One flag for golf? "I want to play under the tricolour now" says Harrington

The Four Provinces Flag

Pádraig Harrington has dismissed the notion that Ireland's European Tour contingent could play under one flag, despite admitting that the GUI's four provinces flag would be an ideal solution "in a perfect world."

While he says he loved playing under the Four Provinces flag as an amateur and points to the Irish Ladies Golf Union's (ILGU) shamrock emblem as a symbol "nobody could take issue with", he sees no reason why the European Tour should stray into political territory by removing the distinction between players from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"I can’t see a Scottish guy wanting to play under the Union Jack - well some of them might," Harrington said at the launch of the Vision 2020 strategy by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, a new umbrella body covering the two amateur federations and the PGA. "But they want to play under the Scottish flag.

"If I am Northern Irish and I consider myself British, I don’t want to play under the tricolour, I don’t want to play under the Union Jack, I want to play under the national flag."

As for the four provinces (GUI) flag which depicts the emblems of Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht, he said: "In a perfect world, would we play under the Golfing Union of Ireland flag? It was brilliant for us as amateurs becasue it represented everybody. There was nobody who could step away from it and I am looking here at the ILGU's (shamrock) emblem. That is not going to upset anybody. So [the GUI and the ILGU] have done a good job and I suppose that's why they are around 100 years."

While he sees the theory as all well and good for those who dream that it may be a solution to the Olympic "dilemma" of players like Rory McIlroy, Harrington does not see any appetite for change from the European Tour or amongst the players from Ireland or Northern Ireland for that matter.

"The Golfing Union works as an All-Ireland body because we play under the four provinces flag, but I don’t want to play under the four provinces flag," he said.

"I enjoyed playing under the four provinces flag when I was with the Golfing Union of Ireland and I understood what it meant, but I want to play under the tricolour now. 

"The flag for the Northern Ireland guy, who was happy playing under the GUI flag, it represents him. But the tricolour doesn’t necessarily represent somebody from Northern Ireland who considers himself part of the UK. 

"I think what the European Tour has done is correct. The Welsh under the Welsh flag and the Scots the same. They don't put them down as British. What they have done with Northern Ireland covers all bases and I certainly haven’t heard from a player who is upset about it."

The ILGU emblem

Dismissing the notion that the flags issue was only a political hot potato in Ireland and not in Great Britain, he said: "I think Scotland has a question on that coming up, haven't they? That's why I brought up Scotland.

"What the European Tour is trying to do is stay away from politics. They [politicians] have been trying to sort out that question for hundreds of years and it will take better men than us sitting up here to figure it out. 

"What the European Tour has done is particularly neutral and changing the status quo is not making it neutral.

"While you might not be happy with the status quo, by changing the status quo, you will upset more people and make it more divisive.

"You are taking a step someone is not going to be happy with and that’s the way it is and everybody can work with it nicely."