GAA and inclusion: “Let them come in on our terms and if they don’t let them stay out”

Whatever you make of last week’s Sinn Fein sponsored rally at Galbally GAC, it leaves the GAA in a sticky position. Despite trenchant denials that there was any breach of rule 7a, the incident will have set back the image of association in Northern Ireland. Our Friend in the North lays out the problem, with some precision:

It will no doubt survive the hiccup triggered by the actions of a few halfwits in Galbally. Yet for all its achievements it remains flawed. The precise nature of these flaws and how they would be best addressed is a topic for another day, but until the GAA addresses them we can expect another Casement-style incident at some point in the future.

Liam Cassidy’s article in the February 1981 issue of Workers Life featured an interview with Tom Woulfe, then a senior figure in the Dublin GAA. The piece included a quote from Woulfe regarding what he, and I, consider as one of the Association’s flaws, namely the nature of its membership:

Let us not indulge in massive self-deception. The GAA includes practically nobody of the religious minority in this country – the minority which, by and large, coincides with the political majority in the north. It even excludes a significant section of the majority as well. Accordingly the co-religionists of Tone, Emmet, Davis, Mitchell and Parnell are outside the GAA.

If anyone says to me – and some have said it – ‘Let them come in on our terms and if they don’t let them stay out,’ my reply is that my vision of Ireland is the Ireland of Tone and Davis and I do not say let them stay out. I want them in. They are my countrymen. Let them who will differ from me at least have the grace to refrain from quoting Tone and Davis.

Those words were uttered back in 1965. A lot has changed since then yet almost half a century on there are still many in the ranks of the GAA that could learn a lot from the words of Tom Woulfe. The unity of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter remains an honourable goal. It will not, however, be achieved by displays of the crude macho brand of sectarian nationalism witnessed in Galbally on Sunday.

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  • Tim

    Another thread – Must be a slugger record!

    Or a ploy to increase the clicks 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    They just keep coming Tim…

  • CW

    I mentioned this on earlier post, but have had no comeback yet, although it is slightly off topic. We’ve had plenty of posts on this site about perceptions of the GAA in the North and alleged political connections – a subject which is becoming rather tedious to be honest. But we’ve had few (if any) on perceptions in the South.

    I’d be interested to see a blog about the attitude of the upper middle classes in the South – particularly in some of the leafier suburbs of Dublin (and certain Sunday Independent columns) – and why they view “Dis greet Asso-see-yashun” (cf “bog ball”, “stick-fighting” et al) with such scorn and derision.

    Snobbery certainly comes into it, but also the fact that the insular and parochial nature of the GAA is anathema to their high climbing supposedly sophisticated and cosmopolitan aspirations and in their view reminiscent of an “Olde Worlde” Ireland stuck in the past that they would love to leave behind. Maybe there’s even an anti-northern slant to it?

    I’d also be interested in when these attitudes came about. Is it a Celtic Tiger era thing or does it go back much further?

    Perhaps some of the regular southern-based readers would like to elaborate on this and give their tuppence worth? Perhaps one of the regular bloggers of this parish would like to start a post on the subject?

  • fair_deal

    “basically everyone else in Ireland over the use of a GAA ground for blatantly political reasons”

    ‘Everyone else’ said nothing until they were poked into it by the DUP raising it.

  • fin

    “The GAA includes practically nobody of the religious minority in this country”
    Thats a fairly sweeping statement and I’ve no idea if its true or not, I’ve not seen anything in the media previously concerning the lack of Protestants involved in the GAA in the South, but I could be wrong.

    “Let them come in on our terms and if they don’t let them stay out”

    Is a bit harsh, but there is a point to be made, apart from the obvious well discussed changes required to appeal to that “religious minority” what else is required, are GAA games on a Sunday allowed? are rock concerts at grounds allowed? if national anthems are played at games, must it be GStQ in the UK? must all religion be removed, including organising at Parish level?

    There is a fustration in dealing with unionists in that the full package of requirements are never delivered at the beginning of a debate/discussion but drip through during the process, this is evident in politics, so what would happen in trying to make the GAA ‘acceptable’

    Is it possible for someone or a body to give a detailed set of requiremens to the GAA.

  • “poked into it by the DUP raising it.”

    Nelson McCausland’s press release doesn’t appear until four days after the event and it appears to be the first DUP press release on the topic

    The BBC ‘poked’ Nelson and Barry McElduff when both hid behind their MLA or party labels. Perhaps the issue would not have been raised too loudly by the DUP if the BBC hadn’t called the delightful duo.

  • Slugger Galbally

    You must be running out of ideas on how to continue flogging this bad boy. Yeah, you’re not a newspaper. But slugger does remind me of a rolling 24 hour news channel with the same reports repeated on the hour.

    Can I just ask, what is the unique point made in this post that hasn’t been mad before? I certainly can’t see it. You and others have done the whole ”the GAA is a bit intimidating for Protestants” ad nauseam already.

    Sadly for you, Mick, the GAA will be around, stronger than ever both north and south, long after you

  • kensei

    If anyone says to me – and some have said it – ‘Let them come in on our terms and if they don’t let them stay out,’ my reply is that my vision of Ireland is the Ireland of Tone and Davis and I do not say let them stay out. I want them in. They are my countrymen. Let them who will differ from me at least have the grace to refrain from quoting Tone and Davis

    Without reference to the current controversy – I like this statement. And the GAA and Nationalism should be open to change. But I can’t help feel there is this logic that says that the GAA or Nationalism must bend over in every which way to accomodate the minority. And that position is not tenable either. It requires the minority to make changes too.

    Cf the current US Health Care debate. Democrats float co-ops as a bipartisan alternative to a public option. Republicans view this as weakness and attack it further creating bad blood and generating a lot more calls for the type of “Leave them” attitudes.

  • harperisbizaar

    Who cares – a couple more world cups and gah will be consigned to fanatical northerners (buttressing their sense of nationhood) and a few parochial rural outposts.

  • Kensei:

    But I can’t help feel there is this logic that says that the GAA or Nationalism must bend over in every which way to accomodate the minority.

    That’s the problem with politics in the North. You can’t make a reasonable suggestion without someone reading between the lines and coming up with nefarious motives behind it that may not be there. If depoliticising the GAA is a good idea, then it is a good idea regardless of who suggests it (or what his motives are). To hold otherwise is to play the man.

  • brendan,belfast

    Ah harperisbazzar, if that is your wish then you will be sorely disappointed. The GAA is 125 years old and still going strong, in many senses stronger than ever.

    The GAA relfects modern Ireland more than anything else in society. Go out to a training field this weekend anywhere across the country and witness dozens if not hundreds of kids getting expertly trained by willing volunteers.

    It will do your heart good.

  • Gertntfe

    Don’t go is you’re a Protestant, unionist or simply believe that a one-dimensional view of what is ‘Irish culture’ is a little last century.

  • kensei

    Andrew

    That’s the problem with politics in the North. You can’t make a reasonable suggestion without someone reading between the lines and coming up with nefarious motives behind it that may not be there.

    There was no suggestion. Just a point taht you can’t say “take it or leave it”. But you can’t say “Whatever you want, boss” either.

  • Kensei:

    Fair enough. Stepping back, though – is it really a good idea for a cultural/sporting organisation to take an official stance on a political question?

  • exile

    [i]is it really a good idea for a cultural/sporting organisation to take an official stance on a political question? [/i]

    800,000 members don’t seem to have a problem with its stance.

    Anyways, is there really a need for another thread on this incident. If you want to keep it going then fine. But let’s address the two most important issues which this debacle raise:

    1. PSF’s hijacking of the GAA in order to pursue its own selfish goals. Just like they’ve set back the growth of Gaeilge in the north by using it as a rhetorical weapon. As a side point, I was surprised at the level of support for an Adams event in east Tyrone. I was under the impression that there was a lot of discontent with the Provos out there.

    2. Nelson McCausland’s schizophrenia.

  • fair_deal

    Nevin

    You can’t comment on photos on the internet until the photos actually appear on the internet.

  • fair_deal

    PS Nevin

    If OSF are to be believed NM was intervening before the event.
    http://ograshinnfein.blogspot.com/2009/08/successful-youth-in-struggle-talk-held.html

  • fair_deal, I was responding to the use of the ground as per your post #6.

  • Most people on this thread couldn’t play gaelic if they wanted to – the massive chips on their shoulder would make them fall over every time they tried to pick the ball up.

  • exile

    You’re right there Sammy

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/irish/preabsuas/coaching_pickup.shtml

    as gaeilge fosta

  • fair_deal

    Nevin

    “Nelson McCausland’s press release doesn’t appear until four days after the event”

    Read the statement “Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has expressed serious concerns about images currently being circulated on the internet depicting scenes of paramilitary display at the hunger strike commemoration event held at Galbally on Sunday 16 August.”
    Again how could he issue a statement about images on the internet until they actually appeared on the internet?

    Also this statement on the party website is a re-issuing of the statement issued from the department on 19th August.
    http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-dcal/news-dcal-200809-sports-minister-calls.htm

    “it appears to be the first DUP press release on the topic”

    If you give press interviews you don’t need to issue press statements.

    You are also ignoring the point about the OSF claims.