Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Brolly own goal over Robinson's GAA speech

Given the background of sectarian strife and the general lack of goodwill in Northern Ireland politics recently, Thursday night's speech about the GAA by the First Minister Peter Robinson was significant. It was a well-balanced address which reached out to the GAA community by praising the organisation for its contribution to peace-building in Northern Ireland.

As Mr Robinson noted, his attendance at such a function would have been "unimaginable" a few years ago. His presence and his words were a reminder of how far this province has travelled in such a relatively short time, despite this year's setbacks.

Mr Robinson predicted that the work of the GAA would continue to "play a significant role... in building a better and brighter future". He also said that he wanted his own party to reach out further to the nationalist and republican community,but admitted that such ideas are not popular with some unionists. Jim Allister has criticised his actions and Gregory Campbell has reminded the GAA that more needs to be done.

Mr Robinson was right to praise the GAA, and in doing so he will have the support of the majority of people who want to make Northern Ireland a better place for everyone.

Unfortunately the constructive tone of his remarks has been overshadowed by the rash intervention of commentator Joe Brolly who claims that it is "nobody's business" if GAA clubs or tournaments are named after deceased paramilitaries.

Such remarks do not help community relations and, sadly, in trying to praise Mr Robinson for his initiative, Mr Brolly has ended up by scoring a spectacular own goal. Peter Robinson's remarks have shown some of the best and the worst aspects of our current political debate, but nothing can detract from the fact that the First Minister was doing what he considers is right.

Without being churlish, however, Mr Robinson has made fine speeches before, but in the end, like any other politician, he will be judged on his deeds as much as on his words.

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