GAA renews its pledge to be beacon of inclusivity
2019-06-01 14:00:24 -
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By Ken McCue and Chinedu Onyejelem

 

Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral recently held a service of inclusivity to honour GAA co-founder Sam Maguire and to recognise the diversity of the modern Gaelic Athletic Association.

 

The invitation to the GAA from the Dean of the Cathedral, Very Reverend Dr William Morton, to attend the choral evensong was timely given the recent launch of the new GAA manifesto, Where We All Belong, which reflects the sport and culture body embracing of all ethnicities, abilities, genders, sexualities, faiths and cultures.

 

In welcoming the GAA ‘family’ to the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland, the Dean said: “The historic connection between the GAA and the Church of Ireland broke new ground in times past; it is vital to continue to stand together for inclusivity and welcome in an increasingly diverse world.”

 

Addressing guests at the event, the GAA president said it was a day to celebrate the inclusive nature of the GAA, adding that such inclusivity in Irish life was very important.

 

“The GAA by the very way it is configured attempts to offer everyone a chance to play our games and in so doing, connect with Irish culture and our shared heritage. Sport is a unifier,” said John Horan.

 

“It is about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle and it aims to create a sense of belonging, camaraderie and above all else enjoyment and fun in the pursuit of a common goal – for young and not so young alike.”

 

Describing the GAA as “anti-racist and anti-sectarian”, Horan added that it was heartening to see players from different nationalities playing on GAA teams and rising up in positions.

 

“I look forward to the day when another man or woman of mixed ethnic background emulates Sean Óg O’hAilpin to collect one of our famed trophies on the steps of the Hogan Stand in our own hallowed cathedral, Croke Park.”

 

He continued: “When we cross the threshold of a GAA club or dressing room, the only thing that should matter for the time that we are there is the colour of the jersey that we pull over our heads.

 

“It’s those colours and the crest which the jersey bears that should be the only distinction between everyone involved on a given day.

 

“Race, gender, creed or absence thereof, gender preference, profession or political persuasion are all issues from our personal lives that bear no relevance to the playing of our games,” he added.

 

The GAA president also acknowledged that despite all of its efforts to promote inclusion, several challenges still face the organisation.

 

“The GAA in many ways mirrors the society we inhabit. It reflects the societal changes that Ireland has experienced since its inception in 1884 and its roots and traditional outlook have adapted and moved to ensure we remain relevant in the modern Irish society.”

 

Urging Irish people who may be concerned about the modern aspirations of the organisation not to see it as “a dilution of the values” cherished since the establishment of the GAA in 1884,

 

Horan said: “But to remain static and unchanged would threaten drift, and a gap between us and those we strive to attract to the games.

 

“When you gather at Croke Park or any of our venues around the country in the coming weeks and months, savour the fact that segregation is not a feature of our games.

 

“Savour it, but never take it for granted.”

 

Some of the positive changes which the GAA have embraced in the recent times include the new GAA manifesto at Colmcille’s GAA Club in Co Meath, which was based on a message of belonging.

 

Horan also highlighted the recent growth of the GAA international network to 450 clubs across the world, describing it as a 100 per cent increase in the last 10 years.

 

“As many as 60 per cent of the teams who will play in this year’s GAA World Games in Waterford and Croke Park will be made up of non-Irish players, many of whom have never been to Ireland before and most of whom had no knowledge of the games a few short years ago,” he said.

 

The GAA president also announced plans for appointment of a new diversity and inclusion officer, as well as work to promote the LGBT+ community within the games.

 

Horan called on the public to “help our efforts in the months and years ahead in strengthening the appeal and reach of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael”.

TAGS : GAA inclusive community
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