Friday, 4 February 2011

GAA stars endorsed Sinn Fein

I believe that there are changes taking place in the GAA but there are some areas where change will be very slow and one of them is Tyrone.

Earlier today, while I was searching for something else on the internet, I came across several references on Sinn Fein websites to something that seemed to confirm that observation.

Back at the Westminster election on 6 May 2010, Pat Doherty was the Sinn Fein candidate in the West Tyrone constituency.  As part of his campaign West Tyrone Ogra Shinn Fein produced a youth election broadcast, which was launched on 21 April 2010 and included a number of endorsements.

According to the Ogra Shinn Fein website:
The youth broadcast features endorsements for Pat Doherty MP from Tyrone GAA County Star Sean O'Neill, Tyrone Hurler Mickey Kelly, and Dromore GAA supremo Fabian O'Neill who captained the triumphant 2007 Dromore Team to their first County Championship.
That sort of endorsement for the Sinn Fein candidate by three leading figures in the GAA would probably not occur in any other county but there it is and there are two things that strike me about it.

The first is that three prominent figures in the GAA in Tyrone were prepared to endorse the Sinn Fein candidate.  The fact that they did so suggests that their views may well reflect the views of the vast majority of the GAA fraternity in the county. 

I cannot recall a situation in Northern Ireland where current leading sportsmen in any other sport have endorsed a political party.  Yes some sportsmen went into politics after their sporting careers had ended and an obvious example is Trevor Ringland.  But these are men who are still very active in the GAA.

The second thing is that Sinn Fein sought these endorsements because they recognised the powerful influence of the GAA in Tyrone.

Of course we live in a liberal democracy and people are free to express political views but this incident reinforces the perception of many people that there is a connection between the GAA and republicanism.  It also suggests that Tyrone may be one of the counties that is most resistant to moving forward.


  1. I really don’t get this. Are you saying it’s okay for Unionist organisations to actively endorse and support Unionist parties and candidates (the most striking example being the Orange Order), yet individuals within organisations such as the GAA are not allowed to show their support for a political party? You obviously do not like it but I really don't think it’s 'wrong' or peculiar to Northern Ireland.

    For example, in France several years ago, Yannick Noah supported Segolene Royal against Nicolas Sarkozy, and no-one batted an eyelid. Of course famous actors have always lent their support (or refutation) to political parties, the most obvious example being Arnold Schwarzenegger and the American Republican party. Cheryl Cole publically backed Gordon Brown and Labour last year etc. Staying specifically with sports stars, the following stars last year publically endorsed political parties in the UK:

    JIMMY GREAVES (football): Conservatives
    JOHN McCRIRICK (horse racing): Conservatives
    JAMES BEATTIE (football): Conservatives
    RICHARD DUNWOODY (jocky): Conservatives
    JIMMY WHITE and STEVE DAVIS (snooker): Lib Dems

  2. 1. The Orange Order is a pro-union organisation and openly acknowledges that. However the GAA is sometimes portrayed as simply a sporting organisation. In fact it is a pro-United Ireland organisation as well.

    2. The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats are not quite the same as Sinn Fein. They were not the political wings of terrorist organisations whereas Sinn Fein was the political wing of the IRA, which murdered fellow-citizens, men, women and children.

  3. Nelson,

    Fair enough on your first point. The GAA is a pro united Ireland organisation; the dog in the street knows this, and if they state otherwise it is a fallacy.

    But your second point is somewhat troubling. First of all I do not vote Sinn Fein, and personally am not a fan! However Sinn Fein of the here and now is no longer affiliated with terrorism and/or murder. They have renounced violence, and as such their vote increased i.e. people would now vote for them because they have changed, who otherwise wouldn’t have supported them. Therefore should it not be acceptable now for sports-stars to support them as a now non-terrorist organisation. I agree it would be contentious if such stars lent their support at the height of the IRA campaign. But that is now officially past tense, and therefore if it is acceptable for the DUP to enter a power sharing arrangement with Sinn Fein, then surely sports personalities shouldn’t be afraid to show their support in this new era of normalisation.

    I understand your point, but surely you can see mine also?

    If one were inclined to be argumentative I could state that the Conservatives in their history wreaked havoc in the eyes of many, and to many any public figure lending support could be viewed with contempt, but these sentiments surely wouldn’t be progressive.

    Are you sure, for instance, that no one playing football for Northern Ireland, has at any stage lent support to say the Ulster Unionist Party, a party who for many years operated a system of gerrymandering and vote rigging? Again I’m looking for an answer I’m only being exemplary.

  4. ... in my last line I meant to say I'm NOT looking for an answer...

  5. The first point is a very important one. Not only in the GAA a pro-United Ireland organisation but it has a pro-United Ireland constitution and it requires all its members to subscribe to the constitution. In this way it excludes unionists from membership. It is possible to be a Protestant and a member, if you are a Protestant nationalist, and of course Sam Maguire was a Protestant and an Irish republican but you cannot be a member if you are a unionist.

    The GAA is therefore different from every other sports governing body.

    Most people understand that it is a nationalist organistion but very few people are aware that the GAA constitution excludes unionists from joining a GAA club and you can only play in a GAA team if you join a GAA club. No other sport that I am aware of applies a political test to membership of a club.

    Secondly, this happened in Tyrone and I am not aware of it happening in any other county in Northern Ireland in recent days. Moreover it was three GAA stars and no one from any other sport. This is also the county where we had the Galbally incident and the association between the GAA and republicanism has always been stronger in Tyrone. for example in 1959 the Tyrone board unanimously elected an IRA man as president. At the time he was serving a 12-year sentence in Crumlin road prison. Later a number of GAA personalities appeared on the platforms during the Bobby Sands election campaign in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and five GAA clubs placed a joint advertisement urging their members to vote for him. Indeed during the hunger strikes Tyrone players who competed in an All-Ireland final against Kerry dedicated their game to republican prisoners. Yes there have been changes in the GAA but Tyrone is probably the county where resistance to change is strongest.

  6. The GAA is an Irish Unionist organisation, the same as the founding fathers of the Republican ideology in Ireland were all Protestants, some were Anglican-Protestant and others were Presbyterian-Protestant. And good Protestant Ulster-Scots they were...

    Belfast was the birthplace of Irish Republicanism...

    The flag that represents Irish unity is the Irish tri-colour [The Green, the Orange and the White - United under one flag]. The Sporting team that represents one Ireland is the Irish rugby team.

    The Declaration of Arbroath 1320 - Democratic

    The Act of Union 1707 - Undemocratic

    The Partition of Ireland 1921 - Undemocratic

    Lets not delude ourselves by pretending we live within a democracy, when we certainly don't.

    'Northern Ireland' is a state the vast majority of the United Kingdom don't want.

    I don't vote for an Irish or British party.


  7. I'm interested to hear from a Scottish nationalist. There is an important difference between Irish nationalists and Scottish nationalists - Irish nationalists argue that one island must be one nation whereas Scottish nationalists and indeed Welsh nationalists argue that one island can be three nations - or four if you recognise the Cornish nationalists.

    As regards the Society of United Irishmen, it is worth recalling that a few years after the 1798 rebellion came the Act of Union, which abolished a corrupt Anglo-Irish parliament in Dublin. Subsequently most of the United Irishmen became unionists.

    William Drennan, a Belfast Presbyterian and the son of a Presbyterian minister, was the real founder of the United Irishmen. Yet on 31 December 1811 he wrote in the Belfast Monthly Magazine, a journal he had founded in 1808, 'Be Britons with all your souls - and forget that your father called himself an Irishman.'

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  9. Billy Leonard is a former Orangeman. Now Sinn Féin Republican.

    People change my friend, and people should be allowed the opportunity to change.

    Irish nationalists state one island is one nation. There is four provinces within the island of Ireland, the majority within each of they four provinces are inclined to the thinking of a single Irish nation on the emerald isle.

    Scotland, England and Wales are different and are populated by different people. The Scots are Gaels, the English are Anglo-Saxon and the Welsh are Britons. That is how and why they three nations exist.

    The reason the two Irish states exist is because the English government had two options they didn't want to have.

    The first one: Give the rebel Irish the island in its entirety, and send the Army to execute the Loyal Irish in the North.

    The second option: Send the Army to destroy the Irish Republican Army once and for all.

    They invented a third option - Partition !

    You would think over the past 90 years the Irish of the Unionist mindset would have learned from their past mistakes of walking through nationalist areas banging drums and playing flutes to the tune of Unionism.

    "It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have eighteen children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel he will rear eighteen children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church..." T O'Neill

    If you were to examine the mind of the Unionist with reason and logic you will find the Unionist is in fact anti-Unionist.

    Catholics are the majority in Northern Ireland compared to Anglicans and Presbyterians.

    I reckon Scottish independence is going to be the cause of the dismantlement of the United Kingdom not Irish reunification.

    My fellow Scots live in a country where they're not allowed a referendum on their own future. That is not democracy my friend that's dictatorship.

  10. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Northern Ireland but its members do not constitute a majority.

    Many organisations were formed before the creation of Northern Ireland and so now operate on an international or cross-border basis.

    Your approach to identity is confused and seems almost racist. You say, 'I am a Gael'. What is a Gael and what makes you a Gael?

    Identity is complex and multi-layered - I can be an Ulsterman and British but these are only two of many aspects or layers of my identity.

    As regards your last sentence, my father was born in Ulster and the McCausland family have been in Ulster for several hundred years. My mother was born in Scotland but my maternal grandparents were born in Ulster. My grandfather moved between Ulster and Scotland and in 1912 he signed the Ulster covenant in Coatbridge. My maternal family name was Bicker and they were of Dutch origin, having come to Ulster at the end of the 17th century. So in the case of my mother, she was born in Scotland, of Ulster parents, and has a Dutch line in her ancestry. Most of us have some of that complexity in our ancestry.

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  14. Daithi - You posted the comments, which are quite frankly bizarre. However they were your opinions and you decided, of your own volition, to post them.

    Now you announce that you want to undertake an 'Ulster-Scots project', which appears to be a book that is in some way related to the Ulster-Scots.

    You also ask for the removal of your earlier posts and say that you 'no longer wish to publicly distribute my opinion on this topic as it may/does display nationalistic bias.'

    Perhaps you could explain what subject you intend to explore in your book and what experience or expertise you bring to the subject.

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  17. Daithi - rather than posting on a series of other threads, it would be simpler to stay on this one and explain (1) why you posted such bizarre posts, which you now acknowledge to have a 'nationalistic bias' (2) the nature of your proposed project and the experience or expertise you bring to the subject.

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  20. Daithi - many people who post on blogs move off the topic on to other topics.

    You do not seem to understand that once something is public it remains public.

    Your Ulster-Scot project has now become a 'portfolio' but you have not yet told me what it is about.

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