Belfast Telegraph

GAA clubs free to name grounds after IRA and INLA, insists Ulster chief

By Allan Preston

The chief executive of Ulster GAA has said it remains the right of clubs to name their grounds and competitions after IRA and INLA members.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster yesterday, Brian McAvoy praised DUP leader Arlene Foster for the "significant and symbolic" gesture of attending the Ulster final between Fermanagh and Donegal in Clones.

He said the sporting and cultural organisation had a responsibility to help towards building bridges in Northern Ireland and that the GAA had always been anti-sectarian, anti-violence and anti-racist.

Asked how naming GAA clubs, grounds and competitions after IRA and INLA members was compatible with being anti-violent, Mr McAvoy said the individuals had often played for the club and been viewed by members as "one of their own".

"A lot of the grounds would be historic in terms of people who were identified with issues in the last century," he said. "During the campaigns of 1916 and that. I do accept that in more recent times a small number of grounds are named after individuals but you've got to remember these were GAA club members.

"The clubs that made that decision, they would see them as one of their own.

"You've got to remember that some of them date from the 1981 hunger strike which was a very emotive time for everyone."

One such example is Dungiven's hurling team, which was controversially renamed after INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch. Mr McAvoy continued: "Tensions were running high on all sides.

"So I can understand how unionists feel but you have to look at the broader picture.

"The GAA is always a very rounded organisation, some clubs have taken the decision (but) like any other organisation, your first port of call is to your own membership."

He also stated that the GAA had always been both a sporting and a cultural organisation.

"It was founded back in 1884 at a time, and I don't think we need a history lesson, when a range of other organisations such as the Gaelic league, the land league - which were nationalist organisations - were coming together as part of a wider campaign to try to get Home Rule to Ireland.

"So its history is embedded in a wider political context, it is never stated that it's only a sporting organisation.

"From day one it has been a sporting and cultural organisation, that is the way it was in 1884 and that is the way it is today."

Belfast Telegraph

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