GAA could drop Irish symbolism from games
GAA could drop Irish symbolism from games


A statement by the President of the Gaelic Athletic Association that the organisation may consider dropping the use of the Irish flag and anthem at sporting events has been condemned by GAA fans and players as well as republicans.

Mr O Fearghail was speaking in Dubai to reporters during the GAA All Stars Tour when he said “if there are new agreements and new arrangements we’d be open-minded about things like flags and anthems - but not in advance of agreements”.

The GAA President did not explain what kind of agreements he was referring to, but said any such break with tradition would only come in an “agreed Ireland”. He said that the use of the Irish flag and anthem “causes difficulty at home”.

“There is a massively changing world at home,” he added, mentioning the British vote to leave the European Union.

Republican Sinn Fein said the remarks by Aogan O Fearghail were “astounding”.

Legendary Dublin goalkeeper Paddy Cullen ridiculed the idea, and pointed out the pride other sportsmen take in their identity, such as in New Zealand.

“At this stage, we shouldn’t even be considering something like that,” he said. “Look at the All Blacks. Imagine they were told to do away with their haka. That’s part and parcel of your culture, you just can’t do away with that.”

Former Meath All-Ireland winning captain Graham Geraghty said there would be a backlash across the GAA community if the idea was formally tabled. “I suppose he’s probably trying to be diplomatic in some way, but I definitely wouldn’t like to see it go away and I don’t think it’ll happen,” he said.

Republican Sinn Fein said the remarks showed “an open and assailant agenda by British apologists” and were an at attack on the concept of a proudly independent and sovereign Irish nation. They said the comments would play directly into British efforts to to “re-embroil” Ireland within the British sphere of thinking.

“A united Ireland back under the British crown or in a position of compromised political sovereignty and integrity is not worth anything but a compromise of the nation’s soul and identity embodied in our ancient emblems, national flag and nation’s anthem. Abandonment of these are the first acts of surrender.” “ Former Sinn Fein Assembly member Daithi McKay, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, called for the Irish flag to be flown in tandem with the Union Jack in the North if the policy change went ahead.

If unionist politicians want to see changes at GAA games “then, surely, there has to be a wider debate about flags throughout the north, especially at Government and civic buildings?” he asked.

He called on local authorities, particularly those that have a majority of nationalist and republican members, to take the initiative “and show that British and Irish flags can fly side by side on civic buildings”.

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