1981 and the IRFU’s Apartheid boosting shame.

The 30 year papers confirm the government’s active disapproval of sporting links with South Africa where national teams were picked on the basis of ability within the population of white European extraction only. African blacks, Indians and people of multiracial origin were excluded by law and by practice. The government here withdrew grant aid to schools rugby because of the IRFU’s intention to travel to South Africa for a senior tour. Fair does to Brian Lenihan and Jim Tunney. The regime brought racism into sport and had to be countered. The Basil d’Oliveira affair in cricket in the 1960s seemed to have taught the IRFU nothing.


D’Oliveira played the first Test of the 1968 series against the Australians at Old Trafford, he was then dropped for the subsequent three Tests. He was recalled by the selectors for the final Test at the Oval and a century (158 runs in the first innings) against Australia seemed to have guaranteed his place in the side to play the 1968-69 Test series in South Africa. He was left out of the touring party under the pretext that his bowling would not be effective in his native country. South African cricket officials, realising that the inclusion of D’Oliveira would lead to the cancellation of the tour and probable exclusion from Test cricket, exerted pressure on the MCC hierarchy and the decision not to pick him was felt by many[who?] to be a way of keeping cricket links with South Africa open. There was dissent in the press to this course of events and when Warwickshire’s Tom Cartwright was ruled out because of injury D’Oliveira was called up into the squad. South African prime minister BJ Vorster had already made it clear that D’Oliveira’s inclusion was not acceptable and despite many negotiations the tour was cancelled. This was seen as a watershed in the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa

This issue was played out in blazing press headlines. Only the blind self-regarding middle classes of Ireland running rugby at the time could fail to appreciate the significance of playing with evil. The Group Areas Act, the Pass Laws and the other horrors were well known. I still would not give tuppence for those who sullied Ireland by touring. Many of these are famous names. It was a particular shame that the alumni of Catholic Schools in Dublin like Blackrock and Belvedere were involved and the religious in the school stayed silent. Shame – eternal shame.

Because rugby has grown into the Irish heartlands, that carry-on would be impossible now or so I like to think.