Thursday 19 September 2019

Concern at 'racism' in GAA

Brian McDonald

Youngsters playing Gaelic games are being derided and "slagged off" for speaking Irish while on the pitch.

GAA officer and broadcaster Sean Ban Breathnach said he was stunned by the level of such "racism" toward juveniles and others on the playing fields.

As a voluntary Irish Officer with the Galway County GAA Board, the Raidio na Gaeltachta commentator said he had come across several incidents in which Irish-speaking players had been on the receiving end for not speaking in English.

And it was not just opposing players and mentors who were guilty; the problem extended even to referees, he said.

"I remember one occasion when a young player came over to me in tears and told me that the referee had asked him for his proper name after he had given it to him in Irish", said Sean Ban.

"That to me is racism. We have about 10 clubs in Co Galway that conduct their business in Irish and it is the first language of the players and officials.


"But there is an increasing level of abuse being directed towards them and I am very concerned about what will now happen when the GAA integrates people from other origins into the organisation.''

"It is only a matter of time before someone with different coloured skin to the rest of us ends up playing for Galway. Are we ready for it?," he asked.

He pointed out that he carried out his duties as Oigigeach Gaeilge bilingually, but was anxious his position was not interpreted as "ramming Irish down people's throats".

"Irish is there to be enjoyed. It is part of our culture and it should not be used as something for derision or for belittling people.

"But unfortunately, such attitudes seem far too prevalent from what I have seen in Galway during the year".

Galway Co Board Chairman, Gerry Larkin agreed that it was a serious issue.

Mr Larkin said: "It is important that a close eye is kept on this and that appropriate action is taken when there are offences. It cannot be tolerated".

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