Archive for February 22nd, 2007


When I was at primary school, we went to swimming classes once a week, and we used to do this thing called the Red Hand of Ulster. It consisted in sneaking up on some unsuspecting child in his swimming togs and delivering a resounding slap! to his bare back, leaving a reddening handprint.

The first story I learned about the Red Hand of Ulster was that there was a race to stake claim to a piece of land, somewhere in Tyrone, I think. The last obstacle in the race was a river, and at this point one competitor was lagging a bit behind the other, who was already making his way across the river. So, the story went, the brave and boul’ straggler hacked off one of his hands and flung it across the river, thus winning the race and the land, at the expense of a red hand. Such underhand tactics have been an inspiration to many ever since. Indeed, the Red Hand appears, among other places, on the Tyrone GAA jersey.

Other fans of the Red Hand include some Rangers supporters, who performed some sort of ‘Red Hand salute‘ at a match in Tel Aviv, which led some to believe, not unreasonably, that it was a Nazi-like gesture. But it turns out that UEFA has decided not to take action, since the salute made the ‘sign of the red hand of Ulster’.

No doubt UEFA could do without the hassle. But there is no reason why the Red Hand of Ulster could not be used in a Nazi-like, or fascistic, gesture. You could take any symbol and put it to fascist purposes. In the case of the Red Hand, one of its original myths – of the bloody hand laying claim to land- suggests that it would lend itself quite readily to an ideology of Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden). This is not to say it is a fascist symbol in all situations, but in the context of a quasi-miltary salute on a football terrace, its purpose is bloody obvious.

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February 2007