Lions tonight.

Negative and naive

“I recognise my attempt to show support for my team-mates at the time could be negatively interpreted,” Rice said in a statement. “While my naive words were not meant to be a political opinion and do not represent who I am, I sincerely apologise for any offence caused.”

The controversy is an embarrassment for all concerned, particularly as the decision of Rice - whose grandparents are Irish - to swap sides was met with mixed reactions in the first place.

Having won three senior caps for the Republic of Ireland, all in friendly internationals, some commentators on both sides of the Irish Sea feel he shouldn’t be allowed to represent another nation.

Give the kid a break

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, England manager Gareth Southgate, said: “He’s apologised. It’s not representative of what he believes and what he feels. Outside of that it was when he was 15 or 16 and engaged in conversation with friends. We’ve probably said things, written things that would look different several years later.”

True as that may be, nonetheless it’s a defence that overlooks the fact that Rice was showing his support for an organisation that killed thousands of people, many of whom were innocent civilians, including children.

Friend or foe?

Given that England supporters have often sung anti-IRA songs it will be interesting to see how they respond to Rice if he makes his debut this evening at Wembley Stadium.

“Rice’s old social media posts complicate the transition for him and provide ammunition for those who see him as an opportunist who dumped his first love,” says Paul Hayward of The Daily Telegraph.

“England fans stuck in the past will see him as emblematic of a conflict they cannot let go of and cast him as an enemy.”

The Football Association said it had been notified of the post and will be writing to Rice “to remind him of his responsibilities”.

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