Belfast Telegraph

GAA and unionists: MP Elliott hits back at pundit's jibe

By Cate McCurry

Controversial GAA pundit Joe Brolly has revealed how he faced down an ex-IRA man who branded him a traitor for backing a game between his club and the PSNI.

But he has come under fire from Tom Elliott after he claimed that nothing the GAA did would satisfy the Ulster Unionist MP.

Brolly's club St Brigid's in Belfast became the first to play the police in 2006. The RTE pundit revealed graffiti appeared in the city saying: 'Shame On You Joe'.

And, hours later, as the barrister was working in the High Court, a man shouted: "Brolly, you traitor." He approached the man, an ex-IRA member, and asked him to repeat himself.

The brief exchange ended when Brolly said: "I thought it was OK to play an oul' football match against them after you handed over your guns."

In his Sunday Independent column, the former Derry star criticised comments by Armagh hero Jarlath Burns that he would get rid of the tricolour at games if it helped attract unionists.

Burns described the Irish national anthem and tricolour as "divisive" and said he would support giving them up at games.

"If I thought for a moment that Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott would become our greatest fan, I would get rid of them, surely," Burns said.

But Brolly insisted the GAA didn't need to "apologise to anyone".

He added: "The reality is that no appeasement would satisfy the Tom Elliotts of this world."

However, last night the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP said he was disappointed by the comments, adding that he hoped it did not "reflect the wider view of the GAA".

Mr Elliott added: "I believe Mr Brolly is attempting to detract from the progressive attitude of Mr Burns and to attempt to turn the debate by suggesting that I was a problem to such progress.

"If Mr Brolly's attitude reflects that of the GAA as opposed to Mr Burns' position, then the organisation is really in reverse mode as opposed to a positive, forward-thinking group.

"Obviously, while Mr Burns said that such actions to remove some of the overtly political activities of the GAA would be acceptable to him, they would not be acceptable to the GAA, which I assume is firmly where Mr Brolly stands - not an inch to make the GAA a little more acceptable to the wider community.

"Unfortunately, it is actions such as this that has kept the organisation at a significant distance from many within Northern Ireland's society."

Mr Elliott invited Mr Brolly to take part in discussions surrounding the matter.

But he added that he "may be too entrenched with the current political side of the GAA to move to a more moderate accommodation of the organisation".

The Belfast Telegraph contacted Mr Brolly last night but he declined to comment any further on the issue.

Belfast Telegraph


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