Peter Robinson’s attendance at a Co-Operation Ireland dinner to acknowledge the efforts of the GAA to create better community relations last Thursday was odd.
I say that because in June DUP MEP Diane Dodds described the award of the EU’s European Citizens’ Prize to the GAA as “premature” because “many in Northern Ireland see the GAA as a political organisation as much as a sporting one.”
What changed between June and October is not for me to explain. What is clear is that the attitude of the GAA to the glorification of terror did not.
If anyone doubted that, up popped GAA TV commenter Joe Brolly to tell us he was “proud” that his home club in Dungiven was named after convicted terrorist and INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch.
He went further, telling us that “it’s nobody else’s business” what clubs are called and “people can either like it or lump it”
Later in the same interview he added “the GAA is working furiously at cross-community relations”.
I have three basic issues with what Joe Brolly said. Firstly, thanks to a question tabled by Jim Allister we know that in 2009 Kevin Lynch Hurling Club received £245,000 of public money.
That being the case, the name of the club is very much a matter on which every taxpayer in Northern Ireland has a right to comment.
Secondly, among the offences of which Kevin Lynch was convicted was the kneecapping of a man from the Dungiven area (see David Beresford’s Ten Men Dead page 229).
What sort of sport names its clubs after someone who engaged in an activity which can deny people the ability to ever walk again, never mind play GAA or any other sport?
Thirdly, if, as Brolly claims, the GAA is “working furiously at cross-community relations” they are obliged to take the feelings and comments of the Unionist community into consideration.
You cannot claim to be reaching out to people and at one and the same time tell those people that they don’t have a right to comment on aspects of your organisation with which they feel uncomfortable.
And one final point – where were Peter Robinson’s new friends in the GAA who rushed to say Mr Brolly was wrong?
For decades, we've looked for leadership in Northern Ireland. It seems to me we have found it. I am not one of those – if any exist – who wandered blithely into the nostrums of the peace process. I doubt, in fact, if there is a single person in Northern Ireland who didn't, hadn't, hasn't and does not still have grave, hurting reservations about the whole thing.