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Ulster GAA chiefs hear radical ideas at conference

The Ulster GAA Council did not quite anticipate that its theme for Saturday’s hugely successful Club Conference in the Armagh City Hotel — ‘Enhancing the GAA Community in Challenging Times’ — would evoke such a sharp reaction from the two keynote speakers.

When incoming President Liam O’Neill hinted that important initiatives may be implemented and that Congress may be due an overhaul, it certainly created a palpable stir among the 500 delegates.

And when the Laois native went on to reveal that he will be crusading to have an annual Youth Congress established, he was moving fearlessly into ground-breaking territory.

Not to be outdone, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Dr Norman Hamilton boldly flung down the gauntlet to the GAA challenging it to broaden the base of its integration strategy.

And his suggestion that the Irish language should be “de-politicised” clearly struck a chord with delegates particularly when he added that this could ultimately lead to the language gaining even greater status as an expression of cultural heritage.

Dr Hamilton outlined the number of significant anniversaries which are on the horizon over the course of the next decade — the sinking of the Titanic and the the signing of the 1916 proclamation to name but two — and urged that these should be celebrated against a backdrop of shared understanding.

And he stressed that while robust efforts are being made to re-define good citizenship just now, the GAA can play a role in this.

“It is important that we have a structured forum from which this can be achieved and I believe that recent progress can be built upon,” added Dr Hamilton.

Belfast Telegraph

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