Gaelic Football has a grace and skill about it that is hard to resist at close quarters. It’s not surprising that despite the cultural chill around some of the flags and symbols, it is played with enthusiasm and passion by some (albeit very few) Protestants. Darren Graham is probably more senior than most of those who have taken up the sport, but he has finally given up playing after taking regular sectarian abuse.
Deirdre Donnelly, the Press Officer for the Fermanagh County Board GAA, told the ‘Herald’ it was the first time she had heard of that form of abuse: “And, I know from talking to other officials, they have never been aware of it. But, certainly, if individuals feel there is an issue, they should bring it to their club and the club should take it to County Board.”
Darren Graham is adamant: ‘unless there is something really done about it and the County Board realise that this is all happening, I am definite, I am not putting on the shirt again’.
For the record, Rule 7(b) of the GAA constitution states clearly: ‘the Association shall be non-sectarian’.
And, in Febraury this year, the GAA President, Nicky Brennan, in the course of an interview for the Church of Ireland Gazette, insisted there was nothing wrong with the GAA that would stop Protestant people joining. Indeed, he suggested the only intimidation might come from their own community.
It begs the question that if the GAA doesn’t actually know this stuff is going on: is this just the tip of a very large iceberg?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty