Belfast Telegraph

Gilmore sidesteps GAA club name row

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore has said the naming of gaelic clubs after dead republican paramilitaries is a matter for the GAA.

Amid fallout over Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson commending the association's peace building efforts, Mr Gilmore said the focus should be not be on the past but the work needed to help forge better community relations in Northern Ireland.

"I think these are issues that the GAA decide. What we have to work at here is how we build bridges, how we move beyond the difficulties of the past," the Tanaiste said.

Mr Gilmore, at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, praised Mr Robinson's speech last night to a Co-Operation Ireland event in Belfast.

He said it was timely, significant and courageous.

Earlier, leading GAA pundit Joe Brolly suggested it is nobody else's business if GAA clubs are named after dead republican paramilitaries.

In the wake of Mr Robinson's address, some unionists insisted the association still had much to do to improve relationships with their community, highlighting the specific issue of the naming of clubs and competitions after IRA and INLA members.

But former all-Ireland winner Mr Brolly, whose hometown club in Dungiven, Co Derry, is named after republican hunger striker Kevin Lynch, said the name issue was a "sideshow".

"It's nobody else's business - it's as simple as that," he said of the Dungiven club's name.

"People can either like it or lump it."

He told BBC Radio Ulster: "That's the way societies and communities work. Kevin played hurling for Dungiven and for Derry, and the hurling club was named for that reason. We're very proud of him."

Mr Robinson's Democratic Unionist colleague G regory Campbell said the GAA still has work to do.

"The comments from Joe Brolly that its 'no-one else's business' if GAA clubs are named after republican terrorists, and that he is proud that the Dungiven Club is named after Kevin Lynch, a convicted terrorist simply demonstrate what we have been pointing out," he said.

Mr Campbell suggested some GAA members would be horrified by Mr Brolly's remarks.

The chamber dinner was also attended by Dr Leah Totton, Derry native and the most recent winner of the UK edition of The Apprentice.

The Tanaiste's visit includes a series of engagements tomorrow with local politicians and with civil society groups and talks on the security situation in Northern Ireland with Minister for Justice David Ford and a meet with the PSNI.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister had been one of those who had raised the issue of club and trophy names following Mr Robinson's speech.

Mr Allister criticised Mr Brolly's stance.

"The remarks by Joe Brolly underscore just how foolish Peter Robinson was in attending last night's event and praising the GAA for supposedly reaching out across the divide," he said.

Later, the Tanaiste again praised the DUP leader's attendance at the GAA dinner the night before.

"Peter Robinson's presence at this event and the words he spoke were courageous, significant and very welcome," Mr Gilmore said.

"He spoke of reaching out beyond one's own community, of building understanding, of demonstrating respect.

"I welcome the steps that he and Martin McGuinness have taken over recent weeks, which reflect the values and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. I hope and trust that this will be reflected in the Haass talks process by all of the parties in the Executive."

The Tanaiste also praised the steps Derry has made, in particular over the last year as UK City of Culture.

"This city knows what it is to reach out," he said.

"The efforts you have made towards reconciliation and a shared approach to tackling difficult issues are also a central element in this city's reputation. The unity of purpose group, for example, has done outstanding collective work.

"On parades, on politics, on pride in your city, on so much you show the way. These efforts are noticed. They are respected. They can be a blueprint for other communities."

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