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Some GAA leaders’ understanding of racism June 25, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Gaelic Football, racism.
54 comments

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.

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[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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“Tantalising… but not tantalising enough”… September 18, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Gaelic Football.
11 comments

…one commentator said on RTÉ in the last fifty minutes of so of the Dublin/Kerry All-Ireland Final [it was either just before or just after the first half].

Nah… more than tantalising enough! Great football.

When is a strike not a strike? November 18, 2007

Posted by franklittle in Culture, Gaelic Football, Ireland, Sport, Trade Unions.
30 comments

There are certain principles drummed into the Little family from an early age. Included among them, and devoutly and passionately held is, that regardless of whether you agree with the issue or not, or support the decision or not, there is never, ever any excuse for crossing a picket-line. Those who do so to work are scabs and those who do so to avail of the services of scabs are not much better. I’m not sure Pa Little was familiar with Jack London’s The Scab, but he would surely have agreed with the conclusion that “a scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.” Not much room for a middle ground with Mr London either.

Yet from next January I face the possibility of not merely crossing the picket-line, but applauding those others who do so if the dispute between the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), the GAA and the Government is not resolved. Members of the GPA voted earlier this month to take industrial action setting itself on a collision course with the GAA and sparking what has the potential to be an internal row within the Association that would be so divisive and bitter that we would look back with nostalgic affection for the days when we were lectured by the ‘great and the good’ about Rules 42 and 21.

The vote in favour of strike action was overwhelming. 1,881 members of the GPA were sent ballots and 1,348, or 71.6%, returned them with a Saddam like majority of over 95% in favour. Under the strike action GPA members are allowed to continue playing with their clubs and can continue to train with the county squad, but cannot play inter-country from January 1. At first glance the dispute centres over funding for inter-country players to defray the expenses incurred by playing at that level. Time away from work and family, medical and health expenses, gym memberships, extra training and so on. The Government promised a sum of 5 million Euros that would be split between the 64 inter-country senior panels with a limit of 2,800 Euros per player per annum. The deal was hammered out between the Government and the GPA directly.

The Government then decided that the GAA should pay the money out of the structural funds earmarked for the development of pitches and stadiums. The GAA, not wanting to lose money set aside for the support of the game to back a deal they were not involved in negotiating, refused and so to an impasse. Ironically, the first competitions to be affected by any strike action will be those in which the proceeds go into the GAA fund used to support injured players. GPA members have deliberately, and provocatively, adopted the language of the industrial dispute, referring to people who ‘might cross the picket line’ and players who would take up their space on the team as ‘scabs’.

Broadly speaking, few people would argue with the need to provide some sort of compensation to amateur players who are required to play and train to a professional standard. But many GAA members, including myself, are more than a little wary of this. The GAA, whether those on the left who percieve the organisation to be a bulwark of reactionary Catholic nationalism appreciate it, is the closest to a working and successful socialist organisation in Ireland that exists. Thousands of people play its games every week without compensation. Thousands more work in administrative and support roles. From the time I was under ten up to minor level I played hurling for my club. The men who trained us never got a penny out of it. Nor did the women who washed the kit, nor the lads who lined the pitch and put up the net. Nor the people who mowed the pitch, reseeded it and took care of it. Nor the people who turned up to the dull, dull, club committee meetings or who sold the raffle tickets round the town or did whatever else was necessary to keep one of the few aspects of Irish culture that is unique in this increasingly globalised world, ticking over, and thriving.

Inter-county players have accomplished something that hundreds of thousands of men and women around the country can only dream of, to put on the jersey and go out to play for your county. All of us wanted it; the overwhelming majority of us weren’t good enough or lacked the commitment. And it is a hard job playing at inter-county level, but it also has its rewards. No-one is asking the captain of the Junior team in Vincents in Dublin to pose on television with a well known sports drink. No-one offers a new car or a holiday to the captain of the U-21 camogie county champions. County players are admired in their local communities in a way that it is hard for people outside strong GAA areas to appreciate. They bring respect not only to themselves, but to their local club because there is an understanding that the athlete that is the finished article is the product of two decades of work and more by the club in training and encouraging him. The fear though is that the introduction of these grants, which as I said I would broadly support, is another part of the process of paying for play at the elite level. Of professionalising the sport, delivering a body blow to the basic ethos of the GAA and Irish cultural sporting life. So when we hear of ‘strike action’ and threats to ‘withdraw labour’ (Labour? If they see it as labour now, stand aside for the couple of dozen of young men who’d fall over themselves for every senior inter-county jersey)  we wonder is the GPA fighting for these grants, or is it part of a wider agenda. And I write as someone who was one of the few GAA members who welcomed the establishment of the GPA.

The core of this is that inter-county players are not employed. They do not receive a wage. They are voluntarily playing a sport that they love and enjoy. They do not have a job; they have an opportunity to live out the dreams of others and of themselves. The GPA is not a union, and the people who will play for their county teams if and when the strike goes ahead are not scabs. And, once hurling had been properly explained to him, I think Jack London would have agreed.

Mayo not as light as predicted… August 28, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Gaelic Football, Sport, Uncategorized.
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I wasn’t able to get a ticket to yesterday’s semi-final. On the other hand the opportunity to see it in all it’s gory detail on the television was perhaps some slight consolation. The score was a disappointment, one knows that in a parallel universe it went the other way.

But a great game, played by two great teams, one of which was clearly better on the day. Congratulations to Mayo.

I’m looking forward to the final.

We still don’t do sport round here…but some of us go to the matches August 13, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Gaelic Football, Sport, Uncategorized.
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Okay, was at the Dublin Westmeath match yesterday [see here]. And have to say it was a disappointment. Sure, the result was good for Dublin, but as the crowds left Croke Park there was an unmistakeable sense of the underwhelming.

The match started late, the stadium was frozen as a little bit of Autumn came to Dublin, and perhaps it was doubly cold for hard-pressed Westmeath fans who had little to clap about.

The first half saw some fine football, and a real sense that Dublin was in full control, but the second saw an almost shambolic melt-down enlivened only by occasional bursts of spirit and life. Neither side appeared to actually grasp where the goal was with a bizarre succession of wides. And although few would have considered Westmeath had any chance of returning in the last twenty minutes or so there was a strong impression that a different team could do so and that Dublin would be unable to counter them.

The half-hearted attempts at Mexican waves just before the second half and the usual procession of fans from both sides leaving the grounds long before the end of the match only added to a sense that all was not as it should be. And that’s a personal gripe of mine. What is with paying money for a game and then getting out as soon as humanly possible? Why not save money and time and just have someone text the result to the pub?

Uneasy anticipation would best describe where this journey leads next and much depends on the replay of the Mayo Laois game where both teams appeared more impressive than advance publicity and previous form had indicated.

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