Sunday 20 August 2017

Comment: What does Brexit mean for the GAA?

Declan Bogue

NO matter how you might feel about the issue of Brexit, we should all be gravely concerned about the consequences on a number of fronts.

The GAA, like any other All-Ireland body, should be particularly interested and perhaps even fearful of the economic threat of a border - whether that be soft, hard, leaky or airtight.

So far, there has been no evidence made public that there is any future GAA planning for the latest of political known unknowns, at least at central level.

On Tuesday night, Tyrone GAA took the initiative and staged a talk on Brexit on the eve of triggering of Article 50.

You might have heard us mentioning these sort of nights held at their Garvaghey Centre before. We make no apology. This correspondent has attended some wonderful events there such as the staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream - crammed with the thick drawl of Tyrone accents.

They are not afraid to expand their horizons either and took some heat from those who object to the exchange of viewpoints and ideas when they hosted a ground-breaking 'Tyrone Talks The Somme' night last June.

On Tuesday evening, the main speaker was Peter Quinn, GAA President between 1991-94. We would struggle to find a man better qualified to talk about finance, the issues and problems of border, and the knock-on effect to the GAA.

Growing up in rural Teemore, on the fringes of south Fermanagh, he recalled in his autobiography 'The Outsider' how his natural hinterland was around Ballyconnell, just a couple of mile away in county Cavan, while their cattle dealings and weekly shopping expeditions were in Cavan town.

While President of the GAA, Quinn never found favour in the national media. He never played the 'Hail Fellow, well met' role and if his skin was a little on the thin side, the criticism coming his way was often half-baked.

Loathe as we are to use the word 'legacy' in connection with a GAA President, he gifted us a modernised GAA and a Croke Park stadium that was space age by the standards of the time. So much so, that the FAI and IRFU ended up becoming tenants in the stadium for a period.

The general theme of the talk was one of hesitant confusion. With Stormont talks also up on blocks, there's a lot of uncertainty at present.

The confusion created by Brexit feels all so unnecessary, but the real bad taste in the mouth comes from the hollow promises pushed by the Leave campaign, citing £350 million being sent weekly to Brussels that would be better spent on the National Health Service.

There must have been thousands duped by that alone. Posters were still hanging from lampposts in Ulster bearing that whopping lie for months afterwards, silently gloating. No wonder the phrase 'Post-truth' was popularised shortly afterwards.

It's foolish to say that people along the border enjoy the freedom of travelling between the two jurisdictions. The truth is that you soon take it for granted.

That's as it should be when things run smoothly. This correspondent lives along the Tyrone-Monaghan border. The local Gaelic football team Aghaloo frequently use the facilities of Truagh, a club just two miles across the Moy Bridge. People forget about the border as they send children to crèche or conduct their general messages in the two jurisdictions.  

While there are theories of an electronic border where your car license plate will be recorded, the truth is one that we come back to; nobody knows. Not even respected media commentators are risking their reputation by making bold predictions.

We don't expect a return to the days of boot and bonnet searches, but there is now a threat of International terrorism that wasn't there during the Troubles.

In times of national security risk, a temporary hard checkpoint would be hard to argue against.

We are getting into dangerous territory when that happens. Anyone under 30 wouldn't believe the tailbacks that existed rolling out of the main arterial routes from Clones on big match days of the summer, spending hours crawling up to a checkpoint just to make it home after a game of Gaelic football.

While a lot of that is pure theorising, this much we can say about Brexit - the loan that was taken out for the Garvaghey Centre - has went up by £200,000 after the 'post-Brexit' fall in sterling (the Garvaghey loan is in Euros).

And the great pity in all of this is that the people of Northern Ireland who stand to lose the most from Brexit, are those that never voted for it in the first place.

As ever, watch closely.

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