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Some GAA leaders’ understanding of racism June 25, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Gaelic Football, racism.
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Last week, the national media reported that two wexford club players have been suspended for eight weeks because they made racist remarks about another player, Lee Chin, during a club game (reports in the Examiner here and here, Independent here, Times here, and RTÉ here). They were suspended by the Central Competitions Control Committee in Wexford GAA.

The following day, the Examiner reported (here) that the president of the GAA, Liam O’Neill, said “This has been dealt with in an exemplary fashion”.

Not enough information has been published about the details of the incident to enable us to judge if the eight-week suspension is strong enough. However, the Irish Times points out that the suspension is the minumum possible when a player has been found guilty of discrediting the GAA.

Worse, though, are the widely reported remarks of the Wexford GAA chairman, Diarmuid Devereux. It was fine when he said: “Any form of racism in the GAA cannot be tolerated. It is terrible that Lee was subjected to these comments on a GAA pitch and the players involved should be ashamed of their behaviour.

But he displayed poor understanding of racism when he pointed out five facts about the vicitm of the racism: “Lee Chin is a Wexford man, born in Wexford, educated in Wexford, living and working in Wexford.

Suppose instead for a moment that none of this were true[1]. Imagine that instead Lee Chin had been born in Australia or China, that he is a Chinese citizen, was educated in Australia, and was not working or studying in Ireland. (That last one point is a stretch if he’s playing GAA football, but not impossible. People have been left in the asylum process for years without a right to work, or, if over 18, a right to education.) If that alternative were the case, would that make it OK for opponents to make racist remarks about him in a club game?

The reason the remarks during the game were wrong was that they were racist, not because he is a Wexford man. But by bringing up that part of Lee Chin’s background in a context where another part of it — his ethnic background — is the motivation for the wrong done to him, the GAA county chairman has not simply confused the matter, but lent credence to the idea that nationality or ethnic background are relevant in attacking racism. The irony is that this is precisely the same problem that is the source of racism: the use of nationality or ethnic background when it is not relevant.

I agree with Devereux’s conclusion: “The hope I have is that through education and promotion of ethnic policy, we will rid Gaelic games of such abuse.” The hope I have is that he undergoes some of that education. And Liam O’Neillmight benefit from some too.

____________
[1] If none of the other facts were true, I suspect a player would would probably have to be living in Wexford to be allowed to play for a club there, meaning one of the five facts would have to be true, but that does not undermine my criticism of the serious flaw in Diarmuid Devereux’s thinking.

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Comments»

1. Bartley - June 25, 2012

Youre twisting the chairmans words by omitting the context of his remarks on Chins Wexford roots.

The ommitted portion is as follows:

He is one of our stars of the future. Hopefully many more will follow his lead and example.

A fair-minded interpretation of the entire train-of-thought would be that Chins success as Wexford man of foreign parentage would inspire more people of non-Irish ethnicity to join the association.

As opposed to your rather ungenerous interpretation that he was somehow suggesting that racist abuse is only wrong if the target fullfils all those critera of rooted-ness.

The chairman continued:

The chances are that in the next 10 or 20 years, we will see the children of former non nationals representing more and more counties

Now before you jump to condem his prediction that it will take 10 or 20 years and/or his references to children of migrants as opposed to the migrants themselves, that is the simple reality of elite team sports in any country – it is well-nigh impossible to take up such sports in adulthood and still excel. This is also true of soccer & rugby, success at an elite level is almost always predicated on participation & coaching from early childhood, certainly no later than age 10.

Theres quite enough racism at work in this country, without imagining racist under-currents in the laudable strides being made by the GAA to assimilate migrants. In fact its entirely counter-productive to nit-pick the obviously genuine efforts being made in that regard.

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Bartley - June 25, 2012

Just for reference, the complete form of the county chairmans comments are reported here:

http://www.eveningecho.ie/2012/06/20/racism-incident-in-wexford-condemned/

\”Lee Chin is a Wexford man, born in Wexford, educated in Wexford, living and working in Wexford. He is one of our stars of the future. Hopefully many more will follow his lead and example.

\”Any form of racism in the GAA cannot be tolerated. It is terrible that Lee was subjected to these comments on a GAA pitch and the players involved should be ashamed of their behaviour.

\”The hope I have is that through education and promotion of ethnic policy, we will rid Gaelic games of such abuse. The chances are that in the next 10 or 20 years, we will see the children of former non nationals representing more and more counties.\”

Compare to Tomboktus selective treatment above and note the inversion of order to create the impression that the chairman is limiting his comdemnation of racism with a reference to Chins Wexford-ness.

Whereas in fact the precise opposite is the case: he qualifies his reference to Chins rooted-ness with a highly generalized condemnation of racism (Any form of racism …)

Also note the excision of crucial context, referred to earlier. Has WbS imposed a word-count quota on contributors, or was there some other reason for the selective cutting?

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2. EamonnCork - June 25, 2012

It strikes me as somewhat perverse to deduce racism from comments condemning racism made by an official whose organisation have just punished members for racist behaviour.
It’s a bit of a stretch, to be honest, to imply that Diarmuid Devereux is saying it would be OK to racially abuse someone if they weren’t native born. Given the context in which he’s speaking he appears to be saying that someone is no less a Wexford man just because they happen to be of a different race or of foreign origin. That sentiment would strike me as a welcoming rather than a threatening one. As for the implication that the sentence is a light one, well it’s about twice what the FAI would give you in similar circumstances and I don’t believe they’re a racist organisation either.
I find myself in the strange position of agreeing with Bartley. It’ll pass I suppose.

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irishelectionliterature - June 25, 2012

Tend to side with Eamonn and Bartley on this one too.

Am involved in training underage hurling teams and a lot of the teams would be culturally diverse.
I’ve heard plenty of abuse being given be it from players or parents but I haven’t heard racist abuse. Which isn’t to say its not there.

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3. que - June 25, 2012

Theres a lot of supposition going on here. Think Eam and Bar are calling it right

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4. Jim Monaghan - June 25, 2012

I regard the GAA as the best sporting org. in Ireland. Its focus on sport for all and it non elitist attitude is very good. The money made by the GAA goes into an amateur sport. Like the rest of society it has to be aware of racism and act when it occurs.
If you want an cheap and excellent sports program this summer, go to the GAA.
I am glad that in the modern era the crawling to the clergy that was endemic is now nearly at an end.
Though one mystery of GAA sport intrigues me. What happened to handball. the country is littered with disused allies. They represented a huge investment at one time.You can see many at old Garda barracks.

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Mark P - June 26, 2012

Interesting question about handball, Jim. It seemed to die out very suddenly.

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WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2012

I met a guy who is a champion handballer a while back – been to the US with it. It’s still there alright, but much much less widespread and popular. Very odd the way it died out, admittedly.

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Dr. X - June 26, 2012

When I was in New Zealand I was watching the English-language service of Deutsche Welle. I was amazed when they broadcast a piece on road bowling in Cork, which is another thing I thought had died out completely.

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Blissett - June 26, 2012

Road bowling still quite strong I’d say, especially in those parts of the city fringes by the countryside (Togher, the Glen, Blackpool, Dublin). Dont think many outside Cork play it mind you

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Blissett - June 26, 2012

*Dublin Hill

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Mark P - June 26, 2012

My father was a handball enthusiast in his youth. Pretty serious about it. I don’t think he’s all that clear about what happened to the sport either.

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Joe - June 26, 2012

Handball hasn’t gone away you know. But certainly it has changed a lot. Heard a radio programme a while back about someone who was doing a map of all the old, mostly now disused, alleys that used to be in every town and many villages. And a social history of those alleys. And what they are now. But it’s still there for sure. They play handball (men and women, boys and girls – though mostly male) in my local GAA club in Dublin still. A lot of the best hurlers and camogie players play handball, very similar hand eye co-ordination requirements for both sports.

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Joe - June 26, 2012

The road bowling is in Armagh too.

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Mark P - June 26, 2012

I know that it hasn’t entirely gone, Joe. But it used to be a big part of the GAA and, as you say, there were alleys in every town and in many villages. Now, it’s a very small scale thing. I wonder was it a casualty of a more intense focus on the (already dominant) football? Or if there was some demographic or cultural change beyond the control of the GAA?

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Blissett - June 26, 2012

Has the advent of indoor courts also made it less visible? There’s one in my club I know, but it has probably declined all the same. Hard to know why

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CL - June 26, 2012

Long Bullets: A History of Road Bowling in Ireland
Fintan Lane (Author)

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CL - June 26, 2012

Fintan Lane’s excellent book “Long Bullets: A History of Road Bowling in Ireland” traces the sport back to the 17th century, and he reckons it was also played in Scotland, the north of England and North America until the 19th century.

http://irishherault.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/irish-road-bowling/

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5. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - June 25, 2012

I think the above consensus is correct. Anyone who has argued with family, friends, workmates or socially will find that a rhetorical anti-racist argument often doesn’t much ice. Who hasn’t fallen back on ‘well do you think Jimmy doesn’t work hard?’ ‘would you send Mary and her kids back then?’ ‘would you boo a black player who played for your lot?’ ‘how do you think the Irish were regarded in Britain, America…etc etc’
These are not perfect arguments but the world, and the question of race isn’t a perfect place. The GAA seem to have done more than most with kids of different backgrounds and the Wexford point is relevant- how do we know Chin wasn’t told ‘to go back where he came from'; well he comes from down the road. That honestly cuts more ice in GAA circles then the declaration of the rights of man.
If anti-racism becomes a matter of enforcement then half the battle is lost I think.

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6. CMK - June 26, 2012

At the risk of being contrarian for its own sake I have to say that I dissent from many of the comments above regarding the GAA. I think that Tombuktu has hit on something about the GAA even if he/she has missed in this particular instance, where the association would appear to have conducted itself pretty well.

For all its estimable qualities, the GAA remains the last element standing of the old Troika which ruled this country since independence, given that the authority and credibility of both FF and the Catholic Church have imploded for the time being. What I find difficult about it is that it still nurtures a dreadful parochialism “the parish this, the parish that; the county this, the county that” which, I firmly believe, has odious political consequences.

There are several dimensions to this.

Firstly, the GAA has proved a launching ground and basis for dozens of political careers for individuals who, being kind, don’t have a lot going for them. I’m living in a constituency where two of the local TD’s (out of four) base their political appeal on their playing and/or managing careers with the GAA. Neither of these guys has anything to say for himself and both have notched up completely anonymous lobby fodder careers in the Dáil. Yet, they keep getting elected and the first line in their election literatures always has some reference to their GAA affiliations and achievements. Both are government TDs. My point is that in many areas of the country a committed hard working representative with nous, good ideas, principles etc but without any background in the GAA will always be trumped by an empty suit who spent his twenties playing at county level, and its always a ‘he’. The two main right wing parties are past masters at exploiting that fact.

Secondly, and related to the first point, the GAA provides, in my opinion, the skeleton for Irish conservatism and as long as the GAA remains influential Irish political conservatism will endure. The GAA may have moved with the times and become more open to and welcoming of previously despised groups, it remains an inherently politically conservative institution. While outright racism, homophobia etc might be frowned upon and subject to the association’s codes of discipline, I’d say it would be safe to assume that an inter-county star or manager who, for the sake of argument, announced their support for or candidature for a ULA consitutent party/organisation, or who called for a revolution or issued other radical statements, would find things getting a little and probably a lot more ‘difficult’. The GAA relies upon its links to the main conservative parties and cultivates those links and, as part of the quid pro quo, it plays an important role in keeping politics within ‘acceptable’ bounds. It’s often said that Irish voters are inherently conservative and that Irish party politics is merely a reflection of that; my belief, though, is that Irish political conservatism is some that requires constant work in the media and in the institutions of civil and sporting society and the GAA plays a key role in that process.

Finally, there is the degree to which the GAA is male dominated and where, once it gets to the high profile games and competitions, women’s sports are sidelined. I think that subtly underscores that the GAA is primarily for men and, as a concession, it provides some outlets for women. I can never understand why the senior All-Ireland Finals for Hurling and Camogie can’t be held on the same day and why we have a full Croke Park for the mens competition and almost empty one for the women’s final. I know that’s largely true of all sports but it would be a significant development if at the very least the mens and womens senior finals could take place on the same day and share the same crowds and media exposure.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 26, 2012

+1.

One caveat is that having moved from Dublin to a traditional and conservative rural area a decade ago I do now hold a less aggressively negative view of the GAA than I used to. Possibly also because my youngest kid is now playing gaelic with the local under-10 team. Much the same as I had to temper my secularism when I accepted the limited choice of sending my kids to the local RC national school, when the other choices were a 10 mile drive to the nearest Educate Together school in Navan or a similar length drive to the equally-denominated CoI school in Kells, I’ve come to see what is good in these traditional pillars of society. And in the GAA’s case it is about sport and community and celebrating that outside of the commercial hegemony which dominates much of the rest of mainstream sport and culture. If anything it is an expression of the common good. Having said that, I agree 99% with CMKs views above, but with the 1% caveat that as pillars of traditionalism and gender discrimination go the GAA isn’t comparable to say the hijab or female circumcision. And maybe someday my 9 year old daughter might get herself elected to the Dáil as a WP candidate after an illustrious career playing gaelic for Meath…

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Bartley - June 26, 2012

Hmmm, feels like youre really reaching there, CMK.

Sure, the GAA is an inherently conservative organization, largely run by middle-aged men sporting comb-overs and Pioneer pins lodged right next to their gold Fáinne. But being gauche and supportive of the status quo certainly does not a racist make.

On the sexism point … at under-age level, their efforts to include girls are exemplary. Now I dont have any residual loyalty to the GAA, having grown up playing rugby – I only speak from recent experience of my own childrens involvement.

And honestly, I dont see much point in double-billing the camogie and hurling finals. The camogie would be played out in front of a largely uninterested and/or absent crowd, still streaming into Croker, finding their seats or grabbing a quick pint before the main event. I would imagine it far better for the development of the sport and the morale of the players involved for the camogie final to be played in front of a niche crowd thats fully engaged with proceedings.

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CMK - June 26, 2012

Possibly overreaching there, Bartley, but they’re my impressions. But I don’t think you’re really engaging with what I wrote. I don’t equate being politically conservative with being a racist and I acknowledged that the GAA is making enormous strides. Well, enormous from the perspective of where it was even 20 years ago.

At a personal level I’m on the Left politically because of the nefarious influence of the GAA that I witnessed growing up. I’ve known of people who excelled at ‘foreign sports’ have their potential de-railed by a combination of GAA influence and church influence, and I’m not talking about soccer. But the influence of the GAA in some communities was all-pervasive and while it would be a stretch to say it was oppressive it would not be a stretch to argue that if you fell foul of the GAA ‘crowd’ life could be more difficult than was necessary.

I think you more or less make my point regarding the role gender plays within the GAA with your last paragraph. ‘Serious [i.e. men's]‘ GAA would fill a stadium but ‘the ladies [delicate creature that they are, poor things]‘ and their little sports are just a niche interest. 80,000 people enthralled by 30 men kicking a ball about a field would be bored silly by watching 30 women doing the same. Notwithstanding LATC’s acknowledgement of the strides the GAA are making in girl’s participation, unless that sort of perception is challenged there will be a class ceiling for women’s participation which will be viewed as a distraction from the real purpose of the GAA, which is sports for men. Hardly the example of a rooted, community, grassroots organisation if 50% of the community are assigned less than full role within it. And scheduling the Hurling and Camogie finals for the same day would send out the right message, I think, that both codes are equal and equally valued.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 26, 2012

CMK, I agree totally with your assessement of the gender issues within the GAA. Out here it is the role of women to taxi their darlings to and from matches, to organise the tea and sandwiches etc. Progressive is not what the GAA is about. My comments above should not be read as an alopogy for the GAA by any means. What the GAA is is an embodiment of the prejudices of traditional catholic rural Ireland in the process of coping with (post)modernity in as much as the latter makes any headway in rural Ireland. I can’t comment on the GAA in an urban setting as I have no experience of that.

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irishelectionliterature - June 26, 2012

“The real purpose of the GAA, which is sports for men”
Wouldn’t agree.
Womens football is incredibly popular. Not just in playing numbers but in crowds.There will probably be more at the womens football final than there will be at say the next home soccer friendly.
I steward in Croke Park (on a voluntary basis) and the difference in the crowd between GAA, Rugby and Soccer is massive. There are far more women and families at GAA games than there are at International soccer and women at Irish rugby games are far and few between.
There is also a huge emphasis on participation, so every child no matter how good or bad they are get a game every week. Indeed the Cuman na mBunscol games are fantastic where kids of all ages and sexes get a chance to play in Croke Park. Be it at half time or some day during the week.
Yes the GAA has its faults, and I have some experience of part of them through the attempts to stop Rovers getting into Tallaght, but in the main it is an organisation that is beneficial to the communitys it is involved in.

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Mark P - June 26, 2012

I’m not sure that the Tallaght squabbling can particularly be blamed on the GAA. Shamrock Rovers wanted a free stadium somewhere with a large existing population catchment. The main pre-existing sports club in the area didn’t want the Council subsiding new rivals to their disadvantage. It was a case of rational self-interest on the part of both clubs.

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Michael Carley - June 26, 2012

Let’s see:

“Firstly, the GAA has proved a launching ground and basis for dozens of political careers for individuals who, being kind, don’t have a lot going for them.”

Most individuals with political careers don’t have much going for them, in that they don’t reach ministerial office. The GAA has been a launching pad for Jack Lynch, Dick Spring (shared with rugby, I suppose), Jimmy Deenihan (currently a minister, also played a bit of rugby) and probably a few others of some sort of distinction. Whatever your opinion of that selection, they at least had something going for them.

“Secondly, and related to the first point, the GAA provides, in my opinion, the skeleton for Irish conservatism and as long as the GAA remains influential Irish political conservatism will endure.”

I don’t know how you view Martin McGuinness, but I don’t think Peter Canavan has had any problems for having supported him. Joe Brolly seems to have taken on a particular kind of case in his role as a barrister. At least one member of the SP who has popped up here in the past played GAA in his youth, as did I (with no distinction whatsoever). Breandan O’Heithir, no conservative, wrote one of his best books on a life in and around the GAA:

http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/gut-him-in-the-friendly-in-a-fortnight/

As for the GAA being `male-dominated’, what sport isn’t? I would think, though, that the GAA is a lot less male-dominated than many other sporting organizations, and there are quite a few women who hold official positions at club level, where the real work is done.

Oddly enough, I came across this on the CLR:

http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2007/11/18/when-is-a-strike-not-a-strike/

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7. Bartley - June 26, 2012

CMK, I cant speak to GAAs nefarious influence in rural affairs, despite having grown up in the countryside, I only observed it from afar. Once the ban was lifted, the local club seemed to me a force for positive community development, donating their hall to a nascent gaelscoil at one point for example. But as I say, I have no direct experience either way.

But really, this is a little off …

Serious [i.e. men\'s] GAA would fill a stadium but ‘the ladies [delicate creature that they are, poor things]‘ and their little sports are just a niche interest. 80,000 people enthralled by 30 men kicking a ball about a field would be bored silly by watching 30 women doing the same

Men attract more attention in elite team sports, whether it be soccer, rugby or basketball. This derives from both tradition (which can change over time) and the inescapable facts of physiology (which cant). That said, womens sports can build up an audience, witness the WNBA for example.

However, this usually involves establishing a strongly separate identity. The NY Liberty and the Knicks both play at the Garden for example, but the Liberty stand up as a franchise in their own right and not as the warm-up act for the Knicks.

Also key to getting around the low-participation rates, is for elite womens teams to aggressively reach out to their core pool for supporters. Like it or not, this is likely to be heavily skewed to younger females already involved at under-age level. These are going to be the recreational players and consumers of tickets/merchandising in the future.

Co-billing the camogie final with the hurling would deny the several thousand interested girls the chance of attending and would, I think, be counter-productive to the long-term development of the sport.

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8. Gearóid - June 26, 2012

If I can’t enjoy championship hurling every summer then it’s not my revolution.

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CMK - June 26, 2012

Who’s saying anything about not enjoying championship hurling?

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smiffy - June 26, 2012

I think that’s an Emma Goldman reference.

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Shane - June 27, 2012

+1 I feel like putting this on a t-shirt.

On a side note, has any one come across or can any one point me to more information about Kerrys boycott of the 1935 all Ireland championship due to the issue of Political prisoners? Remember hearing it referenced by Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh in a radio commentary once.

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9. Joe - June 26, 2012

I think Máirtín Ó Cadhain had it right with his anecdote about attending an IRA meeting in Dublin on the weekend of an All Ireland final. Sean McBride, the Chief of Staff, couldn’t understand and was disgusted when everyone disappeared on the Sunday afternoon to go to the match. Ó Cadhain said that he knew then that that particular IRA leadership was going nowhere because it didn’t understand the Irish people. I think a bit along the same lines about some of the anti-GAA comments from some of the socialists on this thread. I’ll be back with more!

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CMK - June 26, 2012

Wait, so fidelity to the GAA is the sine qua non of Irish identity and without making a pre-emptive declaration of uncritical devotion to the GAA you can’t be taken seriously as an Irish socialist or even as a republican! Well, that’s me told!

From some of the responses here it’s clear Tombuktu has hit a nerve among GAA supporters at the CLR. I’m not a GAA hater and I can recognise its huge achievements in Irish communities. What I can’t stand, however, is equating hostility to the GAA or even a critical/skeptical stance towards it (my personal position) with an inability to understand the Irish mindset. Like it or not huge numbers of Irish people fall into the following categories: a) actively loath the GAA and all its works; b) are larglely indifferent to gaelic games or c) take a passing interest in gaelic games given that in many places its hard to ignore them.

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LeftAtTheCross - June 26, 2012

+1 again.

And there’s probably a d) as well which is the non-gaelic population of the island north and south.

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Michael Carley - June 26, 2012

The point is not being pro- or anti-GAA, but that McBride could not understand that people would disappear to see a game on a Sunday. You could be anti-GAA and still understand its importance in Ireland.

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CMK - June 26, 2012

I got that part about MacBride’s misunderstandng of the role of the GAA in Irish life. But that raises an interesting question about who defines what is or is not representative of Irish life? Just to make clear I’m not anti-GAA. However, it’s clear from some of the responses on this thread that any critical comment about the GAA is indistinguishable from hatred for it. That, in itself, just reminds me of why I don’t have a great deal of time for it; it’s that whole attitude that ‘we get to define who is and who isn’t “really” Irish based on their fidelity to the GAA’. One is less Irish if don’t spend your summers drapped in the county colours.

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Bartley - June 26, 2012

Sure, theres been a traditional desire in the GAA the monopolize the definition of Fíor Gael.

But I think thats been waning more recently as the organization learns to co-exist with different strands of Irishness, and compete with other sports on the basis of offering a unqiue experience to kids (as opposed to being the one & only uniquely-Irish experience).

Either way, the stronger reaction on the thread was to the unfair/unfounded accusations (latent racism, sexism etc.) rather than the more nuanced point about the GAAs suffocating influence in some areas.

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smiffy - June 26, 2012

To be fair to Tombukto, I his actual argument is being overstated, if not misrepresented, in some of the comments on here.

If you look at the original post, I think it’s quite a stretch to see it as an accusation of racism against the GAA. Rather, it’s about how racism is understood (or misunderstood), with the comments of Devereux given as an example of an inadequate response to a real problem. The clue to the subject of the post is in the title of the post itself. So let’s not accuse Tombukto of something he didn’t actually say (although he’s well able to defend himself).

Similarly, I think the criticism of the GAA on the thread has been relatively mild. It is, for better or worse, one of the three big institutions which dominated Irish community life in the 20th century (the others being FF and the Catholic Church). And, of the three, it’s the one that has both had the most mixed legacy (positive and negative) as well as the one that has survived into the current decade with its reputation broadly untarnished. But let’s not treat it with kid gloves either.

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Mark P - June 26, 2012

That sort of thing isn’t confined to Ireland or the GAA.

I once went to a city wide relaunch of the Anti-Nazi League in Glasgow… which had been scheduled at the same time as the Old Firm derby. In England, the Coalition of Resistance (prop. J. Rees) just had a national rally at the same time as an English European Championships match. And just ask a British SWP old-timer about the squabbles that would result whenever Marxism clashed with a World Cup.

On the broader point about hostility to the GAA on the left, for the most part I think that’s actually more common, or more intense at least, amongst Irish liberals, and particularly liberals of a certain age, than it is amongst socialists. And in so far as there is anti-GAA sentiment on the actual left, it tends to either be bleed-over from liberal hostility to Catholicism/the GAA/Irish nationalism/the Irish language/etc, or else come from urban League of Ireland fans, who are overrepresented on the left and have a rather different set of issues with the GAA.

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10. Jim Monaghan - June 26, 2012

The GAA puts more into amateur sport than its rivals.its faces a huge challenge form soccer which is a world sport.It is being driven out of secondary schools by Rugby as the wanna be new members of our snobbish elites lobby for rugby.
Warts and all the GAA is about what sport should be, sport for all, playing it rather than watching with the 6 pack on a fat belly.
Right like Irish society it was dominated by crawly types. I remember my fathers horror at the priest always being asked if he would like to be chair.
Right the foreign sports thing was nonsense. On a footnote , one chair of the FAI was Oscar Traynor, Dublin commander IA Civil War and Dvs Minister of Defence.And our Rugger chums had no problems with propping up apartheid.First time I was batonned.
But other sports had bans. If you played Rugby League, then you would never be alloed play Rugby Union.
I am told Womens GAA is the fastest growing sport. Mind you the FAI are putting in serious resources into Womens soccer.
Oh. I don’t play sport. 2 left feet. Never picked for a team.

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CL - June 27, 2012

Ireland’s leading civil society organization, the GAA, should be commended for its resistance to capital’s mad drive to commodify everything.

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Dr. X - June 27, 2012

This .

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Tomboktu - June 27, 2012

I am told Womens GAA is the fastest growing sport.

Only, as the lads were quick to point out a year ago: the “ladies’ ” games are not GAA: the Camogie crowd and Ladies’ gaelic football are completely separate organisations altogether.

The lads were keen that we all realise this in June 2011 when there was a question asked about possible discrimination in the disbursement of funds to support county players on financially hard times. (It turned out the GAA didn’t need to worry: the funds were being disbursed through the GPA. Another separate organisation, altogether.) But it did give rise to a situation where a Fermanagh hurler (with zero medals) would be eligible to get financial support towards the cost he incurs playing elite hurling but a Wexford Championship camogie player (possibly three All-Ireland medals since 2007) would get nothing.

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11. Doloras LaPicho - June 26, 2012

As someone born and bred in New Zealand who plays Gaelic football (goalkeeper) for the love of the game, it’s fascinating to learn more about the social history and role of the GAA. Sounds much like what the NZ Rugby Union is like. And similarly, anti-rugby attitudes are as important to Kiwi liberals as anti-GAA attitudes are to Irish liberals. The most popular organised sport in any country will be a bastion of conservatism, ipso facto.

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12. Tomboktu - June 27, 2012

A response to some of the points that have been made.

My post was not intended or presented as a weighing up of all of the strengths and weaknesses of the GAA when it comes to combating racism.

If I had wanted to examine that bigger question, I would have pointed out that the GAA HQ has a full-time paid official — Tony Watane — dedicated solely to integration and combating racism in the organisation. I’d have pointed out that a former GAA president was chosen and agreed to head the now defunct Know Racism campaign, and did so with vigour and drive. And I would have mentioned that one of the more effective members of the board of Equality Authority is a former Munster GAA chairman (he is also a current “Team Lowry” honcho — nobody is perfect). (And the ending of the Know Racism campaign was not that ex-president’s doing or even his wish: the government of the day decided to pull the funding because a state-funded campaign against racism would acknowledge there is or could be a racism problem in Ireland. Instead, the mantra now is “integration”, but on pain of not getting funding, don’t mention the R word.)

My post is what it says: a critique of a poor understanding of racism by a key county official and the support for that by the national president of the GAA. Yes, the Wexford chairman said more positive things than the one line I quoted. But the one line I focused on is serious a problem: it demonstrates a dangerously weak understanding of the concept of racism.

The only comment that seems to me to critique my criticism is Branno’s ultra-left t-shirt‘s when she/he saysd “That honestly cuts more ice in GAA circles then the declaration of the rights of man.

My response to that is that the county chairman did invoke a declaration fo the rights of man when he said (as Bartley pointed out) “Any form of racism in the GAA cannot be tolerated. It is terrible that Lee was subjected to these comments on a GAA pitch and the players involved should be ashamed of their behaviour. he hope I have is that through education and promotion of ethnic policy, we will rid Gaelic games of such abuse.“. And if Diarmuid Devereux had left it at that, and not brought in Lee Chin’s Wexfordness, it would have been prefect.

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Joe - June 27, 2012

I read the original comments you picked up on Tomboktu and they did grate a little with me. But overall, I’d have to say that Mr Devereux and the GAA in general are to be commended on their work against racism. And I guess, if you understood Irishness the way I and the late Máirtín Ó Cadhain do and did, you might say he’s the chairman of Wexford GAA, of course he’s going to bring up the chap’s Wexfordness.

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13. Richard - June 27, 2012

I live in an area where there are quite a lot of children who were not born in Ireland, and plenty of them play GAA games. I imagine this is true of parts of Wexford too. I don’t think they would appreciate the suggestion that being born here is part of what makes you a Wexford man, or a Dublin woman, or whatever. Given that these young people are among those most likely to encounter racist abuse, the Wexford GAA chairman really ought to know better.

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14. Joe - June 27, 2012

I really want to do a big piece on my opinions of the GAA. And on the motes in LATC’s and CMK’s eyes. But I couldn’t do it last night cos I was out watching the young lad play centre forward in a Dublin under 15 Division 5 game out in Hartstown (he was well off the pace, scored one lovely point though and had one good block too – it was handshakes all round at the end between the Hartstown victors and the Glasnevin vanquished). Can’t do it tonight cos I’ll be watching Spain-Portugal. Can’t do it tomorrow night cos the young lad’s hurling team (minus the young lad who will be gone to the Gaeltacht) is playing a div 4 league game. Just a couple of quick points for LATC – yes, the GAA is male-dominated, so is the WP. I joined the WP back in the 80’s. One of the things that inspired me to join was a speech by O’Hagan in a Workers Life in which he exhorted party members to join and get involved in their local sports clubs and community organisations (my memory is that he specifically said GAA clubs but I could be wrong). This may be simplistic but I really believed that socialists in Ireland will always be a tiny minority unless they engage in and with the likes of their local GAA club! I want Gearóid’s tshirt!

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LeftAtTheCross - June 27, 2012

“This may be simplistic but I really believed that socialists in Ireland will always be a tiny minority unless they engage in and with the likes of their local GAA club!”

Very true Joe. It’s just not for all of us.

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15. EamonnCork - June 27, 2012

From a historical point of view, Jack McQuillan, elected for Clann na Poblachta and later, as a member of the National Progressive Democrats with Noel Browne, an almost single-handed left-wing voice in the Dail won All-Ireland football medals with Roscommon in 1943 and 1944. Which proves nothing except perhaps that there’s nothing inherently right wing or left wing about anyone’s choice of sport.
Re the suggestion that it would somehow be racist to deny the Wexfordness of someone who was born elsewhere. Would it not be equally dodgy to impose Wexfordness upon them?. I’m thinking of that whole condescending notion that someone from Poland who’s worked here for a couple of years is part of ‘The New Irish.’ I worked in England in the eighties but I would have bridled at the idea that I was part of ‘The New English.’
I don’t impute any base notions or intellectual dishonesty to Tombuktu for bringing the subject up, I just think it’s an odd idea that given the background to this story Devereux somehow reveals himself as a bigot. Which, like it or not, is the implication. It struck him that way, it doesn’t strike me that way.
I also don’t think everyone, both pro and anti, who contributed to this thread was entirely wrong-headed to feel that there was a further implication about the GAA itself given the headline of the thread. But maybe there wasn’t and we’re all jumping the gun.
Like it or not the idea of the GAA as an organisation of red-faced mucksavages, to use a word which has been used on the CLR before, has been a trope used by people who would regard themselves as liberal or left-wing in the past. It’s a cliche which doesn’t survive any involvement with the Association itself these days.
Now I must button up my bainin sweater, play a few tunes on the piano accordion, click my heels together in the air and bring my Irish Wolfhound coursing. Anyone who doesn’t come along with me is a West Brit and very possibly Kevin Myers in disguise.

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16. Jim Monaghan - June 27, 2012

Pardon my ignorance. I was told that Gaelic Football, Hurling, Camogie, handball, Womens Gaelic were GAA sports.Am i wrong?

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17. Joe - June 27, 2012

You are not wrong Jim. But it’s a bit complicated. (I may have these titles wrong) The Ladies Gaelic Football Association, the Camogie Association, the Handball Association are separate organisations to the GAA (which administers men’s football and hurling) – but they are very much sister/brother organisations. Certainly ladies football and camogie would see themselves clearly as GAA sports. I think handball too but maybe not as clearly. What might be a good parallel – is the Irish SP a separate organisation to the CWI? Nah, probably not a good parallel…

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18. Liam Keyes - April 2, 2013

I strongly feel that a lot of people were quick to denounce what the Wexford County Chairman said. I strongly believe that he meant well and people were quick to take him out of context. I know the man personally and his late Father(who was one of the nicest gentlemen ever to come out of the County Wexford. In fact, I remember in his passing that the Gorey paper referred to him as “..a gem of a gentleman. The same goes for Diarmuid Devereux.

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