Belfast Telegraph

GAA could scrap Irish flag and national anthem at games if agreement is found, says president Aogan O'Fearghail

The GAA president has revealed that the association may review its use of the Irish national anthem and the flying of the Tricolour at matches as a response to the changing political landscape.

Aogan O'Fearghail also stated that he remains more than optimistic that the latest plans to build a new Casement Park should come to fruition.

The GAA is currently showing off the sport to the world in an All-Stars Tours, currently in Dubai.

Former primary school principal Mr O'Fearghail agreed that given the more cosmopolitan make-up of playing members, it might be time to re-consider the use of the anthem and flag.

"It would be time to look at it in our own island too," he said.

"In terms of an agreed Ireland which everyone in the GAA and everyone in Ireland looks at.

"You certainly can't look at these issues in advance agreement, that's for sure.

"The flag and anthem means a lot to the GAA and will continue to do so.

"But who knows in the future.

"In the future if there are agreements in place for the whole island, of course the GAA would be inclusive in that."

Pressed on what agreements he was referring to, he continued: "There could be further agreements politically at home. It is a changing world at home.

"Brexit is going to affect the GAA, the same as it is going to affect everything else. It does cause concerns. There might well be, politically, re-alignments on the island of Ireland. And if there are that, the GAA, just as they did before when Sean McCague was president, they welcomed the Anglo-Irish agreement.

"Every successive president has done that, I do that. But in the future if there are new agreements and arrangements, we would be open-minded about things like flags and anthems, but not in advance of the agreements."

In comparison, the all-Ireland rugby team plays the Irish national anthem and Ireland's Call before home matches and only the second at home games.

The Republic's football team plays the Irish national anthem.

Mr O'Fearghail was addressing the popularity of Gaelic games in the Middle East, saying that there were something in the region of 4,000 Irish teachers spread across the region and that the sports have now been included in the teaching curriculum.

As for developments around Casement Park, not only are the GAA at national level and provincial level keen that everything is signed off and approved for work to commence, but a re-built stadium is being included as a venue for Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

Planning permission was overturned in 2014 for a 40,000 all-seater stadium, but a modified design with a capacity of 34,500 with limited standing room has been met with objections from a local residents group.

The Andersonstown Regeneration Committee has welcomed the new design and acknowledged the widespread public consultation process that the Ulster Council conducted.

However, Mr O'Fearghail said that the objections came as no surprise to him.

"I'd be absolutely amazed if we proposed something in the GAA and there was no objection or no surprise," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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