Fionnuala Carr

Fionnuala Carr – Misjudging the complexity of Ulster

Singing the anthem is an important part of GAA culture in Ulster

Singing the anthem is an important part of GAA culture in Ulster

Sometimes I wonder if people say things because they believe it’s the right thing to say or because they believe it’s actually the right thing.

Last week the President of the GAA Aoghan O’Fearghail made public that he would be open to the idea of removing the national anthem and the national flag from being played before games.

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There is no feeling like the spline-tingling feeling of singing the national anthem on championship days or especially the All Ireland Final day.

I am all for inclusiveness – I have been playing female sport for a long time and understand how it feels to sometimes sit on the outside looking in.

Donal Og Cusack tweeted that he would welcome the change if it meant more kids in a loyalist part of Belfast picked up a hurl.

If Donal Og understood the politics in Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular, then he would soon realise that changing a flag or anthem will not help more people play hurling, Gaelic football or Camogie.

The GAA is an Irish tradition, hurling and camogie in particular have a Celtic warrior status.

This is on the back of his comment last year that he would like to see a combined Ulster hurling team play in the Liam MacCarthy cup – why?

Is it not better to put the foundations in place so that in the future all counties are competing or even that Ulster is competitive as a provincial competition?

A number of years ago Jarlath Burns was in favour of removing the national anthem in order to get more unionists to come to watch out games.

If people want to watch the games they will, they don’t have to stand for the national anthem or if they want to show respect to someone’s culture and identity they can stand but not sing.

The GAA is who we are. We are one of the most open-minded and welcoming sports associations in Ireland but we are who we are and we should be proud of that.

When I was in my first year of university there places or streets in Belfast that we wouldn’t have walked down if we were wearing a pair of O’Neill’s tracksuit bottoms or carrying a hurl.

I don’t think that Donal Og or in fact many southern people fully understand the complexities of playing GAA in the North.

To me the comments made by Aoghan where made for commercial reasons more than anything, promoting the GAA in places like Abu Dhabi, Asia or Australia seems to be more important than promoting it in Ireland or Ulster in particular.

I would love to see more people in the North of Ireland play any of the four codes. I don’t care about religion or race but I don’t want to lose the identity of our culture or tradition to do so.

The GAA has no divide, it has no border and for people in Ulster it makes us feel “Irish” in the same way as our southern counterparts.

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