My son sat down and wrote this letter to the GAA President last night
Neither my husband nor I had sight of it before he sent it to Croke Park or the Ulster Council
It is worth sharing
Don’t post status’ etc but thought I’d share a letter I’ve addressed to the President of the GAA.
Dó Aogán Ó Fearghaíl
I write to you this day, Tuesday 29th of November 2016 at 10 past 8 pm, taking time from my studies to raise concerns over your recent proposals to remove Amhrán na bhFiann and our national flag from the GAA. I am 17 years old, born on New Year’s Eve 1998, missing this years minor team by six hours for Christ’s sake. I live in West Belfast in County Antrim and play for Cumann Naomh Eoin. This letter is not to try dissuade nor is it to insult your proposals (the justification for which is very much kind in nature) but only to give the perspective which I have always felt lacking in our association. That of the North, and in particular it’s youth.
I have lived my life in envy of those born in the South, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but each time I travel South, usually with my family to Croker, I always feel the grass gets that bit greener and the clouds don’t appear to be as grey. It is an alien concept to me and that you can walk the streets of Dublin City without fearing whether you have accidentally wondered into a dangerous spot for a catholic or that you can carry a hurl in your hand without being arrested for carrying an offensive weapon. There are no union flags or sectarian graffiti and a proud Antrim man like myself can wear his top in the open without fear of attack. My generation in the south don’t know and most frankly don’t care about the history of the North and indeed our country, which is understandable because they have been free to express their national identity and don’t need an anthem or a flag to act as a constant reminder of their Irish-ness. But for us up North, the GAA is one of the only things we have that makes us equal citizens in our own country and what we can claim to be ours as Irish people. The GAA has no border and you might not understand, but to us, for Antrim, Down, Derry, Tyrone, Armagh and Fermanagh to compete in an ALL Ireland Championship and the NATIONAL League means a hell of a lot.
There is one place for me that especially makes me proud to be part of the GAA and in particular one occasion. It is at my club ground, Corrigan Park, when I stand on the pitch with my brothers, all linked together, looking up at our national flag with Belfast’s Black Mountain in the backdrop. Together we sing our national anthem. A very rare song in Belfast indeed, there is almost an element of rebellion in singing it. Look around our grounds and you find parents, kids, volunteers of all ages, both men and women together. All proud to be part of the GAA, all proud to be Irish.
That feeling is very rare in life up North. We are still occupied and are still forced to concede residence in the U.K. despite our best efforts in not admitting so. Christmas is coming soon and as such I will be going into the town to buy presents for my family. In doing so I will be going to shops not usually found in the South, paying for British goods with money that has her majesty’s ageing face on it and being thanked with a “cheers mate” rather than a “go raibh mhaith agat”. Walking through town I will see the union flag hanging outside buildings and walk past the loyalist protesters outside City Hall, who would happily see the GAA and in fact the Irish people as a whole taken off the face of the earth which they probably believe to be flat. When I get in from the day out and put on the TV BBC comes on, or ITV or Channel 4. All of which have English presenters telling me of problems faced by British people. I go in search for RTE if I’m at all bothered but it’s almost impossible to find, put up in the high numbered channels which one channel either side of 820 could be hard in explaining if my mummy walked in. Pun not intended. What I’m trying to say is that I am constantly living my life with a sense of Britishness being shoved down my throat by the very people you wish to make the GAA more inclusive to. Yes, it would be good for the sport if the unionist community took part, but the reality is that they don’t want to join it but rather wish its demise. Not long ago they called it a terrorist sport and refused to give it public funding for development. Recently Unionist politicians in the North have worked to find faults with proposals for the development of Casement Park, but found no problem in funding the development of soccer and rugby grounds. Antrims new centre of excellence is located no more than a stones throw from a British army barracks and the closest GAA club to it is 20 minutes away. Placed in a well known unionist area of Antrim we therefore cannot fly our national flag there out of fear for vandalism or worse.
I finish with saying this, the GAA is the only thing I have presently that gives me hope for a united Ireland. It helps my community in ways few can truly understand. So please don’t take away the thing that makes it special to me for the accommodation of those who wish to see it rote. We live in Ireland, we are Irish and it would be a very sad sight indeed to see the tricolour taken down at Corrigan Park.
Le meas, Peadar Mac Thomais