Saturday, 27 February 2010

Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda (1)

Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda was the title of a conference, which was sponsored by Sinn Fein and held in London last Saturday, 20 February.   It was presented as part of Sinn Fein's strategy for a United Ireland but will have done nothing to forward that futile cause. 

The truth is that there can only be a United Ireland with the consent of unionists in Ulster and no amount of nationalists and republicans talking to other nationalists and republicans will alter the views of unionists.  There were two unionists on a panel later in the day but essentially this was about nationalists taking to nationalists.

Nevertheless the reports of the conference provide some interesting insights.  The opening speaker was Gerry Adams MP, president of Sinn Fein, and he was followed by a session chaired by the Labour MP Diane Abbott.  The contributors included Conall McDevitt MLA of the SDLP, Margaret Ward, who was described as an author and historian, and Jarlath Burns, a former GAA player, a former Daily Ireland columnist and now a GAA commenator on BBC.

Jarlath Burns, who was also a member of the Consultative Group on the Past, was quite frank about the political agenda of the GAA.
The GAA is a critical element in the conversation about Irish unity. You see, the GAA has never accepted partition. Some of our clubs straddle the border, Ulster consists of nine counties and the desire to seek Irish unity is enshrined in the Official Guide of the GAA. There is a commitment to the use of the Irish language and the promotion of Irish culture that is discrete yet honourable, inclusive, not intrusive and at all times, full to the neck of integrity that is to be admired and learnt from.
He also spoke about the pan-nationalist aspect of the GAA:
Within clubs, it can be just as fraught with the GAA having to be equally relevant to the SDLP and Sinn Féin in the north.
You can't get much clearer than that - 'the desire to seek Irish unity is enshrined in the Official Guide of the GAA' - and his choice of the word 'enshrined' is significant.  Not only is it there in the Official Guide but it is enshrined in the Official Guide.  There is no place for unionists in the GAA and there probably never will be.  Those who speak of the GAA reaching out to unionists and opening the door to unionists need to realise that the GAA is a nationalist organisation.

But that is not the end to the nationalist rhetoric of Jarlath Burns and he even manages to launch an attack on me personally:
And bringing us right up to date; this week Bryansford GAA are having their expansion plans thwarted by a particularly bigoted piece of political chicanery from the DUP minister of culture, a man who hadn’t even the guts to mention the GAA Ulster championship last summer in a statement promoting the summer of sporting activities in the six counties. And we are still in trouble because some of our grounds are named historically and emotionally after what we would term irish patriots, but who others would call terrorists. Off the field, we just can’t seem to win and this is why we are distinctly uncomfortable in the political arena and nowadays try to avoid it at all costs.
Jarlath Burns accuses me of 'a particularly bigoted piece of political chicanery' in relation to Bryansford GAA.  In fact I have had no role in relation to Bryansford GAA or their expansion plans and his personal and erroneous attack tells us more about his own prejudice than anything else.  It might be argued that his false accusation should be ignored, especially since it is on a Sinn Fein website, but Burns is a well-known figure who appears regularly on BBC television.  I intend to look into this matter further, especially since what appears once on the internet has a tendency to get repeated elsewhere.



  1. Nelson.

    You may be interested in my speech at the conference.


  2. An official complaint should be made to the BBC regarding Jarlath Burns. Until an investigation is completed, he shouldn't be paid by the BBC to comment on GAA matters. He proves the point that the GAA is more than a sporting organisation. Until the GAA decides to stop getting involved in politics, it shouldn't be funded by DCAL as it contravenes equality legislation and promotes a political agenda.

  3. Sport - I have had several meetings with the GAA about aspects of its nationalist ethos and am due to meet them again to get an update on developments. The GAA is the only sports organisation with a political aspiration in its constitution but DCAL also provides funding to the Orange Order for its education officer.