“The GAA is not seen as a cross community institution.”
Belfast newspaper editor Ben Lowry makes no bones about his thoughts on the GAA and says that it is “deeply segregated” with “no integration.”
Lowry is the editor of the News Letter, a paper ran in the city of Belfast, but it has little to no coverage of Gaelic Games in its pages.
Despite the GAA being an inclusive sort welcome for all, there are those in north who have an issue with its links to Republicans that were known members of the IRA.
Over the course of time, GAA clubs in Northern Ireland has worked harder to become a welcoming community for those with unionist or protestant backgrounds.
In 2020 East Belfast GAA club was formed and it boasts a large number of members who are not from a catholic or nationalist upbringing, and have introduced the sport to those curious to try it.
However, Lowry was adamant in his views as he was speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
“We need to be realistic about this, in the same way that the Orange Order isn’t seen as a cross community institution, the GAA is not seen as a cross community institution,” said Lowry.
“It’s seen as deeply imbued in a Republican culture that it doesn’t in any way spurn – it’s entitled to be that as well as a sporting organisation.”
The radio show was discussing the fact that Casement Park, Antrim’s GAA stadium that hasn’t been used since 2013, but is set to be redeveloped, has named as one of the prospective venues in the joint UK and Ireland bid for Euro 2028.
At one point, Byrne asked Lowry if he thought the GAA was as segregated as the Orange Order.
“I think the GAA is deeply segregated, yes, deeply segregated. There’s nothing integrated about the GAA and there’s no effort or attempt for it to be. It is deeply, deeply associated with one side of the community.
“I supported the idea more than a decade ago of a single stadium in Northern Ireland for rugby, football and GAA. That isn’t what happened. We went down the route of upgrading three stadiums,” said Lowry.
“Yes, the GAA is associated with one side of the community in Northern Ireland – that’s not controversial. There might be some people somewhere from a Protestant background who play GAA but it’s very associated with one side of the community.”
Windsor Park, the national stadium of Northern Ireland’s football team has been deemed to small in terms of its capacity to host any of the Euro 2028 events.
The idea that the games could be played in a GAA stadium instead is something that Lowry takes exception with.
“The idea of Euro 2028 being played in Northern Ireland is wonderful and widely supported. We have ended up in a situation where the main soccer, football stadium, Windsor Park, is not big enough to host it. It’s a strange state of affairs.
“It is very strange that an organisation like the GAA will be hosting these main games and it’s particularly strange when costs have ballooned. They haven’t just gone up a fair amount, they have ballooned.
“The game is going to have to go to the upgraded Casement Stadium. We’ve reached a point of no return on that. There has to be some sort of recognition that the costs have ballooned and that’s a factor for the GAA as well.”
Lowry is referring to the fact that additional funds are potentially going to be allocated for the redevelopment of Casement Park, however it was reported on Thursday that the GAA are unlikely to increase its original £15m contribution for the necessary work.
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