“as long as they will recognise that the intimidation is going on for so long..”

The Gaelic Players Association have praised the “courage and fortitude” of former Fermanagh county hurler Darren Graham in “very difficult circumstances” and have condemned the sectarian abuse. The reaction, so far, from GAA officials is worth noting. The Belfast Telegraph editorial points to GAA President Nickey Brennan’s recent comments, in an interview in the Church of Ireland Gazette, that the organisation should reach out more to Protestants, and he has invited Darren Graham to attend a major championship match at Croke Park. But the comments from Ulster Secretary of the GAA, Danny Murphy, in this Irish Times report [subs req] suggest that the problem is being viewed as an isolated incident. Update The Irish Independent reports that “The [Fermanagh County] Board has its monthly meeting on Monday and it is believed the Darren Graham issue will be tabled as an emergency motion.”From the Irish Times

Ulster secretary of the GAA Danny Murphy insisted that the local organisation could not say or do anything until it received an official complaint.

“There has been no allegation yet, not that I am aware of,” Mr Murphy told The Irish Times last night.

and that

Asked how the complaints procedure works, Mr Murphy explained that any issue of alleged sectarianism would be dealt with effectively at county level, but that this can only happen once an official complaint is lodged.

“It doesn’t have to go to Croke Park,” he said. “They [ the county authority] will take the complaint and apply the penalty. And it can be appealed if necessary.”

The Irish Times also has Darren Graham’s response to the invite from Nickey Brennan

The player responded to the invitation by saying the offer was a positive move, but only if the real problem was dealt with. “I would be pleased about that as long as they will recognise that the intimidation is going on for so long and that they are trying to get it out of the sport,” he said.

“As long as people know and they [ the GAA] are going to do something about it.

“If I was the stepping stone towards it I wouldn’t mind, if they are going to try and get help for people like myself and what we have been going through I welcome it.”

Update From Saturday’s Irish Independent report

Tomorrow his club, Lisnaskea Emmets, with whom he was playing a senior championship match last Sunday, are to lodge an official complaint concerning his treatment to the Fermanagh County Board.

The Board has its monthly meeting on Monday and it is believed the Darren Graham issue will be tabled as an emergency motion.

Last night, Mr Graham said the complaint will focus on three clubs in particular.

“It will be about what has been happening up the ranks and at senior level as well and no action has been taken,” said Mr Graham.

,

  • GavBelfast

    The Ulster GAA Secretary is Danny Murphy.

    It seems that Ulster GAA, and especially the Northern Ireland counties thereof, have a somewhat different perspective on this sort of thing compared to the rest of the organisation, and that would square with its attitudes to issues such as bans on police playing and opening of Croke Park to British-invented sports.

    Having said that, I’m not aware of Murphy’s attendance at the opening of grounds named after latter-day paramilitaries, whereas Brennan HAS recent form on that score.

    Maybe they should just sort themselves out?

  • Pete Baker

    Corrected GavB. It was my error, the reports have the name accurately.

  • Realist

    Murphy is in denial.

    He should heed the advice of Sport Againt Racism in Ireland (SARI).

    “We would encourage the Ulster Council of the GAA to examine the anti-sectarian programme of the Irish Football Association with a view to the development of a sports-wide response to the curse of sectarianism and racism”

  • Darren Graham should be commended for going public on this.

    It is now for the GAA to act without delay

  • Pete Baker

    There’s an update to the original post.

  • Dewi

    Mr Brennan’s view that Protestant only teams could be possible seems to be a bit bizarre.

  • Realist

    “Mr Brennan’s view that Protestant only teams could be possible seems to be a bit bizarre”

    Or, naively, sectarian!

  • skinbop

    I have to wonder whether he is really a “Protestant” per se – at the end of the day his daughter is being raised Catholic and I am pretty sure he goes to Mass more often than a Protestant church.

  • GavBelfast

    If those aspects of Mr Graham’s private family life are true, then it certainly doesn’t seem as if he has a bigoted bone in his body, and, considering his experience of the Troubles – in spite of which he stuck with GAA – the attitudes of those he has finally stomached for too long will seem even more hurtful, disturbing and perhaps even threatening.

    With the apparent goodwill to Mr Graham from GAA people and the bad publicity this has generated, it’s an ideal opportunity to tackle the problem and also deal with those aspects of the (Northern) organisation that perhaps encourage his taunters that they and not people like Darren belong in the GAA.

  • Mr Brennan’s view that Protestant only teams could be possible seems to be a bit bizarre

    The fossils in charge of Yorkshire cricket came out with a similar suggestion when challenged about the almost complete absence of British Asians playing for the county at any level. The players in question took them at their word and set up their own teams and leagues and delivered a nice big 2 fingers salute when Yorkshire CC later came crawling for talent

  • skinbop

    GavBelfast – I doubt whether we really know about Graham’s past life – nor should we, as it is a private matter and not for public consumption. But you are free to make your own conclusions nonetheless.

  • The courage Darren’s teammates are showing in challenging the culture of intimidation is to be commended.

  • Realist

    A very interesting piece by Colm Bradley in today’s Sunday Life.

    Man enough to admit that the Fermanagh GAA allowed this abuse to continue for years.

    GAA: This sectarian abuse must be stamped out

    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    By Colm Bradley

    When it was reported this week that a local duel player Darren Graham was quitting the GAA because of sectarian abuse it was clear that it wouldn’t be long before the story was picked up by the broadcast media.

    And true enough, by 12 o’clock on Wednesday Darren was speaking on Radio Ulster about how ever since he started playing GAA he had been on the receiving end of some form of sectarian abuse at the hands of opposing players, opposing fans and officials, and that the abuse had increased greatly since he had graduated to senior action.

    A Fermanagh County Board spokesperson, also speaking on the radio, explained that there was nothing the board could do until an official complaint was made.

    It sounded a bit like an attempt to shift the pressure away from themselves and onto the player and as I listened I began to feel more uncomfortable.

    The spokesperson went on to say that personally they were unaware of any sectarian abuse directed at Darren Graham and that as far as they were concerned nobody else on the county board was aware of it either.

    Although to be fair it was made clear that the Fermanagh County Board would condemn any such sectarian abuse. Well thank God for that then, eh!

    I find it hard to believe that nobody on the County Board knew about this issue. I have played senior club football in Fermanagh for over a decade and I have been aware that Darren Graham has been on the receiving end of sectarian abuse and I would have guessed that plenty of officialdom knew too.

    It is actually with a fair degree of shame that I admit knowing and, as a journalist, I should have highlighted this unacceptable behaviour a long time ago.

    The story is out now and I hope that the small minority who actually believed that this sort of behaviour did not go on, with respect to Darren, will think again.

    In truth I am a little disappointed at the initial reaction of the County Board. Rule 7(b) of the GAA Official Guide states that the GAA is non sectarian and rule 142 (a) states that a county committee has the power to investigate breaches of rules. To argue that the County Board is powerless to do anything until an official complaint has been made is incorrect.

    The very least the board should have done was to immediately state that it intended to launch a full investigation into these allegations of sectarianism. But instead it will wait for the player to go to the club and then the club to go to the county board! Bullshit bureaucracy!

    There is always some banter and name calling in sport and that will continue, but for our own sake sectarian abuse is something which must be rooted out of our games.

    The vast majority of GAA people are not sectarian but as the old saying goes, ‘Bad things happen when good men do nothing.’

    The Association needs to be much more proactive in reaching out to the Protestant community. Yes, all are welcome in the GAA, we know that, but is it enough just to say it? For instance I wonder what percentage of GAA clubs have actively tried to promote our games in Protestant primary schools – I would imagine it is pretty low.

    And in an even bolder step, I would suggest that the wording of Rule 2 in the GAA Official Guide should be changed. Currently it reads ‘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’.

    I have no problem with it but I can see how people from a Unionist background would have difficulty with the rule.

    I understand that when the Association was founded these initial rules were drawn up in response to a concerted effort by the ruling class to obliterate the Irish language, Irish pastimes and Irish culture itself.

    However 123 years later things are, thank Goodness, a little different and I think the GAA should do everything in its power to be as open as possible. The following wording maintains the need for the preservation of Gaelic Games and pastimes but in my opinion removes much of the ambiguity which could be read into the current rule. ‘The Association is an Organisation which has as its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity in the 32 Counties on this Island through the preservation and promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes’.

    I believe we need to be completely wholehearted in our approach to attracting those from the Unionist community into the association which means we have to look at what are perceived to be the obstacles preventing them from joining, and we have to be prepared to do something to improve the situation.

  • Realist

    Cont:

    Instead of a wishy washy rule that blandly states the Association is non sectarian there needs to be a zero tolerance policy towards sectarianism.

    At the moment, in my experience we are a long way from this.

    The GAA is a fantastic organisation which embraces people from all ages, social backgrounds and in recent years more and more women are getting involved too.

    It is an organisation with much to offer the community.

    Let’s not let the minority voices have the final word.

    We can see from the Darren Graham story that if we continue to brush this sort of problem under the carpet eventually great players and great Gaels will simply walk away from the Association.

  • Turgon

    I strongly disapprove of what has happened to Mr. Graham and object to things like calling GAA grounds after IRA men.

    Apart from that; the overt nationalism of the GAA and its position on Irish or indeed the issue of a united Ireland are no problem to me.

    If the GAA wishes to attract a significant element of unionist support in Northern Ireland I suspect it will probably have to significantly change its stance on a number of issues, but why should it? It has a tradition and heritage of its own.

    I have no problem with it being a sporting and cultural organisation with some implied and indeed overt political positions. That makes it an organisation which will inevitably attract support predominantly from one side of the community. That is okay and in my view it need have no shame about that. It does not need to become a sort of Alliance party version of itself nor need it abandon many of its traditions, views etc.

    I think we need to strongly oppose sectarianism but need to be pretty relaxed about difference and differing traditions and ways at looking at our culture. There will for the forseeable future be two major indigenous cultural traditions here and trying to homogenise them is both pointless and unnecessary.

  • Dewi

    Your usual sensible and moderate observations Turgon. The GAA has a political element to it, that’s why it was created, but religious sectarianism must be rooted out.

  • Dewi

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=R_XJFp5JXpk

    Have a look at that Turgon – the best “Danny Boy” on Youtube……..Welsh of course !

  • lapsedmethodist

    I realise that protestantism has some mighty schisms, but what exactly is a per se ? And what is their stance on transubstansiation?
    Oh yes and by the way, hands up anyone who thought that this crap wasn’t part and parcel of nationalism ?

  • Cap’n Bob

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2007050000-2007360444,00.html

    Good to see Rugby League taking a stand unlike UEFA.