Row over GAA tops at University of Ulster

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Jim Allister recently asked the Stormont Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry to:

“outline any discussions he has had with the University of Ulster regarding concerns that the proliferation of GAA tops on campus leads to an intimidating atmosphere for many students”

Jim has apparently been approached by unionist students complaining about the “chill factor”. Similar concerns, though specifically related to GAA tops with the names of IRA terrorists on them, were raised by Drew Nelson last year. On that occasion the university responded by stating it was committed to promoting “equality of opportunity and good relations”. The Students’ Union said: “We are currently investigating the complaint about sportswear on campus and how we can make our university a welcoming place for all.”Now, however, Stephen Farry has responded to Jim Allister’s question as follows:

My Department answered a written assembly question on a similar matter in July 2013. At that time the University of Ulster advised that it did not have a policy in relation to the wearing of sport shirts. However there were plans to develop a good relations policy, in conjunction with the Students Union.
The University of Ulster has now advised that a working group has been established to develop this policy. An action plan has been developed, which will be presented to the relevant University committee in April. The policy will cover, inter alia, political expression, culture, language and dress code.

It is unclear what the university has done regarding this over the last nine months. Phil Flanagan of Sinn Fein has responded:

“The University of Ulster should not involve itself in this anti-GAA campaign. The university needs to promote diversity in sport and treat all codes with equal respect. The GAA is open to people from all traditions and ethnic backgrounds who take part and enjoy the many sporting and cultural events the GAA provides.”

In turn Jim Allister has replied:

“I wouldn’t expect Mr. Flanagan to care about Unionist students feel about the GAA. The question was asked because I was approached by a group of students from a Unionist background who felt that the proliferation of GAA tops created a chill factor.”
“I for one can understand this feeling as it is a fact that throughout its history the GAA has been associated not just with Nationalism but with the violent Republicanism which is still defended by Flanagan and his party.”
“If he wanted to find evidence of why the GAA isn’t a welcoming organisation for Unionists Flanagan wouldn’t need to look further than the comments of Joe Brolly who recently told us he was “proud” that his home club in Dungiven was named after convicted terrorist and INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch.

This may be an issue with some way to go as Jonathan Craig appears to have tabled a question on a similar theme yesterday.

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  • PeterBrown

    This is the biggest load of nonsense. In a university where the majority of student study sports related courses to try to ban the tops of the sport that the majority of those play is ridiculous. It is like banning american football merchandise from notre dame.

    http://study.ulster.ac.uk/prospectus/courselist/201314?campus%5B%5D=JN&search=

    Assuming the link works properly I think that the majority of students study sports releated courses is at best inaccurate but it is nonsense – and if so then why did we spend so much of the 1980s and 1990s wringing our hands about football tops and look back on that time with fondness last month?

  • JR

    Zeb,

    For a long time the GAA was the only thing catholics and nationalists had to keep them bonded as a community in large parts of the North during a period of adversity, as such there is no wonder that there are traces of this in the GAA’s ethos. That ethos is part of the GAA story and history and telling students not to wear GAA tops is not going to change that. As you put it so well Unionism is at loggerheads with the GAA by default. There is no point in anyone pretending there is more to it than that.

  • JR

    PB,
    Ok the majority don’t study sports, a fair ammount however do and I stand by the rest of what I said.

  • zep

    JR – “as such there is no wonder that there are traces of this in the GAA’s ethos.” – It goes much further than that. Taken from the GAA’s site (excuse the formatting):

    “The primary purpose of the G.A.A. is the
    organisation of native pastimes and the promotion of athletic
    fitness as a means to create a disciplined, self- reliant, nationalminded
    manhood. The overall result is the expression of a
    people’s preference for native ways as opposed to imported ones.
    Since she has not control over all the national territory,
    Ireland’s claim to nationhood is impaired. It would be still
    more impaired if she were to lose her language, if she failed to
    provide a decent livelihood for her people at home, or if she
    were to forsake her own games and customs in favour of the
    games and customs of another nation. If pride in the attributes
    of nationhood dies, something good and distinctive in our
    race dies with it. Each national quality that is lost makes us so
    much poorer as a Nation. Today, the native games take on a
    new significance when it is realised that they have been a part,
    and still are a part, of the Nation’s desire to live her own life, to
    govern her own affairs.”

    followed by:

    “Basic Aim
    The Association is a National Organisation which has as
    its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity
    in a 32 County Ireland through the preservation and
    promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes.
    National Games”.

    Nothing wrong with any of that, just don’t try and frame it as a non-political organisation. By the by my point was that unionism being at loggerheads with the GAA (as a vehicle of Irish Nationalism) is wholly unremarkable. Me? I don’t care, my taxes go to fund much more obtuse stuff and as I said before it does a massive amount of good for a lot of people. But most definitely it also carries a political bent.

  • Barnshee

    “But most definitely it also carries a political bent.”

    Can`t get taxpayer funding then

  • between the bridges

    Slightly off topic…”The band stopped and played ‘Abide With Me’ while their band captain laid the wreath. The other passing bands all lowered their standards as a mark of respect.”

    It is understood all 33 bands in the competition lowered their flags at the site of the tragedy.”

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/regional/loyalist-band-leaves-tribute-to-young-gaa-player-killed-in-accident-1-5999406

  • JR

    I’v been going to Gaa matches for 30 years and I have never read that. I doubt very much that any of the UUJ students have either. But now that I have read it I still dont see why it should lead to students being told not to wear GAA jerseys.

    So what, in all the 220 pages of that doccument there are three words I can see that might be contrivertial, “National Minded manhood”. And manhood is the one I see most issue with. I doubt most of the women who do powerful work in the GAA would like to be overlooked in that way.

  • PeterBrown

    JR

    And as for the flying the flag at all games and playing of the National Anthem there’s no comparison with the current campaign to stop this happening at Windsor Park for N Ireland football / soccer matches?

    I don’t take issue with the ethos of the GAA per se provided it is not claimed that it is inclusive or cross community and if it is neither of these things then why do the Eqaulity Commission relgulations I quoted at length on the last page of comments not apply to its tops as well?

    There is a distinct lack of consistency here…all or nothing not cherry picking!

  • Mc Slaggart

    “The Association is a National Organisation which has as
    its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity
    in a 32 County Ireland through the preservation and
    promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes.
    National Games”.

    …… all of which I am sure Edward Carson would have had no objection.

    “Ulster tactically in an attempt to wreck Home Rule for the entire 32 counties.”

    http://www.lawlibrary.ie/docs/Edward_Carson_(18541935)/68.htm‎

  • Mc Slaggart

    PeterBrown

    “And as for the flying the flag at all games and playing of the National Anthem ”

    They do not fly the flag at every game. What they do is the same no matter what country they are working in.

  • Mc Slaggart

    zep

    “the GAA is an Irish Nationalist organisation, isn’t it at ‘loggerheads’ with unionism by default?”

    Do not take this the wrong way but its got a lot of other more important things to worry about than “unionism”. If they can they will help people out ie they was happy to go and build a new national stadium for “northern Ireland”.

  • zep

    McSlaggart – I am quite sure they do (sit-ins at Casement for example :-p) however it was not me who raised this point, it was JR – I was responding to his original point by saying that of course the two are at loggerheads, they are ideological opposites.

    JR – If you can point out to me where I said that any of that text was justification for telling people not to wear gaelic tops I would be grateful. Again, I will direct you to my first post on this thread for my views on that. My point in posting that text was to explain to you why the GAA is an organisation with a political twist, no more and no less. As I say, I don’t object to my taxes being used to help fund it as on balance it definitely does a lot more good than harm.

    Some other phrasings of interest which you have glossed over from the above, which sound distinctly un-21st century:

    “The overall result is the expression of a
    people’s preference for native ways as opposed to imported ones.” – ‘Imported ways’… did Nigel Farage write this?

    “Since she has not control over all the national territory
    Ireland’s claim to nationhood is impaired.”more impaired if she were to lose her language, if she failed to
    provide a decent livelihood for her people at home, or if she
    were to forsake her own games and customs in favour of the
    games and customs of another nation.” – This is clearly an Irish Nationalist political outlook…

    “Today, the native games take on a
    new significance when it is realised that they have been a part,
    and still are a part, of the Nation’s desire to live her own life, to
    govern her own affairs.” – …and this is where that Nationalist political outlook is tied in to the sporting and cultural activities of the organisation.

    I say again – there is nothing wrong with any of this, and I can see perfectly well how an organisation like the GAA would have sprung up and subsequently flourished in turbulent times in the late 1800s and 1900s; and there is no dobut that today it has lost a lot of that initial significance is is seen by a lot of people as a purely sporting association. However I would say that [b]by its own definitions[/b] it isn’t.

  • Zig70

    The easy thing is just to put the shoe on the other foot and ban anything overtly British. Union jack mugs, phone covers, dresses also karrimore and soggy vegetables. Then you can see how stupid it is to ban something for being Irish as it is to ban anything British. End of.

  • PeterBrown

    Zig

    Which is exactly what the Equality Commission guidelines lauded by Sin Fein and the SDLP last month and reproduced by me on the first page actually do – ban anything single identity…unless they only apply to one side?

  • zep

    Strange how those who would argue the GAA is a non-tribal beacon of tolerance and equality fall silent when presented with, er, the GAA’s constitution.