Will civic and political nationalism finally challenge intolerance?: Lockhart

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has challenged the lack of debate around issues within the GAA. It follows the withdrawal of the PSNI GAA team from a 'Lads and Dads' event organised by Banbridge GAA.

By Carla Lockhart Candidate

Upper Bann

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She said, "It is over 20 years since the discriminatory Rule 21 was dropped by the GAA which barred police officers from playing the sport. After more than two decades, to see a PSNI team pulling out of a tournament because rival players made complaints and tolerate their involvement raises serious questions.

It is ten days since former RTE broadcaster Cathal MacCollie said the "GAA should be better than this" when the Limerick hurling team were singing a song about an IRA terrorist to celebrate their victory. The question can be posed again following this latest incident. Does the GAA want to be better than this, and where are the voices calling for them to be better.

The objections to the PSNI team may not have been coming from a majority of opposition players, but even the actions of a small number need to be challenged and it clearly indicates that an issue exists. The question must still be asked whether there is a will to challenge such behaviour from within civic and political nationalism. All too often they have been silent when other unacceptable incidents have occurred, including repeated incidents where terrorism is glorified. When such a culture has not prompted any serious discussion in the past, it is not surprising that we see such intolerance morph into different forms.

The incident in Banbridge doesn't just touch on sectarianism or anti-British sentiment within the GAA, but also on policing. It is therefore worthy of note that following this incident neither the 'First Minister designate', the Communities Minister or the Justice Minister have seen fit to make any comment. Even after the issue was discussed, albeit briefly, on one radio programme it does not appear to have prompted comment from any nationalist representative. it isn’t good enough to complain that the PSNI doesn't reflect society fully in Northern Ireland if you aren't prepared to challenge those who contribute to that problem.

We await not just the leadership which has been so lacking, but also the level of media debate which has been given to other areas in our society when unacceptable behaviour has needed to be challenged."

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