Belfast Telegraph

GAA could ditch anthem and flag, but only when time is right, says Mickey Harte

By Jill Goligher

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has said the GAA could put a stop to playing the Irish national anthem and the flying of the tricolour at matches - but only when the time is right.

The All-Ireland winning manager gave a wide-ranging interview on Radio Ulster's Talkback show yesterday about his personal life, as well as his role as manager of the Red Hands.

Harte was asked to respond to a recent interview with Aogan O Fearghail in which the GAA president talked about potential changes in the use of Irish national symbols in the sport.

Speaking on RTE's Saturday Sport radio show, O'Fearghail had said that while reforms were unlikely at present, they could come in the future as part of an "agreed Ireland".

Yesterday, Harte said the GAA had changed before - the sport's ruling body now allows members of the security forces in Northern Ireland to participate, and has built bridges with other sports over the use of facilities.

"There was a time in the Seventies when you weren't allowed to play, in inverted commas, foreign games and play in the GAA, so that changed," Harte said. "When enough people are that way of thinking, it will change. We don't want to change things to make a special clone, let people be who they are."

He added: "Sport brings people together, everyone comes together and shares our difficulties, people who enthuse about sport come together and appreciate each other in every way.

"Gaelic has gained a more professional approach, more structured and detailed. In terms of the cultural role it plays, let time take care of it."

Former Ulster and Ireland rugby star Trevor Ringland, who set up the cross-community group One Small Step, said: "It would be a matter for them to discuss.

"Sport builds relationships so in relation to their flag and its symbols, it's not about getting rid of the symbols, but what they represent.

"Just like Mickey, we all want better relations by valuing both the North and the South of Ireland."

Ringland added that if the GAA did have to play a national anthem, it should be inclusive.

"The key matter is to make everything inclusive so no one feels offended or left out," he said. "Don't progress things that will alienate others."

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