Friday 15 December 2017

GAA embraces every section of community -- but it must stay vigilant

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

"We have an outstanding reputation for attracting and retaining members from all sections of the community.

"We welcome people of all nationalities, religions, ages and abilities into our association and we make it easy for everyone to take part.

"We champion equality within the Irish sporting landscape and communities overseas. We work with the GAA family to make sure that we offer an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone."

This is the mission statement attached to the GAA's 2009-2015 Strategic Report, under the heading 'Inclusion and Integration', which spells out the aims and ideals of the period that it covers.

The above words are what the GAA expects itself to be able to say in 2016 without fear or contradiction.

Halfway through that period of time, can it say that it is on the way to meeting that key target? On the issue of religious inclusion there is enough evidence, especially in Ulster, to say yes.


The various cross-community initiatives undertaken by the Ulster Council have helped to build better relations with the Protestant community and were franked by the presence of Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson at a McKenna Cup match in January.

The Queen's visit to Croke Park was another symbolic gesture of huge importance.

But there is still, it seems, distance to go on the issue of race, still a gap to be bridged as events in Wexford and the subsequent testimony of county player Lee Chin underline.

Known instances of racial abuse have been rare, it must be said, in the GAA and the swift action of the Wexford board and of the referee in highlighting the alleged abuse by two players of Chin represented much progress.

Wexford's response to the Chin incident was praised across the board -- including by a spokesperson for the integration society, former Dublin footballer Jason Sherlock, who himself was on the receiving end of racial abuse in the past, felt that a two-month ban was satisfactory.

The GAA is a much more multi-cultural organisation than it was even five years ago as the hand of friendship extends to every nationality and community.

Nothing has been proven in Cavan but the obligation one of their clubs felt to make a formal complaint suggests it's an issue that the GAA must remain vigilant of in the future.

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