Ireland at the Olympics
|Ireland at the Olympic Games|
|Other related appearances|
|Great Britain (1896–1920)|
A team representing Ireland has competed at the Summer Olympic Games since 1924, and at the Winter Olympic Games since 1992. The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) was formed in 1922 during the provisional administration prior to the formal establishment of the Irish Free State. The OCI affiliated to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in time for the Paris games.
Medal tables by Games
- *Red border color indicates tournament was held on home soil.
Medals by Summer Games
Medals by Winter Games
Medals by summer sport
Prior to 1922, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Competitors at earlier Games born and living in Ireland are thus counted as British in Olympic statistics. At early Olympics, Irish-born athletes won numerous medals for the United States, notably the "Irish Whales" in throwing events.
The Irish Amateur Athletic Association was invited to the inaugural International Olympic Committee meeting in 1894, and may have been invited to the 1896 games; it has also been claimed the Gaelic Athletic Association was invited. In the event, neither participated. Prior to the 1906 Intercalated Games, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) were generally non-existent and athletes could enter the Olympics individually. John Pius Boland, who came first in two tennis events in 1896, is now listed as "IRL/GBR". Boland's daughter later claimed that he said he had objected when the Union Jack was raised to mark his triumph, and that the organisers apologised for not having an Irish flag. MacCarthy is sceptical of this story, though by 1906 Boland was creditiing his medals to "Ireland". Tom Kiely, who won the "all-around" athletics competition at the 1904 Olympics in St Louis is listed as "Great Britain". Kiely had refused offers by both the English Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) and the New York Athletic Club to pay his fare to compete for them, and had instead raised funds in counties Tipperary and Waterford to travel independently and compete for Ireland.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) was formed in 1905, and Irish athletes were accredited to the BOA team from the 1906 Games. That year, Peter O'Connor and Con Leahy objected when the British flag was raised at their victory ceremony, and raised a green Irish flag in defiance of the organisers.
At the 1908 Games in London, there were multiple British entries in several team events, including two representing Ireland. In the hockey tournament, the Irish team finished second, behind England and ahead of Scotland and Wales. The Irish polo team finished joint second in the three-team tournament, despite losing to one of two English teams its only match.
At the 1912 Olympics, and despite objections from other countries, the BOA entered three teams in the cycling events, one from each of the separate English, Scottish and Irish governing bodies for the sport. The Irish team came 11th in the team time trial. The organisers had proposed a similar division in the football tournament, but the BOA demurred.
After the First World War, John J. Keane attempted to unite various sports associations under an Irish Olympic Committee. Many sports had rival bodies, one Unionist and affiliated to a United Kingdom parent, the other Republican and opposed to any link with Great Britain. Keane proposed that a separate Irish delegation, marching under the Union Flag, should participate at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. At the time the Irish War of Independence was under way, and the IOC rejected Keane's proposal pending the settlement of the underlying political situation.
The OCI has always used the name "Ireland", and has claimed to represent the entire island of Ireland, even though Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. These points have been contentious, particularly from the 1930s to the 1950s in athletics, and until the 1970s in cycling.
The governing bodies in Ireland of many sports had been established prior to the 1922 partition, and most have remained as single all-island bodies since then. Recognition of the Irish border was politically contentious and unpopular with Irish nationalists. The National Athletic and Cycling Association (Ireland), or NACA(I), was formed in 1922 by the merger of rival all-island associations, and affiliated to both the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). When Northern Ireland athletes were selected for the 1928 games, the possibility was raised of using an "all-Ireland banner" as the team flag, rather than the Irish tricolour which unionists disavowed. J. J. Keane stated that it was too late to change the flag registered with the IOC, but was hopeful that the coat of arms of Ireland would be adopted afterwards.
In 1925, some Northern Ireland athletics clubs left NACA and in 1930 formed the Northern Ireland AAA, which later formed the British Athletic Federation (BAF) with the English and Scottish AAAs. The BAF then replaced the (English) AAA as Britain's member of the IAAF, and moved that all members should be delimited by political boundaries. This was not agreed in time for the 1932 Summer Olympics —at which two NACA(I) athletes won gold medals for Ireland— but was agreed at the IAAF's 1934 congress. The NACA(I) refused to comply and was suspended in 1935, thus missing the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The OCI decided to boycott the Games completely in protest.
The UCI likewise suspended the NACA(I) for refusing to recognise the border. The athletics and cycling wings of the NACA(I) split into two all-island bodies, and separate Free-State bodies split from each and secured affiliation to the IAAF and UCI. These splits were not fully resolved until the 1990s. The "partitionist" Amateur Athletic Union of Éire (AAUE) affiliated to the IAAF, but the all-Ireland NACA(I) remained affiliated to the OCI. The IOC allowed AAUÉ athletes to compete for Ireland at the 1948 Olympics, but the rest of the OCI delegation shunned them. At that games, two swimmers from Northern Ireland were prevented from competing in the OCI team. This was a FINA ruling rather than an IOC rule; Danny Taylor from Belfast was allowed by FISA to compete in the rowing. The entire swimming squad withdrew, but the rest of the team competed.
Some athletes born in what had become the Republic continued to compete for the British team. In 1952, new IOC President Avery Brundage and new OCI delegate Lord Killanin agreed that people from Northern Ireland would in future be allowed to compete in any sport on the OCI team. In Irish nationality law, birth in Northern Ireland grants an entitlement similar to birth within the Republic itself. In 1956, Killanin stated that both the OCI and the BOA "quite rightly" judged eligibility based on citizenship laws. Northern Ireland athletes retain the right to compete for Britain. There is in fact no special arrangement concerning participation by Northern Ireland residents in the Irish Olympic events. Their position is governed by what passport or nationality they carry, just as the eligibility of persons from any other place would be decided. This was explained by an IOC Executive Member, Dermot Sherlock, to a Dáil Committee as follows:
If someone is entitled to an Irish passport and is in possession of that passport, he or she can qualify to compete for Ireland as long as he or she has not competed for some other country in a previous Olympic Games. If he or she had competed for another country previously, we might allow him or her to compete for Ireland...The Irish passport is used as the measurement.
UCI and IAAF affiliated bodies were subsequently affiliated to the OCI, thus regularising the position of Irish competitors in those sports at the Olympics. Members of the all-Ireland National Cycling Association (NCA) with Irish Republican sympathies twice interfered with the Olympic road race in protest against the UCI-affiliated Irish Cycling Federation (ICF). In 1956, three members caused a 13-minute delay at the start. Seven were arrested in 1972; three had delayed the start and the other four joined mid-race to ambush ICF competitor Noel Taggart, causing a minor pileup. This happened days after the murders of Israeli athletes and at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; the negative publicity helped precipitate an end to the NCA–ICF feud.
The (men's) Irish Hockey Union (IHU; since 2000 part of the Irish Hockey Association or IHA) joined the OCI in 1949, and the Ireland team in non-Olympic competitions is selected on an all-island basis. Until 1992 the IHU was not invited to the Olympic hockey tournament, while Northern Irish hockey players like Stephen Martin played on the British Olympic men's team. In 1992, invitation was replaced by an Olympic qualifying tournament, which the IHU/IHA has entered, despite some opposition from Northern Irish members. Northern Irish players can play for Ireland or Britain, and can switch affiliation subject to International Hockey Federation clearance. The Irish Ladies' Hockey Union (since 2000 also part of the IHA) has entered the Olympics since 1984, and in 1980 suspended Northern Irish players who elected to play for the British women's team.
Through to the 1960s, Ireland was represented in showjumping only by members of the Irish Army equitation school, as the all-island civilian equestrian governing body was unwilling to compete under the Republic's flag and anthem.
In 2004, the OCI objected when the British Olympic Association changed its style from "Great Britain" to "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" in the runup to the Athens games. This was reported to have embarrassed the (ultimately successful) London bid to stage the 2012 Games.
Name of the country
The OCI sees itself as representing the island rather than the state, and hence uses the name "Ireland". It changed its own name from "Irish Olympic Council" to "Olympic Council of Ireland" in 1952 to reinforce this point. At the time, Lord Killanin had become OCI President and delegate to the IOC, and was trying to reverse the IOC's policy of referring to the OCI's team by using an appellation of the state rather than the island. While the name "Ireland" had been unproblematic at the 1924 and 1928 Games, after 1930, the OCI sometimes used "Irish Free State". IOC President Henri de Baillet-Latour supported the principle of delimitation by political borders. At the 1932 Games, Eoin O'Duffy persuaded the Organisers to switch from "Irish Free State" to "Ireland" shortly before the Opening Ceremony. After the 1937 Constitution took effect, the IOC switched to "Eire"; this conformed to British practice, although within the state so designated the use of "Eire" soon became deprecated. At the opening ceremony of the 1948 Summer Olympics, teams marched in alphabetical order of their country's name in English; the OCI team was told to move from the I's to the E's. After the Republic of Ireland Act came into effect in 1949, British policy was to use "Republic of Ireland" rather than "Eire". In 1951, the IOC made the same switch at its Vienna conference, after IOC member Lord Burghley had consulted the British Foreign Office. An OCI request to change this to "Ireland" was rejected in 1952. The name "Ireland" was accepted just before the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. The OCI had argued that this was the name in the state's own Constitution, and that all the OCI's affiliated sports except the Football Association of Ireland were all-island bodies.
The following tables include medals won by athletes on OCI teams. All medals have been won at Summer Games. Ireland's best result at the Winter Games has been fourth, by Clifton Wrottesley in the Men's Skeleton at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. Some athletes have won medals representing other countries, which are not included on these tables.
|Gold||O'Callaghan, PatPat O'Callaghan||1928 Amsterdam||Athletics||Men's hammer throw|
|Gold||Tisdall, BobBob Tisdall||1932 Los Angeles||Athletics||Men's 400 metre hurdles|
|Gold||O'Callaghan, PatPat O'Callaghan||1932 Los Angeles||Athletics||Men's hammer throw|
|Silver||McNally, JohnJohn McNally||1952 Helsinki||Boxing||Men's bantamweight|
|Gold||Delany, RonnieRonnie Delany||1956 Melbourne||Athletics||Men's 1500 metres|
|Silver||Tiedt, FredFred Tiedt||1956 Melbourne||Boxing||Men's welterweight|
|Bronze||Caldwell, JohnJohn Caldwell||1956 Melbourne||Boxing||Men's flyweight|
|Bronze||Gilroy, FreddieFreddie Gilroy||1956 Melbourne||Boxing||Men's bantamweight|
|Bronze||Byrne, AnthonyAnthony Byrne||1956 Melbourne||Boxing||Men's lightweight|
|Bronze||McCourt, JimJim McCourt||1964 Tokyo||Boxing||Men's lightweight|
|Bronze||Russell, HughHugh Russell||1980 Moscow||Boxing||Men's flyweight|
|Silver||Wilkins, DavidDavid Wilkins
|1980 Moscow||Sailing||Flying Dutchman class|
|Silver||Treacy, JohnJohn Treacy||1984 Los Angeles||Athletics||Men's marathon|
|Gold||Carruth, MichaelMichael Carruth||1992 Barcelona||Boxing||Men's welterweight|
|Silver||McCullough, WayneWayne McCullough||1992 Barcelona||Boxing||Men's bantamweight|
|Gold||Smith, MichelleMichelle Smith||1996 Atlanta||Swimming||Women's 400 metre freestyle|
|Gold||Smith, MichelleMichelle Smith||1996 Atlanta||Swimming||Women's 200 metre individual medley|
|Gold||Smith, MichelleMichelle Smith||1996 Atlanta||Swimming||Women's 400 metre individual medley|
|Bronze||Smith, MichelleMichelle Smith||1996 Atlanta||Swimming||Women's 200 metre butterfly|
|Silver||O'Sullivan, SoniaSonia O'Sullivan||2000 Sydney||Athletics||Women's 5000 metres|
|Silver||Egan, KennyKenny Egan||2008 Beijing||Boxing||Men's Light Heavyweight|
|Bronze||Barnes, PaddyPaddy Barnes||2008 Beijing||Boxing||Men's Light flyweight|
|Bronze||Sutherland, DarrenDarren Sutherland||2008 Beijing||Boxing||Men's Middleweight|
|Gold||Taylor, KatieKatie Taylor||2012 London||Boxing||Women's lightweight|
|Silver||Nevin, John JoeJohn Joe Nevin||2012 London||Boxing||Men's Bantamweight|
|Bronze||Barnes, PaddyPaddy Barnes||2012 London||Boxing||Men's Light flyweight|
|Bronze||Conlan, MichaelMichael Conlan||2012 London||Boxing||Men's flyweight|
|Bronze||O'Connor, CianCian O'Connor||2012 London||Equestrian||Individual Showjumping|
Although Michelle Smith de Bruin was suspended for doping violations in 1998, this did not affect her 1996 medals. Cian O'Connor received the gold medal in the 2004 individual showjumping, but was formally stripped of it in July 2005 because his horse failed the post-event doping test.
|Silver||Yeats, Jack ButlerJack Butler Yeats||1924 Paris||Mixed Painting||Natation ("Swimming"; now on display in the National Gallery of Ireland with the title The Liffey Swim)|
|Bronze||St. John Gogarty, OliverOliver St. John Gogarty||1924 Paris||Mixed Literature||Ode pour les Jeux de Tailteann (Taliteann Ode, which had won the prize for poetry at the revived Tailteann Games earlier that year) Gogarty was awarded a bronze medal despite two silver medals being awarded in the category.|
|Bronze||Hamilton, Letitia MarionLetitia Marion Hamilton||1948 London||Paintings||Meath Hunt Point-to-Point Races (a painting now "believed to be somewhere in the United States")|
- List of flag bearers for Ireland at the Olympics
- Category:Olympic competitors for Ireland
- Ireland at the Paralympics
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