DUP Culture Spokesman on GAA.

As an attempt to relieve the overload, and tempers, on the NI representatives to sit in Dail? thread , I thought it might be interesting to post a letter in today’s Irish News, page 9, from Nelson McCausland, MLA.
The GAA should be honest about its political agenda
Is there anybody in Northern Ireland who thinks that the GAA are not open and honest about their politics ? Should Nelson have recognised the difference between the Northern GAA and the GAA in ROI in respect of any political emphasis ?
Full marks to Nelson, however, for ignoring the PC “spokesperson” nonsense. Proud to be XY in an XX dominated world!

The Letter in full.

The GAA should be honest about its political agenda
THERE has been some recent correspondence in the Irish News, including a letter from Caitriona Ruane MLA of Sinn Fein, about the GAA.

This follows a Talkback debate broadcast from Stormont.

At that debate I raised the question of the political dimension of the GAA and said that it was more than just a sporting organisation.

That is also the view of Archbishop Sean Brady, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

He contributed a chapter to a book, Talking Gaelic, admitting: “The GAA is more than just a sporting organisation, it has played a part in the national identity and the association is very aware of this.”

That is an understatement… but the admission that the GAA is ‘more than just a sporting organisation’ is the important consideration.

In fact the GAA has a political agenda – that of Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism.

It is perfectly entitled to have that agenda but it should be open and honest about it and those who provide public funding for the GAA should acknowledge it too.

The body that is being funded is not an ordinary organisation but rather a sporting organisation with a political agenda.

During the debate I also referred to the practice of naming Gaelic grounds, clubs and competitions after republican terrorists and there are many examples.

Croke Park in Dublin was named after the first GAA patron, Archbishop Croke of Cashel.

But the Nally Stand, built in 1952, was named after Patrick William Nally, the first chairman of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret oath-bound terrorist organisation.

One of the highlights of the GAA year is the All-Ireland Gaelic Football final in September when teams compete for the Sam Maguire Cup.

Maguire was a senior IRB member who supplied guns to republican terrorists in Ireland and tried to set up people in England as targets for republican murderers.

As the former head of the West Belfast Festival, Caitriona Ruane will also be familiar with the Mairead Farrell Camogie Tournament, which was part of the festival programme.

Farrell served a 10-year prison sentence for bombing in the Conway Hotel at Dunmurry and was eventually killed in Gibraltar in 1988 while she was on another terrorist mission.

These are two issues that need to be addressed by the GAA and other advocates of Gaelic games.

Whether or not the GAA retains its political goal of taking Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom is a matter for the GAA but the organisation should be open about the fact that they hold that political stance.

Moreover they should acknowledge that this is a bar against participation by unionists.

They are perfectly entitled to operate in that way but they should not attempt to conceal it.

As regards naming aspects of the Gaelic sport after republican terrorists, that is an altogether different matter. It is a practice that should be ended.

NELSON McCAUSLAND MLA, DUP Culture spokesman, Belfast

  • stephen nicholl

    Does this mean Nelson won’t take up his ticket allocation for the Martin McGuiness Stand in the new National Stadium

  • CavanMan

    Mc Causland actually made some decent points which could be adheard too.Unfortunately as a member of the DUP his comments will never be taken seriously by the GAA playing community in the north of ireland.

  • Donnie

    Like CavanMan I’d have to say he makes some decent points. I don’t think there is any excuse for naming clubs/grounds/competitions after people connected with terrorism/crime etc. in the recent past as there are still many open wounds. The name is a small factor so why alienate people by using these names.

    However, on the other hand I think it is being over-sensitive to complain about clubs/grounds/competitions named after historical Irish nationalist figures.

    As a prominent advocate of Ulster-Scots he is also being disingenuous in the extreme to preach to the GAA about honesty, openness etc. with regards to public funding!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    No call to rename ‘Windsor’ Park though!

  • Ringo

    GAA more than a sporting organisation? Of course it is.

    After all isn’t Association Football more than just a game? Think popular culture, nationalism, communism, consumerism, satellite TV etc..

    As for naming grounds/clubs after republicans – which I think is caveman stuff – can anyone name one new club in the Republic named after a republican figure? This practice is restricted to the North – where there are other agenda’s for which the organisation might be used.

    Of course Nelson never mentioned that the main stand in Croke Park – the Hogan Stand – is named after a Tipperary player that was shot dead on the original Bloody Sunday when British troops opened fire in the stadium during a game in 1920. Must have slipped his mind…

  • CavanMan

    Yes the naming of clubs with names such as Kevin Lynch’s and tournaments after Mairead Farrell and other Republicans is in bad taste.Sam Maguire was not a terrorist..thats just some more loyalist lies.Such claims are to expected from the DUP.

  • Donnie

    As far as I am concerned the GAA is 99% about sport and the other 1% is of concern to about 1% of the members of the GAA! I’ll have to disappoint the Unionist posters here and say that we don’t sit around making pipe-bombs and knitting balaclavas after the match!

    The time is spent complaining about the useless ref, “the bollox mouthing on the sideline”, our useless forward line, and who’s getting the next round in! Pretty much the same as all sports. Fancy that!

  • ricardo

    Gonzo,

    Windsor park is not named due to any connection to the royal family. I think it gets its name from a mill or a factory that used to be in the area, although that might not be correct. Definitely no royal connection though.

  • CavanMan

    i do wish Northern Ireland would invite the Republic down to belfast for a friendly..it would be an excuse to go to windsor park 🙂

  • CavanMan

    These unionist politicians really need to be invited to a game in Dublin,perhaps not involving an ulster team.They would then be able to see the GAA for what it really is.We could leave it to Bertie to slip in the invitation at one of his meetings with the unionist parties.

  • maca

    I have to say I thought the letter was very good. Yes we can pick holes in it and ask him why he mentioned some points while overlooking other relevant points, as the lads highlighted.

    However I was impressed by the tone of the letter.
    It’s a pretty rare thing for a Unionist to address the concerns they have with the GAA in a clear respectful manner, without screaming racism or sectarianism (apologies if that sounds harsh but it has been a rare thing on Slugger). And this from a DUPer!

    “At that debate I raised the question of the political dimension of the GAA and said that it was more than just a sporting organisation.”

    Certainly. Though i’d argure more cultural than political. There is very little politics in it down South.

    “In fact the GAA has a political agenda – that of Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism.”

    I wouldn’t fully agree. While it might have had I believe it has been moving away from this for a long time however the official guidelines need a serious updating and events up North have been holding it back somewhat.

    “It is perfectly entitled to have that agenda but it should be open and honest about it and those who provide public funding for the GAA should acknowledge it too.”

    Cynical maca would think his main problem with the GAA is simply funding of a non-unionist 32-cty organisation. Luckily cynical maca isn’t here today.

    “During the debate I also referred to the practice of naming Gaelic grounds, clubs and competitions after republican terrorists and there are many examples.”

    While I don’t agree with all of his examples he is right that this practice is wrong and should be knocked on the head by the GAA yesterday!

    “Moreover they should acknowledge that this is a bar against participation by unionists.”

    It has been pointed out that no matter what the GAA does it will still never be acceptable to unionists. Is this the case?

    I wonder what experiences Nelson McCausland has of the GAA, if any?

  • CavanMan

    I wonder what experiences Nelson McCausland has of the GAA, if any?

    im sure he watches the games on sunday ,we know all the unionists do,even though they deny it. 🙂

  • Lafcadio

    maca – “It has been pointed out that no matter what the GAA does it will still never be acceptable to unionists. Is this the case?”

    pointed out by whom? No it’s not the case at all, not for me at any rate and many others who I’ve chatted to about this. If the GAA stopped naming clubs and tournaments after terrorists in NI, and abandoned it’s quasi-political constitution, over a decade or so I suspect it would attract more participation from across the community.

  • steveo

    Ricardo,
    Linfield does have a royal connection. The club badge is of Windsor Castle, one of the royal residences.

    There’s a large woven tapestry in the club entrance hall showing it in more detail. I know someone who was working with Linfield on a new club badge about 10yrs ago, using a Leeds Utd / Blackburn Rovers style badge based on the flax flower (the linen mill you mention was the Linfield mill), but the club got cold feet and stuck with the castle image.

  • maca

    Lafcadio
    “pointed out by whom?”
    Stated quite clearly by a number of unionists here.

    Personally I don’t believe it but I still have to ask the question 😉

    “If the GAA stopped naming clubs and tournaments after terrorists in NI, and abandoned it’s quasi-political constitution, over a decade or so I suspect it would attract more participation from across the community”

    What are the biggest issues you have with the GAA?
    Do you have any experience/knowledge of the GAA down south?
    Do you think unionists have any role to play in changing the GAA?

  • Lafcadio

    maca – sorry I hadn’t heard anyone say that; and with good reason, because for a sizeable body, I’m sure it’s not true.

    Re your questions (we’ve actually discussed this before, in my previous incarnation as “Caolan”..) Main issues – maintenance of a hackneyed and narrow view of “Irishness”; adherence to a constitution which is not only distracting and inappropriate to the sports which should surely be its main goal, but which is necessarily partisan.

    Experience of GAA down south – yes, when I lived and worked in Dublin, I watched quite a bit on TV, and talked about it with work colleagues. I didn’t think football was a good spectacle, but I thought hurling was a beautiful sport.

    Do I think unionists have a role to play – they can’t change the GAA from outside; it’s the GAA’s business to decide whether it wants to change – as Mr McCausland says, it’s entirely up to the GAA whether or not it wishes to remain the almost entirely exclusive preserve of one half of the community, but let’s at least be honest about it. If the more egregiously exclusive elements were removed, then it would all be down to the sports.

  • John East Belfast

    “In fact the GAA has a political agenda – that of Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism.”

    I wouldn’t fully agree. While it might have had I believe it has been moving away from this for a long time however the official guidelines need a serious updating and events up North have been holding it back somewhat.”

    – maca 6.43 tonight

    and maca at 12.43 am this morning on the NI Reps in Dail thread responding to me saying that GAA was about Sport and Culture.(Emphasis on politics was his)

    “POLITICS & Culture I said, and of course it comes under it. Most certainly”

    Oh do make your mind up

  • John East Belfast

    Cavanman

    “Mc Causland actually made some decent points which could be adheard too.Unfortunately as a member of the DUP his comments will never be taken seriously by the GAA playing community in the north of ireland”

    why are the northern community not capable of recognising some decent points

  • maca

    JEB “Oh do make your mind up”

    Learn to read John!
    I said “POLITICS & Culture” is the sub-header of Slugger and therefore we have a right to discuss GAA on Slugger.
    “Politics & Culture reads the subheader above, Gaelic sports come under that.”

    You misquoted me with:
    “GAA doesn’t come under the harmless sports or culture category I am afraid.”

    I corrected you with “Politics & Culture I said…” which IS the subheader of Slugger I was referring to.

    The point you quoted from this thread is not relevant to the other discussion as I was specifically referring to the Slugger sub-header after you complained about us discussing GAA on Slugger.
    If you’re not going to bother reading the posts properly then stop wasting my time.

  • D’Oracle

    Same ole tosh innit!
    At least Nelson Mandela promotes reconciliation .

  • CavanMan

    John east belfast
    The GAA playing community in northern ireland will not take these comments seriously..because they come from a party whose leader is well known for not only his anti-GAA attitudes,But also his anti- catholic and anti-irish ravings.If these comments came from the UUP,they might well be discussed.

  • aquifer

    Great to see the DUP engage with this without ranting.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    I can understand why Unionists might be uncomfortable with the GAA – especially with the (mostly Belfast based, in fairness) practice of naming northern clubs after recently-dead terrorists/freedom fighters/delete as appropriate which like most GAA people here I fullly agree should not be done: it’s provocative for no good reason. This is mainly a sporting body after all….

    But in the main the GAA is about sport and sport alone. Yes, the vast majority of GAA members would think Ireland should be one country and Partition is simply a bad idea; but 85% of the island think that way. Get used to it. The GAA has always had numerous Protestant members, like Mr Sam Maguire himself. Religion has nothing to do with it: believing in Ireland and the abilities of the Irish people (all of them) has everything to do with it.

    For the average Irish person, it’s simply about supporting the local club and/or your county in an (all-Ireland) competition. Remember, we just think of the island as one unit, that’s what is simply natural for us. We don’t wake up in the morning thinking “I’m going to mention Ireland as a unit today just to annoy any passing Unionists” – for 85% of the island, Ireland is a unit, no questions asked. So supporting your local team against the rest of the country is purely natural.

    I think some Unionists have to realise this and just accept that most people, north and south, just think of the island as a unit naturally. It’s not a big conspiracy. We don’t do it deliberatly to annoy Unionists. And that unit has some unique sports that we happen to enjoy. Would you gurn at Americans about American Football or Canadians about Ice Hockey? Of course not.

  • Davros

    The GAA has always had numerous Protestant members, like Mr Sam Maguire himself

    Numerous ? That’s surely an exaggeration Ciarán , or do you have any figures to support the claim ?

  • Davros

    Would you gurn at … Canadians about Ice Hockey? Of course not.

    Does this count as gurning ? 😉

  • CavanMan

    Davros
    the former president of the GAA jack Bootham(excuse the spelling if its wrong)was a protestant,There are plenty of protestants playing GAA that i know off.Peter whitnell the great All Ireland winner with Down in 1991 and 1994 is a protestant,Dav what you dont get is up here in the south,we dont care what religion a player is(There is a muslim on my team too).We only care about how good a player is.

  • Davros

    Cavanman- I don’t deny that there are protestants. What I find surprising is the blanket claim that there are “numerous” protestants. Certainly isn’t the case in the North where there are numerous protestants, and as there aren’t “numerous protestants” in the ROI where they are a very small minority, I thought the claim was misleasing.

  • Lafcadio

    Ciaran – you must see that is disingenuous, on several counts. Firstly, it’s highly likely, as you say, that the vast majority of GAA members believe that partition is a bad idea – which is fine – but why does the sports body have to reiterate this in its constitution? Apart from anything does it not seem paternalistic and defensive? By which I mean, are the members not capable of arriving at their own opinions? The same is probably true of the IRFU, another 32 county sports body, but it doesn’t dip its oar into tribal politics, and guess what?? unionists aren’t alienated..

    As for the Canadian ice hockey example – I’m not taking issue with anyone liking particular sports. Further though, Canadian ice hockey association, as far as I know, doesn’t draw up documents stating that it believes in the “inalienable unity of the state of Canada, and will work against any efforts by regions to secede” – and why? because they are in the business of administering a sport, not national politics, and would see no gain in tying up resources that could be better spent fostering the sports; and into the bargain, they would unnecessarily alienate a sizeable minority of participants (and potential participants) in some regions.

    As for your advice about “the average Irish person” etc – thanks, but over the last few years most of my Irish friends and acquaintances have been nationalists (of varying shades of green), so I’m quite well-versed in how they think about things of this ilk..

    Though it might be worthwhile pointing out that the “average” unionist doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking “oh I hate the bloody GAA – must go and have a few digs at some members about how it’s sectarian!” – if the GAA wants to change, become more inclusive, that’s fine and I will welcome it; if it wants to remain a nationalist institution for nationalist people, that’s equally fine – I can live perfectly well without it – but let’s be honest about it.

  • Congal Claen

    The GAA are just a sporting body in the same way that loyalist bands are just musical bodies.

  • CavanMan

    yes The North of Ireland is a problem in respect of Protestants playing GAA.Will someone of a unionist persuasion please put a list of problems they have with the GAA on this,(names of clubs,etc)So we can know what exactly are possible changes to make.

  • Davros

    CavanMan – Integrated education, all kids playing Soccer and Rugby and GAA sports after a 21st century rulebook is drawn up in which all mention of political issues is removed, all learning Irish for a few years after which it become optional.
    Sorted.

  • Ringo

    Davros –
    maybe a better way of putting it is to say that prostestants are well represented in the GAA in the Republic – considering how they are as you say, a small minority. And just to put CavanMan’s reference to Jack Boothman in perspective, he was the GAA President in the past decade – unlike Sam Maguire and other historical figures.

    In many ways the current argument is becoming obsolete before our eyes. The recent influx of immigrants is bringing in tens of thousands of people who could be described as GAA-neutral. Whether they feel welcome in the GAA will be determined by how welcome they feel in general in Ireland – the historical baggage of the early and late 20th century will have no relevance to these people.

    Basically the GAA in the North seems to be warped by its environment – one section of the community -wrongly- claims ownership on it and the other is quite happy to allow this as it gives a focus for attacks in the low level culture war.

    And to back up CavanMan’s point that it is all about what you can do on the pitch – the most talked about players of the past two years (outside of self-obsessed Armagh that is ) don’t fit the stereotype of true Gaels – and probably owe their outstanding athleticism to their Fijian background.

  • CavanMan

    Davros
    i have been playing GAA at club level,College level for St Pats Cavan,and on different county levels,for the last 10 years and i have never once read the GAA rule book,and i am not alone in that.so yeh,the rule book can change for all any of us care.Integrated education,yeh that would help..i shudder to think how good the Northern Teams will be WHEN,unionists/protestants start to play.NO more ulster titles for us 🙁

  • willowfield

    Gonzo

    No call to rename ‘Windsor’ Park though!

    Why would he, or anyone else, make such a call?

    maca

    I have to say I thought the letter was very good. Yes we can pick holes in it and ask him why he mentioned some points while overlooking other relevant points, as the lads highlighted.
    However I was impressed by the tone of the letter.

    Funny how McCausland’s letter is “very good”, but when posters such as myself have raised the same points on Slugger, you weren’t so generous!

    Ciarán Irvine

    But in the main the GAA is about sport and sport alone.

    How do you explain all the political trappings, then? The refusal to recognise NI, etc.?

    I think some Unionists have to realise this and just accept that most people, north and south, just think of the island as a unit naturally. It’s not a big conspiracy. We don’t do it deliberatly to annoy Unionists. And that unit has some unique sports that we happen to enjoy.

    No-one’s complaining about people thinking of the island as a unit. The complaint is not recognising the existence of two states, which is totally unnecessary and provocative.

  • Davros

    Ringo – and those two players were given a hard time in Omagh.

    I know what Ciarán meant, but for outsiders it needed to be more clearly put. N McC should have addressed his remarks to the Northern GAA rather than the GAA Island wide. It’s also fair to say that circumstances are very different in thisd neck of the woods and that many GAA people have valid grievances.

  • CavanMan

    Willowfield
    It is only the GAA in Northern Ireland which has political trappings.Ignore the GAA rule book,although i aggree it should be changed.im certain over 95% of GAA participants have not read it.The GAA central council does not speak for the ordinary GAA member,if it did(Croke Park would be holding rugby and soccer already).why i mention the Central council is because only they can change the rule book.

  • Lafcadio

    CavanMan and others – I don’t doubt that you’re sincere when you say the sports are the important thing to you, not the rule book etc; however if this is really the case, and the rule book is really not that important to most GAA members, it begs the question why not scrap it, or more exactly, scrap all the bits not related directly to the sports?

    Does the lack of action on this, and the lack (as far as I can tell) of any groundswell whatsoever in favour of such action, not give the lie to this?

  • CavanMan

    Lafcadio
    Until recently i had not known about all the political material in the Rule book..alot of GAA members are the same.i believe the lack of action to scrap the rule book is the result of a poor knowledge of the book,which is not widely used.

  • Ringo

    Davros
    and those two players were given a hard time in Omagh.

    I suspect it wasn’t because of their religion!

  • Davros

    Ringo – thery weren’t that well talked about as to be recognised!

  • Donnie

    Davros
    and those two players were given a hard time in Omagh.

    I’m not sure of the relevance!

    They were given abuse and barred from entering a pub in Fintona as the neanderthals minding the door thought they were from the local army camp due to their dark colouring.

  • Davros

    The relevence is that they weren’t well enough known – I’ll Betcha that Roy Keane would have been recognised! In Ireland “Gael” still is equated with Catholic and white.

  • Donnie

    Davros that is like comparing chalk and cheese. One is an amateur sportsman the other is a heavily marketed ‘product’. Freddie Flintoff is one of the most talked about English cricketers in years. I wouldn’t recognise him if I tripped over him in the street!

  • slackjaw

    Lafcadio

    ‘Does the lack of action on this, and the lack (as far as I can tell) of any groundswell whatsoever in favour of such action, not give the lie to this?’

    No. I have been playing and attending GAA matches for more than twenty years and you know more about the rule book than I. The lack of action is a result of its insignificance to the vast majority of GAA supporters and players.

    Representations that it be changed would likely be taken on board from someone more sympathetic to the existence of the GAA, or at least half-interested in the sporting side. Impetus for reform is rarely given by people who it is perceived would prefer that your organisation did not exist in the first place (see Republicans and Orange Order).

    Davros

    ‘In Ireland “Gael” still is equated with Catholic and white.’

    Are you saying that they would have been recognised if they were white?

  • Davros

    ‘In Ireland “Gael” still is equated with Catholic and white.’

    Are you saying that they would have been recognised if they were white?

    Not as simplistically as that SJ- but the point was being made that GAA is of huge interest across the island and that these two guys are the most talked about players of the past two years. Fit young men of colour- instinctive classification was “Brits”.

  • slackjaw

    ‘Fit young men of colour- instinctive classification was “Brits”.’

    Since when were the assumptions of nightclub security staff a reliable indicator of anything? Many aren’t interested in the GAA.

    Your point says nothing about GAA supporters, who are the ones most likely to talk about GAA players.

  • Davros

    SJ – I’ll happily accept that many if not most people in NI aren’t that bothered about the sporting aspect of GAA – in contrast to the people of the ROI whose primary interest in the GAA is in the sporting aspect of the Organisation. If that’s what you mean.

  • slackjaw

    No. It isn’t. 🙂

  • Davros

    LOL – cheers 😉

  • slackjaw

    Although re-reading what you say, I do accept that this is also true! 😉

  • Davros

    Siesta time! Two hot camembert bagels for lunch have
    done for me 🙂

  • Lafcadio

    Slackjaw – you say that the rulebook is insignificant to you, and I accept that; for all that, it is divisive, and exclusive. And blaming a lack of any move towards reform on its perceived insignificance has all the appearance to me of a cop-out. What you seem to be saying is that it’s insignificant, but not so insignificant to change it for the sake of turning the GAA into a more progressive and inclusive organisation.

    Is your second paragraph directed at me? I’ve already mentioned to maca that in fact I became interested in the sporting side (specifically in hurling) during my time in Dublin; and furthermore I do not wish that the GAA did not exist.

    I do not want to see the GAA continue in it’s current guise, which seems to me to be backward-looking and regressive; although it is definitely making strides – it was good, for example, to see Sean Kelly at Lansdowne for the Ireland-Argentina game (if only there were more men like him in the upper echelons of the GAA), and the use of Croke Park for rugby internationals is only a matter of time.

  • maca

    Willowfield
    “Funny how McCausland’s letter is “very good”, but when posters such as myself have raised the same points on Slugger, you weren’t so generous!”

    Nothing funny about to actually. You’ll note I mentioned I was impressed by the “tone” of the letter and the “respectful manner” in which he put across his point. However I was never impressed by the tone of your arguments and I feel you never approached the subject in a respectful way. Still, have I ever refused to discuss the issue with you? No, I am still happy to discuss it with you but you will put your point across much better is you learn from McCauslands example above.

    Lafcadio
    “it begs the question why not scrap it, or more exactly, scrap all the bits not related directly to the sports?”

    very true. And you’ll find a lot of GAA people will agree with you. Much of the Official Guide is archaic nonsense, which few have actually read, and it needs to be rewritten.
    I’d suspect this *may* have been done by now if it wasn’t for the events up North over the years.
    But aren’t they getting there? Rule 21 is gone! Rule 42 will soon follow!

  • maca

    Lafcadio
    Sorry, I missed your earlier post…

    “in my previous incarnation as “Caolan”” Hello again!

    “maintenance of a hackneyed and narrow view of “Irishness”;”

    Hmm. Could that be simply your perception or …?
    But I agree if it’s the case it should not be so.

    “adherence to a constitution which is not only distracting and inappropriate to the sports which should surely be its main goal, but which is necessarily partisan. “

    I’ve often posted that I think a complete rewrite is in order. There’s no longer any reason why politics comes into it (IF there were reasons in the first place).

    “I watched quite a bit on TV, and talked about it with work colleagues. I didn’t think football was a good spectacle, but I thought hurling was a beautiful sport. “

    Did you ever try it though? Do you feel so excluded by it’s “ethos” that you couldn’t go along to a club and try your hand at it?

    “Do I think unionists have a role to play – they can’t change the GAA from outside … … “

    True it’s for the GAA to make changes within the organisation. I won’t give you my opinion on what I think unionists could do to help as it’s started arguments before but do you at least think that maybe unionists need to approach the subject in a different way? An example is the earlier point I made about changes in the GAA not making any difference to unionists, do I believe you or them? Do you think such an approach by unionists would/should have any influence on the GAA, i.e. to encourage change?

  • Lafcadio

    maca – no worries..

    “Hmm. Could that be simply your perception or …?” yes this is my perception – but it is thus for a reason.. Much of what we are talking about here are matters of perception, which is why,even though some posters try to write these issues of as “insignificant to most GAA members” etc, they are important for the message they send, and for their effect on the perception of the organisation.

    “Do you feel so excluded by it’s “ethos”” I would not feel comfortable going along to a sport which is so much aligned with one side of the political divide in NI.

    Let me give an external example – imagine, through whatever bizarre set of circumstances, the English FA drew up a rulebook stating that “the FA aspires to the return to an all-white England etc etc” – could you seriously say to a black guy “ah sure, they’re only words, nobody really pays that much attention to them, sure come on down anyway, see what it’s like..”? No – you’d be asking him to turn a blind eye to an element of the organisation which discriminates against him.

    And in any case, I doubt that my efforts with a hurley would have been a pretty sight!! 🙂

    “I won’t give you my opinion on what I think unionists could do to help as it’s started arguments before” – feel free to give me an example, I’ll give it a hearing.. In general, though, that sounds a bit to me like you’re saying “ok we’ll admit there’s something here that needs changing; now YOU do something about it.”

    “…changes in the GAA not making any difference to unionists…” – the problem here is that (I think) you’re trying to pigeon-hole all unionists together. As I see it, there are some unionists who will never want to have anything to do with the GAA, regardless of what changes, because they are not interested in the sports; or because they will continue to view it as a kind of trojan horse for Irish nationalism; or because they are bigots, and have a knee-jerk hatred of all things Irish. There are some, however, who would be interested in getting involved as a participant or spectator – and do you not think that losing the political trappings is a reasonable price to pay?

    I always think that the crowning irony of the whole situation is that a sporting body organised on an all-Ireland basis, that helps foster an Irish identity, already exists: the decidedly apolitical IRFU.. I know many staunch defenders of the union who nonetheless stand alongside Irishmen from all 4 counties at Lansdowne with a tear in the eye as the men in green run out..

  • maca

    Lafcadio

    Perception – yeah fair point.

    FA Analogy – I don’t think the anology is quite accurate howevrr I see what you mean, fair point also.

    “And in any case, I doubt that my efforts with a hurley would have been a pretty sight!! :-)”

    Ya never know.
    One point also, you can actually try hurling without joining the GAA.

    “that sounds a bit to me like you’re saying “ok we’ll admit there’s something here that needs changing; now YOU do something about it.””

    No, that’s certainly not the case at all, you misunderstand. I just think that unionists can play a part IF they wish. This point has come from previous discussions we’ve had on the subject.

    “the problem here is that (I think) you’re trying to pigeon-hole all unionists together”
    I probably was, apologies.

    “I always think that the crowning irony of the whole situation is that a sporting body organised on an all-Ireland basis, that helps foster an Irish identity, already exists: the decidedly apolitical IRFU”

    Rugby’s for girls though! 😉

  • slackjaw

    Lafcadio

    In response to your post:

    ‘And blaming a lack of any move towards reform on its perceived insignificance has all the appearance to me of a cop-out.’

    No – I was merely highlighting why its reform has been hitherto unlikely because no-one is interested enough to change it.

    ‘What you seem to be saying is that it’s insignificant, but not so insignificant to change it for the sake of turning the GAA into a more progressive and inclusive organisation.’

    Certainly not. It should be changed. I was just oferring an alternative view as to why it had not been changed.

    ‘Is your second paragraph directed at me?’

    No – I had Nelson McCausland in mind as part of a longer post, but typekey did me in. I was offering my take on what unionists could do to ensure it gets changed. That is not to deny that the GAA itself should also reform.

  • Lafcadio

    slackjaw – sorry for not coming back before..

    “…no-one is interested enough to change it.” – is that not the point? That the majority of members of the GAA aren’t interested in having it become a more inclusive and representative Irish body?

    maca – “..you can actually try hurling without joining the GAA..” true.. although I’m not sure that my sporting background (rugby and footy) will have helped me develop the manual dexterity required.. Mind you, I live in South London, and quite often passing Clapham Common I’ve seen a few guys out with hurleys, so you never know, I might give it a shot in the summer..

    “I just think that unionists can play a part IF they wish” by doing what, though, other than conversing with GAA fans like this? I think it’s a question of taking responsibility – the GAA must accept that by aligning itself explicitly with Irish nationalism / republicanism, it will necessarily exclude most non-nationalists / republicans – and this is the fundamental issue, which no amount of talking around will remove.

    “Rugby’s for girls though! ;)” well maybe, but only big girls, with big muscles and hairy legs.. rather you than me.. 😉

  • maca

    Lafcadio
    “although I’m not sure that my sporting background will have helped me develop the manual dexterity required”

    No-one’s expecting you to be DJ Carey (kilkenny master)
    😉

    “by doing what, though, other than conversing with GAA fans like this?”

    Believe me, that in itself is a big step. Unionists can attempt to understand certain things:
    – the GAA is changing for the better (although slowly) & is trying to throw off it’s past (rules 21 & 42)
    – the majourity of GAA fans are interested only in sports and have no interest in politics
    – members don’t swallow the rule book on entry and don’t swear an oath to die for Ireland (just threw that in for fun, my perception of *some* unionists perception 😉

    Conversations like this can actually do a lot of good. They certainly are a lot better than previous threads which amounted to little more than GAA bashing sessions. Although it’s been called a cop out by certain unionists, these bashing sessions do more harm than good and do not encourage change in the GAA. Quite the opposite in fact.

  • Davros

    – the majority of GAA fans are interested only in sports and have no interest in politics

    I would accept that in the ROI maca, but I don’t think I would be so sure about the civilised six !
    And a lot of that is down to my community and the security forces and how they have treated the Northern GAA. It’s been a vicious circle.

  • Lafcadio

    maca and Davros – “majority of GAA fans are interested only in sports and have no interest in politics” my point would be that GAA fans have every right to be as passionately interested in politics (or not) as they want, but there is no need for the GAA to be institutionally politicised. Again the model I’d refer to is the IRFU.

    I do agree that the GAA is making progress (slowly) and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the rules you mention are consigned to the past.

    And I know from personal experience that not all GAA fans or members are inveterate Brit-haters and republicans – a good friend who grew up playing gaelic football in Co Down is in fact a Maggie Thatcher-loving, NI-supporting, “Northern Ireland nationalist” for want of a better term (i.e. would like to see an independant NI)…

  • Ringo

    as a matter of interest – are the soccer clubs and leagues in the north organised along sectarian lines or do you have a mix?

    My impression is that the Irish League is not very popular with the Nationalists (some would say not very popular with anybody), but the national team appears to be a good mix.

  • unionist_observer

    “Rugby’s for girls though! ;)” well maybe, but only big girls, with big muscles and hairy legs.. rather you than me.. 😉

    I play rugby and I can assure you that description does not fit me nor the other girls on the team!

  • willowfield

    Most Irish League clubs would have predominantly Protestant followings. The main exception is Cliftonville. Newry and Omagh would be “Catholic” clubs, but their support is miniscule. Mind you, that is the case for most clubs outside of Linfield, Glentoran, Portadown, Coleraine, maybe Ballymena or Ards on a good day.

    All clubs have mixed teams in terms of the playing staff.

    Reasons? I’d say football has traditionally been an urban, industrial sport – hence in Ireland it was historically dominated by Belfast (which, until recently had a large Protestant majority). (No club outside Belfast won the Irish League championship for its first 60 years.)

    Also, in Catholic communities, there is competition from the GAA which doesn’t exist in Protestant communities.

    Also, NI’s troubles have taken their toll. Belfast Celtic – a Catholic club – was a major force in football, but resigned in 1949, ostensibly after crowd trouble at a match versus Linfield when Linfield supporters attacked the Celtic players.

    And Derry City resigned in 1972 after other Irish League clubs voted to continue a ban on the use of their home ground, the location of which in the Bogside was considered too dangerous (following attacks on opposing teams and, of course, the scary violence of the time in Derry).

  • davidbrew

    Linfield does have a royal connection. The club badge is of Windsor Castle, one of the royal residences.

    correct, though the streets in the district are Windsor Avenue, Windsor park ,and the local Presbyterian Church is Windsor. I suspect the adopting of the badge was probably a bit of a conceit. Tommy Dickson was called the Duke of Windsor but to the best of my knowldge didn’t recognise Wallis Simpson as his mother.

  • willowfield

    Or, given the time he was playing, his wife.

  • Ringo

    Willowfield –

    Thanks for that, and in lower leagues where most people participate – say junior football or underage, do you have mixed teams, mixed leagues or what is the story?

  • CavanMan

    When is this All-Ireland club comeptition between the teams from the North and the South,on?.It will be interesting to see if the Northern Teams wreck any towns,in the south like they have before.

  • willowfield

    Ringo

    Thanks for that, and in lower leagues where most people participate – say junior football or underage, do you have mixed teams, mixed leagues or what is the story?

    All sorts. Some leagues are mixed; some are predominantly one religion or the other, usually reflecting the religious make-up of particular localities, e.g. leagues in the Newry area will be mostly RC, but in Ballymena area mostly Protestant.

    There are some leagues associated with youth groups attached to particular denominations, e.g. BB Old Boys’ League (mainly Prod), Down & Connor League (mainly RC). I played in the former, but even despite its history/ethos, there are still quite a few mixed teams, including my own.

    Generally, the higher the standard, the less locally-based, and the more mixed.

    CavanMan

    When is this All-Ireland club comeptition between the teams from the North and the South,on?.It will be interesting to see if the Northern Teams wreck any towns,in the south like they have before.

    Around April/May, I think.

    As for wrecking towns, presumably you refer to Dundalk versus Linfield. One incident, 20 years ago, in which the Dundalk ground, not the town, was wrecked.

    Unless Derry City is in the habit of wrecking Southern towns?

  • maca

    Davros
    “I would accept that in the ROI maca, but I don’t think I would be so sure about the civilised six !”

    If we take the GAA as a whole then i’m right ;))
    I agree with you though!

    Lafcadio
    “my point would be that … … there is no need for the GAA to be institutionally politicised.”

    That’s true. But i’m sure you are aware of the history of the GAA, it’s birth and reasons for being in the first place? Yes it’s now 2004 and not 1890 but things haven’t exactly been hunky dorey up North. The GAA is in a difficult spot wrt the 6 counties in NI, change is going to be very slow until things get sorted out up North.

    “not all GAA fans…”

    More than not all, few in my opinion.

  • cg

    Davros
    You must understand that through out the troubles and from partition the GAA has been key to the nationalist community. It was the only activity they could do that encompassed Irish culture and sport and supported the integrity of a 32 county Ireland.

  • Davros

    cg- been reading a bit about the GAA. It’s not been a homogenous monolith over all the years of it’s existance, but I’ll agree with most of what you say except for the “only”. There was also the Church which did overlap to some extent.

  • Davros

    Maca you have to remember my community has very little if any contact with GAA ROI, except for when the beggars park badly on the slip road off the M1 for big matches at Casement park 😀

    And of course in NI terms we only ever tend to “see” negative things about GAA fans and players- it’s the old story- people remember one negative incident such as the Trouble on a train going to Lurgan and forget that the vast majority of fans are well behaved and a credit to their sport.

  • cg

    Davros
    It was the “only” one. I suggest you reread my post. The GAA was the only body that could offer all three parts.

    “It was the only activity they could do that encompassed Irish culture and sport and supported the integrity of a 32 county Ireland.”

    I don’t accept the bit about the church because I said nationalists not Catholics. As a Republican/Nationalist the church has nothing to do with my Irish ness.

  • maca

    Davros
    Yeah I understand that.
    Which is why I mentioned earlier that coversations like these are key to understanding, IMHO.

  • maca

    …or at least they help anyway.

  • Davros

    Not convinced cg. There was a 32 county dimension to the church, there was sporting involvement througgh the church and there was a distinct pride in the unique Irishness of the Church. We may be talking at cross purposes here as I’m talking about times before you were born whereas you are talking the present.

  • willowfield

    Sure the GAA is organised along Roman Catholic parish boundaries!!

  • Lafcadio

    cg – “It was the only activity they could do that encompassed Irish culture and sport” you’ve put your finger on one of the things I mentioned at the very outset that I found problematic about the GAA, namely the implied definition of “Irishness”; what you’re saying is that Irish culture is necessarily tied up with a political will for a 32-county state – what about the Irishmen like me who are from the north and unionist – where do we fit in?

  • Davros

    Lafcadio: this by Billy Mitchell in the Blanket might be of interest.

    Culture and Identity

  • maca

    Lafcadio
    “what about the Irishmen like me who are from the north and unionist – where do we fit in?”

    You’re talking past and present. Or should I say CG is talking past, the reasons for setting up in the first place were for the preservation of “gaelic” culture, and you’re talking present.
    Maybe “Irishness” back then WAS “gaelic”. Today I don’t think anyone knows what Irishness is, the GAA is following the path set for it by it’s founders. It needs to change but you can’t change history either … if any of that makes sense.

  • CavanMan

    willowfield
    Sure the GAA is organised along Roman Catholic parish boundaries!!

    That hasnt stopped protestants representing their club and county with dignity for the last 100 years,why is it such a problem to you?

  • willowfield

    Not too many of them, though.

    Why is the GAA organised along the boundaries of Roman Catholic parishes?

  • CavanMan

    Not too many?you obviously have absolutely no knowledge of the GAA or you wouldnt make such a ridiculous claim.

  • willowfield

    It’s not a ridiculous claim. Very few Protestants play or have played GAA. You know it. I know it.

  • CavanMan

    Why is the GAA organised along the boundaries of Roman Catholic parishes?

    Perhaps because catholicism is the main religion down here,and in the past the Roman catholic church dominated what happened in the community..They do not any more,and the boundaries have not been changed,because..there is no logical reason to change them. the GAA is not religious despite what you may think,it may have been in the past,but religion is of no significance to any club nowadays.

  • CavanMan

    Willowfield
    the famous Cavan team of 1947 which won the all-ireland in new york had 6 protestant members.The famous Antrim team of the 1950’s had protestant members,and the most recent high profile protestant to play was Peter Withnell of Down who won 2 all-irelands in 1991 and 1994,As to all the others,Jack Boothman a protestant has been the GAA president.Yes it is such a very ”Catholic organisation”.You might want to research the GAA,before you make such ludicrous claims,in the future.

  • Lafcadio

    maca – agreed, good post.

    Davros – thanks for the link, I think I’ll read it after work – actually, I’ll read it now, and get paid for it!

  • unionist_observer

    just because there was one or two prods in the last century doesn’t exactly mean GAA is wide open and welcoming to prods.

    The scariest evening I ever had in my life was wandering by mistake into a GAA social in the portabello in Dublin. My friend and I were rounded and they are started chanting “dirty prod” at us, because I am a known prod and because my friend is english (though she is actually catholic). I was actually physically afraid, we only escaped when a friend of ours came and rescued us.

    So you’ll forgive me if I am rather cynical about how welcome prods are in GAA.

  • Donnie

    “The scariest evening I ever had in my life was wandering by mistake into a GAA social in the portabello in Dublin.”

    You’ve led a sheltered life! Was reading in the IN the other day that Jack Boothman (prod and ex-President of the GAA) vehemently opposes lifting Rule 42.

  • CavanMan

    Unionist Observer
    we all know there are anti-british and anti-protestant members of the GAA,but these wankers are in a minority,and the GAA as a whole is not anti-protestant and is welcoming to all religions.

  • unionist_observer

    I’ll take your word for it.

  • willowfield

    Cavanman

    Perhaps because catholicism is the main religion down here,and in the past the Roman catholic church dominated what happened in the community.

    That explanation doesn’t apply in the north.

    the GAA is not religious despite what you may think,it may have been in the past,but religion is of no significance to any club nowadays.

    Not religious but overwhelmingly dominated by the ethos of one particular religion?

    the famous Cavan team of 1947 which won the all-ireland in new york had 6 protestant members.The famous Antrim team of the 1950’s had protestant members,and the most recent high profile protestant to play was Peter Withnell of Down who won 2 all-irelands in 1991 and 1994,As to all the others,Jack Boothman a protestant has been the GAA president.Yes it is such a very ”Catholic organisation”.You might want to research the GAA,before you make such ludicrous claims,in the future.

    So a only handful of Protestants in over 50 years, compared to the tens of thousands of Roman Catholics?

    I think “not many” is quite an apt assessment!

  • CavanMan

    willowfield

    That explanation doesn’t apply in the north

    as i have said plenty of times before,just because there are sectarian elements and anti-protestant elements in the GAA in the north,that does NOT make the GAA as an organisation anti-protestant.It is wrong of you to think that because a minority of Northern GAA members,express anti-protestant views,that the whole GAA population of ireland is anti-protestant.The problems in the North are well documented,and it is the greatest wish of all the southern GAA playing community,that these problems would be addressed,and that protestants would join their catholic counterparts in Northern Ireland and engage in GAA activities.

    So a only handful of Protestants in over 50 years, compared to the tens of thousands of Roman Catholics?

    I think “not many” is quite an apt assessment!

    Willow i named a few high profile members which i know are protestant,They are not even a percentage in terms of how many protestants have played GAA through its history.The mere fact is that I or no other GAA playing/supporting member on this website know or want to know the religion of our teammates and fellow members,You because of your experiences with the GAA in the north may not believe this,but it is the truth.

  • Ringo

    Willowfield –
    So a only handful of Protestants in over 50 years, compared to the tens of thousands of Roman Catholics?

    I think “not many” is quite an apt assessment!

    It depends on whether you count participation by Protestants relative to Catholic participation (obviously miniscule) or relative to the Protestant population -for which I don’t think any hard figures exist, but I think it is safe to say that it is significant while but still under-represented.

    It is not fair to attribute this to anything sinister, geography plays a part – protestant schools tend to be in Dublin – where, like the catholic schools, GAA is a not as popular as in more rural places.

    I think CavanMan’s underlying point – which I agree with – is that having been involved in GAA clubs I find it impossible to believe that a Protestant would not be welcome in a GAA club in the Republic.

  • barnshee

    The protestant population of ROI is 4% -statistically then it is out of the question for protestants there to make up any significant part of the G aw,aw.

    No northern protestant with any self respect would walk past let alone join a norther G aw aw club

  • Ringo

    Barnshee –

    PD voters also make up 4% of the population of the Republic, so it is as you say out of the question for them to make up any significant part of the GAA (sorry, I don’t get the ‘aw’ thing) – but it doesn’t prevent them playing a significant role.

    As for no self respecting northern Protestant join a GAA club – I don’t see what it has to do with self respect but as discussed earlier in the thread the GAA in the North does need to change in ways.

    However, I get the impression that any proposed changes would be wasted on you.

  • Patrick Kelly

    I wish to reply to Nelson McCausland in the following way. It is inherent that any people will honour those that have had an influence upon life and this is true throughout Ireland. We as a people are bound to this tendancy and we cannot escape it. The GAA stands for many things and I will say that there is a certain anti-Protestant feeling within the GAA but that is due to ignorance. If one is willing to view events from an isolated position then the world will always lend one the feeling of alienation. For change to be affected it must be so done from within. Sir, if you wish that one of your country’s organisations changes its ways then it is best that you do that from the inside. You should join your local GAA club and have a bit of craic, watch a game or two, get to know a few people and then pass judgement,

    Yours Sincerely

    Patrick Kelly

  • Roger

    I personally have never partisipated or follewed the GAA as I am not interested in it. On the other hand I do not want to prevent anyone who gets genuine enjoyment out of the sprot from doing so it is part of Northern Ireland culture and from mt perspective long may it continue to be so.

    I am from Fermanagh and I am a protestant and last year the Fermanagh team did quite well in a particular tournament and it was nice to see the enthusiasm etc that many of the locals etc created there was a genuine carnival atmosphere.

    Two points of concern I would however like to raise

    Last year when the Fermanagh team did well the entire county became engulfed with GAA regalia such as flags etc even shop interiors and exteriours had them. I feel that if it was union jacks instead there would have been a large number of outcrys and in this case I wish that in Fermanagh durring the 12th July celebrations there could be as much tolerance shown for union jakcs etc as there was for GAA flags.

    My second point is that I find trophys etc named after republican terrorists wrong and disheartening and I think it is something that should be changed I couldn’t care less if the association is pro united Ireland but I take exception to it being pro Republican terrorists.

  • willowfield

    Cavanman

    as i have said plenty of times before,just because there are sectarian elements and anti-protestant elements in the GAA in the north,that does NOT make the GAA as an organisation anti-protestant.

    I’m unaware of anyone making such a claim.

    It is wrong of you to think that because a minority of Northern GAA members,express anti-protestant views,that the whole GAA population of ireland is anti-protestant.

    If that is what I thought, then indeed I would be wrong. I don’t, however, think that.

    The problems in the North are well documented,and it is the greatest wish of all the southern GAA playing community,that these problems would be addressed,and that protestants would join their catholic counterparts in Northern Ireland and engage in GAA activities.

    IF that is so, then the southern GAA community should be attempting to divest the GAA of its overt nationalism. I see little evidence of this.

    Ringo

    It is not fair to attribute this to anything sinister, geography plays a part – protestant schools tend to be in Dublin – where, like the catholic schools, GAA is a not as popular as in more rural places.

    Many Protestants live in rural Ulster!

    I think CavanMan’s underlying point – which I agree with – is that having been involved in GAA clubs I find it impossible to believe that a Protestant would not be welcome in a GAA club in the Republic.

    Who’s claiming otherwise?

    barnshee

    The protestant population of ROI is 4% -statistically then it is out of the question for protestants there to make up any significant part of the G aw,aw.

    Who’s claiming that it’s in the question?