The north’s sports minister has threatened to cut funds from Gaelic clubs or events named after “paramilitaries”.
While scores of GAA clubs are named after Irish political or military figures, Nelson McCausland has targeted events named after republicans, who he described as “terrorists”.
He cited the Joe Cahill Memorial Shield as an example when he said any club, ground or competition could have its grants slashed.
Cahill was the Provisional IRA’s chief of staff in the 1970s before becoming a senior Sinn Fein figure in later years.
DUP minister Mr McCausland said he was planning an ‘equality statement’ to which all applicants would have sign up to “see if we can come to a situation where we do not have commemorations or celebrations of terrorism in sports grounds”.
The GAA yesterday hit back at the plans by insisting all its clubs met requirements for public funding.
“The GAA is by rule a strictly non-party political, anti-racist and anti-sectarian organisation. It also has a long-established, publicly stated anti-violence policy,” it said in a statement.
“It is noted that the minister for culture, arts and leisure has instructed Sport NI to conduct a review of the current clauses and policies in relation to sports club funding.”
The secretary of Cardinal O’Donnell’s GAC in west Belfast defended hosting a football competition each Easter in memory of Joe Cahill.
Sean McVeigh said it was a “community competition”.
“We have hosted it every year since Joe died and we only host it on the grounds that Joe’s grandchildren, wife Annie and daughter Aine are members of the club,” he said.
“Joe literally lived 10 yards from the club in his Beechview Park home and the club has a strong connection with him because of his family and involvement in the local community.”
He said he would “wait and see” whether or not the club’s funding was affected but said the competition would continue.
“We are very happy with our association with the competition and, as for Nelson McCausland’s comments, I would view them in the wider DUP context of continuing antagonism towards the GAA,” he said.
Sinn Fein assembly member Barry McElduff, who chairs the assembly’s culture, arts and leisure committee, yesterday criticised the minister.
“Nelson McCausland is not the minister for some cultures or some sports. He has a responsibility to respect all cultures, traditions and sports,” Mr McElduff said.
“Since taking Office three months ago Nelson McCausland has went out of his way to cause offence to the nationalist community.
“He has refused to enter a catholic church, he has failed to bring forward a strategy for the development of the Irish language, despite coming under severe pressure from the Council of Europe and the British Government. Alongside this his department sent out personal invites to Orange fest and he took part in sectarian parades through nationalist districts in Belfast.
“The latest chapter in McCaulsland’s bigots charter is attempts to place pressure on the GAA to rename their sports grounds. Is it little wonder the nationalist community have no faith in him as a Minister. Sinn Fein will block any attempts by Nelson McCaulsland to implement a sectarian charter within DCAL. Nelson needs to remember that he is not in a DUP administration. He needs to remember that this Executive is jointly headed by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.”
The only sporting organisation in the Six Counties believed to be named after a republican paramilitary who died during the conflict is Kevin Lynch’s Hurling Club in Dungiven, Co Derry.
A spokesman said the club’s name celebrated the INLA hunger striker’s contribution to sporting success as captain of the All-Ireland-winning Derry under-16 team in 1972.
A number of soccer competitions are named after IRA Volunteers, including the Bobby Sands Memorial Cup held during Feile an Phobail in west Belfast.