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We'll all benefit by continuing to reach out to Unionists

By Declan Bogue

Published 23/08/2016

Casement Park
Casement Park

Retiring Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy believes the subject of Unionist outreach is a process that will continue in his absence.

As an example of the willingness to extend a welcome to people from non-GAA backgrounds, Murphy pointed to an interview he gave to the Belfast Telegraph in 2004, when the notion of a multi-sports stadium was a possibility.

In that piece he stated: "The concept of a multi-sports stadium, subject to certain conditions since it was first mooted in the early '90s, is that the government is committed to fair and equal treatment in sport, and that sport working together can contribute to a better future, built on tolerance and mutual respect."

He says now: "I made comment on this, I was asked a question about reaching out. And I said, in reality, you have to reach out.

"The fact of the matter is that we believe sport has a part to play in building better communities. We work very closely with the Irish Football Association and with the Ulster Branch of the IRFU.

"We have to say, cross-fertilisation has taken place. We can point to a number of projects and initiatives. As far as sport is concerned, sport will be the beneficiary but so will the communities and so will society."

At present, there is still a feeling among Unionists that the playing of the Irish national anthem, along with the names of clubs and incidents surrounding certain sides, preserves a barrier against them entering the GAA.

While Murphy maintains that the position on club names will not be altered, he does not believe it is an insurmountable problem and he uses the examples of former DCAL Minister Edwin Poots attending a game in Newry and warm working relationships with the NI Executive.

He said: "If you reach out the hand of friendship, and it is not taken after a while, then you have to have a different course of action. In general terms, our dealings with the political process and public bodies and people who have total antagonism towards us… We have found that when the hand of friendship was reached out to them, that it has worked out pretty well.

"Ultimately, if you find people are reacting unfavourably to it… Positive things always happen when people take the hand of friendship.

"If they don't, well then they are going to have to find other ways. We live in a small country, we live side by side with people who have varying opinions.

"The bottom line is that we need everybody to work together. A bit like my club motto, which is 'we go forward together'."

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