Belfast Telegraph

'Naming of GAA clubs and grounds after controversial republicans is not a new phenomenon'

By Jeff Dudgeon

This weekend in Tralee there will be a big conference on Roger Casement, close to where he landed off a German submarine in 1916. The event is organised by the American University of Notre Dame.

Casement was accompanying an arms shipment for the Easter Rising, this being the second cargo of guns he had shipped into Ireland. The first was in 1914 at Howth.

As a Casement biographer and the only publisher of all his Black Diaries, my talk is on the peculiar fact that Casement is celebrated in Ireland despite coming from Berlin to thwart and postpone the Easter Rising, while British intelligence knowing of the arms shipment and the Rising failed to take adequate measures to frustrate both.

Some in London foolishly thought it better to let the Rising proceed and the ‘festering sore’ be cut out, so Dublin Castle was not told of the deciphered German messages. One of those key players was Major Frank Hall of Narrow Water Castle in Warrenpoint who was ‘Q’ in MI5.

Significantly none of the Tralee conference talks addresses Northern Ireland or Casement’s signal failure – the creation of a united Ireland. A century of partition was the result of his efforts, not least because he lacked empathy for those very Ulster Protestants he claimed to belong to.

He had in fact been brought up in England, only coming to a boarding school in Ballymena as a teenager.

Exactly a century ago he organised a famous meeting in Ballymoney for Protestant Home Rulers on the ‘Lawlessness of Carson’. His separatism and Anglophobia however left most cold and there were no further meetings.

The Dublin government which is internationally proud of Casement’s human rights investigations and achievements - when a British diplomat in Peru and the Congo, ironically plays down his successful role in Irish revolution and his hanging.

The renaming of a Dungiven hurling team after Kevin Lynch, an INLA hunger striker, has been one example of GAA clubs and grounds being named after terrorists and the source of much dismay within those sections of Unionism which want to foster and develop better relations with the GAA fraternity.

Recent comments by GAA pundit Joe Brolly, who stated that people "could like it or lump it" - naming a ground after terrorists was "nobody else’s business". The fact that the premier Gaelic ground in Ulster is called Casement Park is an example of how this is not a new phenomenon.

If we are to build a truly shared future then we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Unless the GAA recognise the hurt caused by the naming of competitions, grounds and clubs after terrorists, that shared future will still remain tantalisingly out of reach.


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