Why the GAA in its present form will never be tolerable in the unionist community
By Jamie Bryson
The GAA have very effectively developed a narrative that they are a benign sporting organisation. This of course is entirely contrary to their own founding official guide, which sets out very clearly the political objective of the organisation. It says, under the heading ‘Basic Aim’:
“The Association is a National Organisation which has as its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity in a 32 County Ireland through the preservation and promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes”
If anyone was in any doubt as to what this plainly means, the outgoing GAA President in 2017 helpfully emphasised it. He said:
“Our basic aim as an Association is embodied in Rule 1.2 of our official guide which states our aim as the ‘strengthening the national identity in a 32-county Ireland. That aim remains and all of us in the GAA aspire to a 32-county Ireland united by agreement of the people.”
Put simply, the GAA is a nationalist political organisation which uses sport to advance political aims and objectives. It also seeks to legitimise and normalise IRA terrorism, as part of the wider nationalist effort to re-write the past.
The unionist and loyalist community are expected to simply overlook this, and embrace the unrepentant GAA; indeed, we are expected to welcome their presence in our communities.
Think about that, we are supposed to embrace an organisation that continues to glorify the IRA who murdered and maimed thousands of persons from the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community, and whose stated objective is to advance nationalist political aims (and thus the destruction of the Union).
It is utterly perverse and bizarre, but such is the narrative that has been contrived as part of the so-called ‘peace process’.
Meanwhile, the Orange Order can not walk for three minutes up the Crumlin Road. Nationalist resident’s groups consistently seek to target every expression of unionist/loyalist culture and tradition.
So effective has nationalist propaganda been, they have managed to convince the world that their sectarian targeting of our culture and tradition is in fact them “standing up against sectarianism”.
In contrast, unionist/loyalist criticism of the GAA- which celebrates IRA terrorism and has a founding political objective of destroying the Union- is by default “sectarian poison and bigotry”.
On BBC Good Morning Ulster on 4 August, a discussion was held about the GAA. The loyalist contributor was introduced as a “loyalist activist”. Patricia MacBride, a member of Ireland’s Future (which is a campaigning organisation for a United Ireland) who has publicly signed that group’s letters, self-identifying as a nationalist within her profession, is benignly introduced as an “Irish News columnist”.
This is a regular issue on the BBC, whereby unionists/loyalists are labelled by political affiliation, whilst nationalist/republican activists such as Patricia MacBride, Amanda Ferguson, Chris Donnelly and Phil Kelly are simply introduced as commentators.
There is no cogent or credible answer to justify this bias within the BBC in terms of how unionists/loyalists and republicans/nationalists are treated. If one political identity group of persons are to be identified by that background, then why should another be bestowed with the veil of neutrality?
The contribution on GMU by Ms MacBride was illuminating. It exposed clearly the supremacist mindset which infects the nationalist political ideology. Despite the clear political objectives of the GAA, and its irrefutable links to the glorification of IRA terrorism, Ms MacBride waxed lyrical about how the GAA is simply benignly reaching out to spread the Irish tradition.
And this is the core of the supremacist mindset. Nationalism believe that unionists are just misguided nationalists, who will eventually see the light and come to heel. In that context, Ms MacBride’s analysis makes sense. They think they are simply educating the misguided tribe- which currently exists as an underclass- and can’t understand why we would reject such advances, not least because if we embrace nationalism then we will be allowed to rise up from being an underclass and will be accepted in a ‘New Ireland’.
That of course may make most people burst out laughing, such is the absurd logic behind it, but believe me- that is the fundamental belief that pervades in nationalism and drives that ideology’s increasingly supremacist and arrogant behaviour.
The ‘New Ireland’ language embodies the supremacist mindset. It is about creating a United Ireland (thus satisfying nationalist’s core objective) but claiming to allow gullible unionists (who will sufficiently come to heel) to help shape such a United Ireland.
In short form, there must be a United Ireland, but if we are nice unionists, we will be allowed to shape how it looks (in so far as nationalists approve), and we can all call it a ‘New Ireland’. Honestly, why do supposedly intelligent people fall for this nonsense?
And that brings us back to the GAA.
It is beyond any dispute that the GAA are a political organisation, who use sport to advance their nationalist objectives. That cannot be credibly contested. Their endorsement of the IRA is equally beyond any credible contest.
In this context, it is absolutely outrageous that this organisation continues to be funded millions of pounds, which is used to assist in the development of political objectives. Why is public money going to such an organisation- other than the ‘peace process’ requires we turn a blind eye to the legitimising of IRA terrorism?
Notwithstanding all these legitimate concerns around the GAA, someone in Belfast City Council thought it would be a good idea (apparently without consultation with any elected representatives) to impose a GAA pitch upon a predominately unionist area. This was to be put in place without any consultation with the local community, many of whom suffered at the hands of the IRA.
And yet it was those who simply challenged this proposal that were presented as “sectarian”. I wonder how it would go down if a Flute Band and Orange Lode decided to set up camp in Andersonstown or the Falls Road?
We were also told there is no such thing as a unionist area. Of foucrse there is such a thing as a nationalist area, thats fine. But there can’t be any unionist areas, because unionist areas have to be ‘shared space’. If anyone doesnt see where this is going then they are willingly ignorant of that which is plainly before their eyes.
How did anyone seriously think that the Victoria Park proposal would be tolerable or workable? If the GAA genuinely want to reach out, they should disavow the glorification and commemoration of IRA terrorism and amend their Official Guide to adopt a non-political stance.
Until then, it is difficult to see how any self-respecting unionist or loyalist will find the GAA tolerable.