Belfast Telegraph

Gaelic games: Protestant support for GAA in schools grows

By Liam Clarke

Growing numbers of Protestants support GAA sports being offered as an option at state schools in Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Telegraph poll revealed that a total of 42% of people of all religions thought that sports such as Gaelic football and hurling should be offered with just 23% opposed. Support was highest among 25-44 year-olds.

Breaking the results down on religious grounds and excluding “don’t knows”, support was 44% amongst Protestants, who would mainly have attended state schools, and 85% amongst Catholics.

Some 81% of people of “other or no religion” also supported the idea.

Including “don’t knows”, just over a third (34%) of Protestants were opposed to GAA at state schools, 27% were in favour and 39% had no opinion.

This reflects softening of Protestant and unionist feeling towards the GAA since it lifted a ban on members of the Crown forces participating in its teams.

In January DUP leader Peter Robinson attended the Dr McKenna Cup final in his capacity as First Minister. The GAA also invited the Queen to its Croke Park HQ on her visit to the Republic.

Gaelic games are offered in a number of state, or controlled sector, schools including Limavady Grammar, Portora Royal in Enniskillen, Ashfield Boys' School in Belfast and Dungannon Royal.

This development has been paralleled by increased participation in rugby in Catholic schools here.

Aogan O Fearghail, the Ulster GAA President confirmed: “Ulster GAA is actively promoting Gaelic games to people from non-GAA backgrounds.

“Through these programmes Ulster GAA encourages young people from non-traditional GAA backgrounds to participate in our games, while also raising awareness of the association, helping to build good relations and using sport to break down barriers.”

For full statistics analysis visit Lucid talk

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