GAA promises to attend all coming ‘milestones’ (even Unionist ones)…

You do wonder sometimes whether everything in Northern Ireland’s public space (and if I may be so bold, Slugger included) is a good five years behind where ordinary people are. Sam McBride has a fascinating piece on the front page of the News Letter today…

Danny Murphy, who is provisional director of the GAA in Ulster, said that his association – despite its long association with nationalism and republicanism – would attend “every event” in the next decade to remember the milestones that led to partition.

The promise to attend commemorations of events symbolic to many unionists such as the signing of the Ulster Covenant, the Battle of the Somme and the creation of Northern Ireland would have been unthinkable in past years.

The GAA, which has a strong Irish cultural ethos, did not take part in the 50-year anniversary of Northern Ireland in 1971.

Mr Murphy made his comment in a two-page article for the Presbyterian Herald, which he wrote in response to the challenges given to the GAA by former Presbyterian moderator the Rev Dr Norman Hamilton when he addressed a conference organised by the body in October.

Quietly ground breaking stuff from the GAA.


  • cynic2

    I agree Mick. Moving on with small steps – probably the best way forward

  • Chris Donnelly

    Not only ground breaking, but fairly unprecedented.

    Clearly it is begging for a reciprocal act from within unionism to commit to do likewise at republican commemorations of Easter 1916 and other similar events in the years ahead.

    Let’s watch for progress on ‘that’ front…..

  • iluvni

    Ground breaking stuff indeed….and in this new found spirit of generosity that is oozing from the GAA, I’d suggest theygoes even further by introducing a Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland gaelic challenge match.
    I’ll commit to attending the home leg.
    That sport needs an international match.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Instead of rising to bait, can I point out that the Compromise Rules series will facilitate your request to attend an international fixture, where you can proudly cheer on the Irishmen against the Aussies!

  • Stephen Blacker

    The leaders within the GAA must be applauded for their magnanimous gesture of pluralism especially in our society. The GAA have recently been leading the way in extending a welcoming hand to those who would have been seen by their main support base as an enemy.

    For me only pictures can discribe the fantastic, warm & genuine welcome The Queen recieved in Dublin and Croke Park especially with all the history attached. All these commemorations are inter-linked because they have helped to shape the society we live in today so we should use these events to educate each other.

  • iluvni

    I think for £61million, Mr Murphy needs to do a tad more than promise to attend any commemorations to which he is in invited.
    He needs to prove to Northern Ireland that his association is open to all and he needs to promise that his future redeveloped Casement Park isnt to be the setting for IRA rallies.

  • galloglaigh

    To be fair the GAA has been more forthcoming in trying to accommodate than most. Maybe the OO will do likewise, and march where they are wanted. And just on the point of the Somme: Nationalists fought there as well. The problem that nationalists have with the Poppy, is that it represents all fallen British Crown Forces since then, and the appalling record they have have from then till now! It’s not a snipe, but the truth!

  • Mick Fealty


    Your comment put me in mind of the Prisoners Dilemma in The Long Peace and the successful tit-for-tat stratagem; i.e. you open with a positive move and reward reciprocation with another positive. And deal a negative for a negative.

    For now, this move will be its own reward for the GAA. Perhaps someone has been reading some of these heavily polarised threads on Slugger over the years and finally decided to do something to finally bring them to an end?

    Which is absolutely fine by me.

  • Zig70

    Unionists could embrace the provincial competition and support Ulster tomorrow in Armagh against the southerners from Munster. A chance to see the best footballers in Ulster and kids go free.

  • claudius

    galloglaigh – brilliant. You managed to incorporate into one short post every type of whataboutery that plagues the comments on slugger!

  • ranger1640

    Interesting proposition from Mr Murphy and the GAA.

    The GAA an alleged sporting organization that wants to embrace everyone. And there’s me thinking that’s what’s sports were supposed to do.

  • SK

    The magnanimity of unionist responses thus far would bring a tear to anyone’s eye.

  • ranger1640

    Interesting, one statement from the GAA allegedly embracing everyone’s traditions, and the Unionist community must roll over and have it’s scepticism criticized.

    Mr Murphy your doing the GAA a great disservice stating that “despite its long association with nationalism and republicanism”! Me thinks the the connection between the GAA and nationalism and republicanism is more than just an association, more like intertwined. But that’s only an Unionist’s view.

  • TheUnicorn

    Ranger1640 being deliberately facetious? The GAA is a fantastic organisation, and the sports it promotes are a marvel the world over for the support they get in an amateur game. And the crowds can mix without trouble, unlike at useless NI soccer matches which about three people show up to watch anyway. I think this is another step forward, and well done to them for that. I won’t hold my breath for any signs of reciprocity…

  • Chris Donnelly

    I think this is a very good move by Danny Murphy and the Ulster Council, though believe you might be a tad optimistic in inferring that observing Slugger spats may have helped precipitate the move. Listening to Talkback, Nolan or indeed reading any of the local papers would have given the same picture of our society.

    And, of course, it is perfectly valid to suggest that forward progress would best be served by reciprocity from within unionism to this magnanimous gesture.

  • Dec

    May I suggest a minor reciprocal step could be the News Letter actually runs a GAA story in its’ back pages?

  • galloglaigh


    Is that all you have to offer? Point out the whataboutery and I’ll happily address the issues. My comment speaks the truth. Nationalism is becoming more and more progressive. I think unionism is beginning to learn from nationalism; embrace inclusiveness: tolerance will follow!


    Very interesting point about the Newsletter. A step which would see its sales plummet no doubt, but worth the effort 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Dec, will you buy a copy if they do?

  • tacapall

    The only reciprocal step Unionism could offer to match the hoops that the GAA have had to jump through would be the Orange Order attending the Easter Rising commemoration or even leading this years St Patricks day parade.

  • Dec


    No, but it would be nice if they provided some tacit acknowledgement that the GAA occasionally participates in ‘Sport’.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nice dont sell papers, 😉

  • between the bridges

    cute hoorism is alive and well, a non political organisation making political statements, i too will be attending all republican events i get an invite too…

  • ranger1640

    Unicorn, how can the Unionist community reciprocate?

    There are no Unionist political sports, unlike as Mr Murphy’s say’s the GAA’s ” long association with nationalism and republicanism”!

  • claudius

    galloglaigh will you wear a poppy then; remember ‘ embrace inclusiveness: tolerance will follow!’

  • galloglaigh


    Wind your neck in. When the shoe’s on the other foot, people like you equate the GAA to the OO.


    When the UVF, the UDA, the LVF, the RUC, the UDR, the OO and the British army post 1918 stop hijacking the poppy, then I will gladly wear one. I recall an email sent into the Mark Patterson Show on Radio Foyle. The grandson of a murdered Scots soldier had a harrowing story. To cut it short, his grandfather, a Scots Protestant, returned to Derry after WWI. His wife lost her two brothers in the conflict. Her husband, the emailer’s grandfather decided to become a Catholic. His neighbours decided he wasn’t and murdered him. It didn’t matter that he fought for the British army in Europe; the fact that he was to become a ‘Fenian’ signed his death warrant.

    The same men who murdered him, the ‘Old UVF’ (that always makes me laugh), are commemorated all over Ulster every year, and poppy wreaths are laid in memorials to these sectarian bigots.

    I hope that answers your question?

  • claudius

    galloglaigh ;I’ll do the math for you. The type of comments that you offer (and you are not alone in this) bring nothing to the debate. They lead only to the past. It’s road rage commenting; all bluster but no substance.

  • ranger1640

    galloglaigh, sorry but I won’t wind my neck in.

    Are you reading this Mick. Is this not a clear cut case of playing the man????

    I have never equated and never would equate the Orange Order to the GAA.

    Its like trying to judging oranges and limes.

    One is a fraternal Protestant organization, the other is an alleged sporting organization, that has a Irish nationalist and republican political ethos. Strange how an alleged sporting organization needs to have a political ethos, sort of Irish that.

    galloglaigh if you want to equate similar organizations you should look to the Orange Order and the AoH.

  • Mick Fealty

    No, that’s just bait rough neck

    This is man playing: “people like you”.


    Behave yourself!!

  • weidm7

    Are yis maybe taking the piss? Sporting organisation with a long history of unionist sympathies? Hmm, one maybe that plays ‘God save the queen’ and flies the unionist Ulster banner? Where nationalists who play it recieve abuse and death threats, whether they play for the NI team or migrate to one they feel more identity with. Yeah, what could that be?

    How about two IFA – GAA games, one in each code? Or – shock horror – an all-Ireland soccer team taking part in the odd friendly, a la the Shamrock Rovers XI v Brazil of the 70s or whenever.

  • iluvni

    so, no takers for my GAA international match then?

  • stewart1

    ‘so, no takers for my GAA international match then?’

    It’s a Nation thing iluvni! Just like rugby, cricket, hockey, cycling, golf etc……….

    Try netball for your international game

  • Alias

    I suppose if you ever tried to impose this bi-national nonsense by violent means you’d have to join a republican terror group and also a loyalist terror group for parity of esteem purposes…

  • galloglaigh


    Appologies. In fairness I could have phrased that a wee bit better. But you do understand where I’m coming from. That generally is the case, and I accept the wrong in my comment.


    Will do!

  • Old Mortality

    Why does the GAA, which claims to be a purely sporting organisation, feel the need to participate in any celebrations or commemorations of this kind? I doubt if the IRFU or the Irish Cricket Union will involve themselves.
    Anyway, judging by the response from the GAA in NI to the Queen’s visit, Mr Murphy will probably have to do it on his own.

  • tacapall

    Old Mortality can we commemorate this –

    Bloody Sunday the reason for Queen’s Croke Park visit

    A man whose death at the hands of British soldiers and Irish policemen in Croke Park more than 90 years ago is part of the folklore of the organisation, and much of the reason why the Queen’s visit to GAA headquarters has aroused such interest.

    Mick Hogan was a Tipperary footballer. He was one of 14 people to die in the stadium when regular soldiers, Black and Tans, members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan police surrounded Croke Park and fired on people attending a match there on Sunday 21 November 1920.

  • ranger1640

    I wonder will this change in the GAA’s Ulster council’s stance on Unionists also extend to their facilities not being used for political purpose’s?

    We all know the type hunger strike parades and celebrations.

    I particularly like this quote from the then Sinn Fein MLA and former IRA prisoner, Paul Butler, “no GAA player would play on the rubble of the H-blocks and in particular the hospital wing where 10 republicans died on hunger strike”.

    Why not Paul? Everyone and their brother keeps telling Unionists, the GAA are just a sporting organization, or are they???

  • CW

    If nothing else it’s progress, As recently as 10 years ago the concept of a unionist politician attending a GAA match or the Queen visiting Croker would have been unthinkable and the fact that it’s happening now can’t be a bad thing.

    Now (at the third time of asking!) can we at last have that much needed blog post on the late great Frank Carson? I would gladly do it myself only I don’t have user rights to this blog!


    I am a Protestant and as such growing up here I am sceptical of anything GAA this side of the border. I never played GAA football but I am considering letting my children try the sport and make their own minds up. I am uneasy about the Irish flag and national anthem being played at games in Northern Ireland but then I probably will never be at those games anyway. All I want to see is that my children will be respected and treated fairly and free to wear football shirts and symbols from their culture within GAA establishments without fear of harrassment or bullying. I don’t intend to hide our culture just so a sport can be played. I am quite sure that the majority of the people will wlecome us but it’s the minority that need to be convinced. Looking at the Northern Ireland setup nowadays you can see how things can change for the better. People openly cheering Celtic players. I know what some people will say, its still a Unionist arena and they will never set foot in the stadium but if we all stuck to are old ideologies we would soon be back to the bad old days!

  • son of sam

    On a pedantic note I assume Sam in his original article meant “provincial” rather than “provisional”.I would assume that Danny Murphys position is rather more secure than that!

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘so, no takers for my GAA international match then?’

    Apparently not.

    But fair dues, that’s one of the more original bits of trolling I’ve seen lately!

    Old Mortality

    ‘Why does the GAA, which claims to be a purely sporting organisation…’

    Er, no it doesn’t. The GAA has always been perfectly clear that it’s much, much more than just a sporting organisation.


    ‘As recently as 10 years ago the concept of a unionist politician attending a GAA match…’

    That tells you a lot more about unionist politicians than about the GAA.

    Our beloved First Minister had a whale of a time at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh recently. He received a very warm welcome, and did so most graciously. He was besieged by autograph-hunters, and was one of the last to leave the Athletic Grounds.

    Now, a single politician can make a gesture, but the reaction of the crowd was no gesture. GAA crowds have always been warm, unthreatening, great fun.

    The kind of lurid fantasies that some unionist used to hold about the GAA were always off-the-mark, so it’s good that fewer and fewer unionist people are still falling for the old sectarian defamation of the GAA.

    If some unionist people feel more comfortable telling themselves that they haven’t just been wrong about the GAA all this time, that in fact the GAA has undergone some profound change and transformed itself into the wonderful, inclusive organisation they now perceive, as opposed to the grotesque IRA-at-play conspiracy they used to believe it to be, then that’s okay.

    Total balderdash, but whatever makes people feel comfortable.

  • lamhdearg2

    Is it a promise, or a threat?, any plans by the Ulster Bands Association to attend easter 1916s centenary events, will no doubt also be wellcome.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘The GAA has always been perfectly clear that it’s much, much more than just a sporting organisation.’

    Could that possibly be the reason why the sports which it sponsors are hopelessly stuck in an ethnic ghetto (and please spare the old guff about GAA being all the rage in Hanoi, Gaza or wherever). I can’t think of any other sporting organisation which is more, let alone much more, than just that.

  • Old Mortality

    I can’t see what point you’re trying to make

  • Billy Pilgrim

    ‘Ethnic ghetto’?

    You mean Ireland?

    The GAA is by far the largest and best-run sporting organisation on this island. It is the mainstream.

    What ghetto are you talking about?

  • Old Mortality

    No, I meant an Irish ghetto which can include places outside Ireland.
    This is a sporting organisation (plus other things) which has signally failed to spread its games beyond their traditional ghettos to such an extent that one suspects they don’t really want to.
    Perhaps its a fear that the non-sporting aspects of the organisation would get buried. For example, It might be tricky persuading non-English speakers to acquire even a token amount of Irish for those after-match speeches and if you let them off sure wouldn’t most of the native players want to do the same agus before you know it, you’re left with nothing but sport.

  • Barnshee

    “GAA has undergone some profound change and transformed itself into the wonderful, inclusive organisation they now perceive, ”

    Number of Players playing GAA sports in N I –oh thousands– number of prods playing GAA sports in N Ireland er 1 (and he got roundly abused until the bad publicity spread)

    “wonderful, inclusive organisation ” me arse

  • JR

    For any of those Unionist posters who comment on every GAA thread but who have yet to go to a Match I will be going to Down v Kerry in Newry next Sundy. This is one of the great rivalries in intercounty football. Any of you are very welcome to come with me to have your prejudices confirmed or debunked.

    I’ll even lend you a Kerry jersey for Comoflauge.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Old Mortality

    So you ARE saying that Ireland is a ghetto?

    You are exactly right that the GAA has never concerned itself too much with evangelising around the world.

    So what?

    ‘Perhaps it’s a fear that the non-sporting aspects of the organisation would get buried. … before you know it, you’re left with nothing but sport.’


    The thing is, you are pointing this out, by way of criticism. I’m saying you’re exactly right, and that is precisely what’s so extraordinary, so vibrant and so wonderful about the GAA.

    You are comparing the GAA with, say, international soccer, but they are not comparable.

    The GAA is who we are, as a people. It is part of me, of my family, as we are part of it. It’s the lifeblood of communities up and down the country. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Irish people would be greatly impoverished without it. It’s in our very souls. External validation is not necessary, we are strong enough in our own sense of ourselves to understand the value of what we have. The GAA, more than any other institution in Irish life, is both product and the source of that strength.

    Not really comparable with FIFA, then.

  • Dec

    ‘Nice dont sell papers’

    True but I’d hazard a guess that no-one buys the Irish News for its cricket coverage yet cricket’s in there. Small steps and all that.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    It’s understandable that some unionists have negative feelings towards the GAA. Without it, northern nationalism would be a greatly diminished opponent for unionism.

    (By this, I don’t mean the GAA involves itself in politics. It doesn’t. It’s simply an observation that the GAA makes better, stronger, more interconnected people out of all who participate in it, and provides networks of friendship, support and comradeship to those people. It’s a powerful social adhesive.)

    But in the present era of reconciliation (which is real), it’s fair enough to ask for a wee bit more generosity from unionism; and to be fair, evidence of such generosity is becoming more and more commonplace.

    You seem to assume that lack of Protestant participation in the GAA says everything about the GAA but nothing about Ulster Protestants. But surely both sides of this equation merit consideration?

    In truth, the GAA is fast becoming a test of ideological discipline within the unionist community. Your post is a small but typical contribution to the enforcement of that discipline. But I wonder whether you can hold the line indefinitely?

    You gloat about lack of Protestant participation in the GAA, but if you’re honest, you’d absolutely hate to see any such participation, wouldn’t you?

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: You gloat about lack of Protestant participation in the GAA, but if you’re honest, you’d absolutely hate to see any such participation, wouldn’t you?
    But it’s complicated, isn’t it? If Protestants joined the GAA in significant numbers, some nationalists would surely seek an alternative “powerful social adhesive” without the new gritty bits. So maybe the Ancient Order of Hibernians would get a new lease of life?

  • Billy Pilgrim


    Er, no.

    Certainly, large-scale participation by Protestants would change things within the GAA. But if you think existing GAA people would respond by deserting in droves, you simply don’t get it.

    The GAA would simply become a more dialectical institution. I’d be all for that.

  • London_Irish


    “Number of Players playing GAA sports in N I –oh thousands– number of prods playing GAA sports in N Ireland er 1 (and he got roundly abused until the bad publicity spread)”

    When you say there is just the 1 protestant playing gaelic games in the north, I presume you mean at inter-county level? If not, you are well off the mark! If this mistake was made unknowingly, please see below:

    Yes, there is an absence of gaelic players from protestant backgrounds playing at inter-county level, and yes the GAA should do more to change that in the long term, but if one assumes that the participation of children/adults from protestant backgrounds will have risen following the GFA, then there won’t be many lads/lassies old enough yet to be on the inter-county stage anyway.

    (Most) inter-county players will have been playing their respective sport from the word go, with club and school/college, before being called up to represent their county. Many players will have a strong GAA pedigree in their family or in their clubs, which helps any youngster pick up those extra skills required to really excel and play on the highest stage. Pick up a sport in your mid/late teens and I think its highly unlikely you will progress to the highest level any time soon, but that is not to say that lads/lassies from protestant backgrounds aren’t enjoying gaelic games recreationally.

    Returning briefly to the case of Darren Graham – whom I presume is the sole protestant you were referring to – what happened to him is absolutely disgusting, and as far as I am concerned, a million times worse than what happened during the Derrytresk brawl the other week. I hope that in the long term he can be an inspiration to many other potential inter-county players from a background similar to his own, to prove that as far as the Association is concerned, there is no glass ceiling on protestant participation in any county in Ireland. Perhaps if/when that does happen, it will mean the end to sectarian slurs on and off the pitch by GAA supporter and critic alike.

  • Old Mortality

    Apologies for delay in returning to the fray. I think you have validated my point. You seem to be saying that the GAA is lukewarm about popularising its sports because non-Irish people are unlikely to embrace the non-sporting elements. Presumably that would include the substantial number of people who live in Ireland but don’t consider themselves to be Irish. By way of example, would it be acceptable for Poles to form a Polish-only GAA club to avoid all the extraneous stuff that froms part of traditional GAA clubs?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Old Mortality

    ‘You seem to be saying that the GAA is lukewarm about popularising its sports because non-Irish people are unlikely to embrace the non-sporting elements.’

    No. I’m saying that the GAA is about Irish people preserving and promoting Irish sports, language, culture, and indeed identity; and doing so in the face of the rather rapacious forces of homogenization. (In the 1880s, it was the empire. Today, it’s globalization.) It simply does not exist in the same universe as professional, globalized sport. It does not define its success by revenues or market share.

    The GAA basically just the name we give to an umbrella organisation that springs directly organically from communities throughout Ireland and the diaspora. Sport is only one part, albeit the most visible, of what the GAA is about. If there was never another football or hurling match, there’d still be a GAA, and indeed a need for it.

    ‘Presumably that would include the substantial number of people who live in Ireland but don’t consider themselves to be Irish.’

    I wouldn’t accept that even a majority of unionists ‘don’t consider themselves to be Irish.’ But yes, there are some people who hold this view. They too are free to join the GAA.

    But I would say that a person who regards the preservation of Irish sports, language and culture to be a bad thing, is a person who’d be unlikely to join the GAA in any circumstances. I regard as preposterous the idea that there’s an onus on the GAA to change itself to accommodate such people – who, frankly, are much fewer in number than their loud proclamations would suggest.

    ‘…would it be acceptable for Poles to form a Polish-only GAA club to avoid all the extraneous stuff that froms part of traditional GAA clubs?’

    I think an exclusivity rule (i.e. non-Poles aren’t welcome) would be disgraceful. But I know Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians who play Gaelic football, and they have no problem with Irish culture, and the GAA’s role in its preservation. Why would they have?

    But why are you taking the debate down this blind alley, talking about Poles? Why not come out and ask what you’re really asking: would it be acceptable for Protestants to form a Protestant-only GAA club?

  • Old Mortality

    No I’m asking whether it would be acceptable to form a club which completely ignored all the non-sporting baggage of the GAA and just played sports in the same way as an amateur football club just plays football. I’m sure you’re right that some Poles play but they might not if they had the other stuff pushed down their throats. South of the border, in particular, I’m sure there are many GAA clubs which just don’t bother about all the ‘cultural’ stuff.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    The GAA doesn’t have ‘baggage.’ The Irish language, Irish dancing, storytelling, poetry, quizzes, club bingo, raffles, social outings and events – these things are not ‘baggage.’

    And what do you mean by the phrase: ‘pushed down their throats?’ What exactly do you think goes on at GAA clubs?

    Let me just reassure you that there are countless GAA clubs that do nothing other than organise football and hurling matches. You can take your pick from any number of them, if you’re interested being disabused of some of your more lurid notions of what the GAA is about.

    (Though, anecdotally, that these clubs tend to be less successful on the field than the more holistic clubs. A bit of chicken and egg here, certainly.)

    Perhaps, though, what you are positing is a GAA club that is actively hostile to Irish culture, language and sports?

    I’m not sure how that would work, to be honest. And the GAA is as entitled to act out of self-preservation as anyone.

    But there would be no contradiction in, for example, Markethill (the largest village in south Armagh without a GAA club) fielding a team with a name like True Blues. Or one could envisage a local derby between Annaghmore Pearses and Loughgall Carsons.

  • JR


    Why? Your question shows that you don’t understand. Lets take a theoretical Irish village. One pub, one shop and a Gaa club. If someone came along to your new football only club wanting to take part in the scor (Gaa singing dancing talent etc competition) I don’t think it would be acceptable to tell them ‘No We won’t have that stuff shoved down out throats round here.’

    What about handball or hurling are they allowed at your Football only club or do they need to have a seperate pitch and facliaties in this one horse town? When I was young our club facilaties were used for both a french and Irish language summer school. Would it be acceptable in your football only club to turn these away? Or just the ones you feel have “baggage”

    Our club also had Irish dancing classes and Judo classes. Would the judo be allowed?

    It is perfectly acceptable to be a member of any Gaa club and participate only in the Football many do.

  • London_Irish

    I seem to recall Ian Paisley once telling a story from his (much) younger days of local AOH and OO members sharing musical instruments with one another on ocassion. I’m sure you’d agree that the ‘cultural baggage’ attached to the instruments didn’t stop them playing any differently for members of the respective organisations. Seems to me that baggage is only baggage for people who want it to be so…

  • sonofstrongbow

    Much talk about ‘Irish culture’ within the GAA but of course it is a very particular, perhaps partisan, view that is exclusive and not inclusive of the Irish who do not self identify as so-called ‘Gaels’.

  • Reader

    JR: What about handball or hurling are they allowed at your Football only club or do they need to have a seperate pitch and facliaties in this one horse town?
    Without wanting to get bogged down in the “baggage” row:
    What about Soccer – is it allowed at your GAA Community centre in this one horse town?
    Actually, that might be a ‘baggage’ issue after all.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Strongbow Óg

    Of course the Gaelic Athletic Association exists to preserve, and insists on the importance of, a particular kind of Irish culture – i.e. the Gaelic part of it. The clue’s in the name.

    What’s wrong with that?

    Where do you get the idea that this means the GAA believes that only Gaelic culture is truly Irish?

    Who told you such a thing? Not a member or friend of the GAA, I daresay.

    Indeed, the GAA has always been far more likely to get into trouble for insisting on the Irishness of unionist people, rather than denying it.

    (Admittedly, one does sometimes find tedious, more-Irish-than-thou bores propping up social club bars. When you meet such a person, you can bet the mortgage that they never kicked or pucked a ball in their lives.)

  • JR

    Why wouldn’t it be? My brothers attended a samba soccer school years back which used some of the neighbouring town’s GAA facilaties. And hasn’t Corker been used for Soccer and rugby internationals?

  • Billy Pilgrim


    Rule 42

    ‘Grounds controlled by Association units shall not be used or permitted to be used, for horse racing, greyhound racing, or for field games other than those sanctioned by Central Council.’

    Fairly self-explanatory.

  • Alan N/Ards


    Do you think that teams from a unionist background would be accepted in the GAA, just to compete in the sporting side of the association? Would they be expected to display the tricolour at their ground to be part of the association? Would they be allowed to fly the Union flag, NI flag or indeed the St. Patrick’s flag at their grounds if they desired to do that? If they did would other teams play against them?

    I think the brand of football is a fantastic game. I would have loved to have had the oppurtunity to have played it as a boy. Alas I’m to old now. A good way to introduce the game to young unionist’s, would be by letting them have their own clubs, with support from the GAA, to see if they would enjoy the game. Let them play in areas where they feel safe, just to get them started. I’m not sure to many many would feel comfortable in grounds named after republican gun men, or indeed Casement park. It might take a few years but who knows where it might lead too. Do you think that the GAA would be up for it?

  • London_Irish

    Alan N/Ards,

    I accept what you say re letting kids from unionist/protestant backgrounds get into the sports in more familiar/comfortable surroundings, but having ‘their own’ clubs could potentially lead to the same hostility akin to the Old Firm as time goes on.

    I think a lot could be learned from the Ulster GAA’s Cúchulainn Initiative, whereby cross-community teams were formed based on secondary schools. Extending that initiative to primary level could help forge friendships at an earlier age, allowing young protestant lads/lassies to develop their skills at a similar rate rate as the kids who would probably be playing the games anyway. In the long run, cross-community bonds forged before a better understanding of ‘us’uns’ and ‘them’uns’ can fully develop in the young folk (I acknowledge they’re there from a ridiculously early age), as well as giving young protestant kids a better chance of advancing in their chosen codes and playing at higher levels on merit, rather than just as quota-fillers. What is there to lose in trying?

    In relation to your questions about flying the tricolour etc, they are in the GAA’s official guide. However, as a grassroots organisation, what’s to say this can’t be changed at the behest of a cross-community team? Admittedly it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation though…

  • Billy Pilgrim


    Actually, former GAA president Nicky Brennan talked about just this sort of thing a few years ago, in an interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette.

    His heart was in the right place, but if you think how it’d actually work, it would probably actually foment division. (GAA rivalries can be incredibly intense. They’re usually harmless, but add in a sectarian dimension and one could envisage some real nastiness.)

    However, if you had new GAA clubs being set up in places that don’t presently have one – say, in County Armagh, places like Tandragee, Hamiltonsbawn, Markethill, Loughgall, Richhill, Killylea – it’s simply a demographic certainty that they would draw membership overwhelmingly from the Protestant community.

    One would expect that those clubs would reflect their memberships. (So a hunger strike commemoration would be unlikely.)

    And yes, other teams would, of course, play them. A team would never fail to fulfil a fixture. You might find the corner backs being particularly robust in their tackling, mind you…

    As regards the flag issue, I’ll let you into a secret, if you promise not to tell anyone. Promise? Ok. At most club games, there’s no tricolour. For the bigger games, sure, county games, certainly. But most of the time, there isn’t one. It’s a technicality.

    As I said earlier, in the event of large-scale take-up of Gaelic games by unionists, the GAA would become a more dialectical institution, and I’d be all for that. The transition would not be without problems, setbacks and controversies. But so what? Problems, setbacks and controversies are nothing to be scared of.

    Personally, I think the introduction of Gaelic games to state schools is the key. That way, young Protestants could take their tentative first steps in an environment where they feel safe. Wouldn’t it be fun to see, say, Methody, play St Colman’s in the MacRory Cup?

    Alternatively, Protestants could just take up hurling en masse. It’s such a niche sport in most parts of Ulster that they’d take it over in no time. Then football could be the ‘Catholic’ game and hurling the ‘Protestant’ game!

    ‘I would have loved to have had the opportunity to have played it as a boy.’

    I would have loved if you’d been able to. I sincerely hope you at least get to watch your children (or grandchildren?) play the games. I can’t overstate how enriching they are.