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Oisin McConville: Is GAA welco...
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Oisin McConville: Is GAA welcoming enough to Protestants?

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

17:13 31 May 2021

Former All-Ireland winner Oisin McConville believes that more efforts need to be made to welcome Protestants into the GAA structures.

McConville tackled an issue of cross-community relations on BBC Ulster's Talkback programme, and one OTB Sports spoke about with the founder of East Belfast GAA, Dave McGreevy.

Oisin McConville

"There is a real onus on the GAA now to continue to change," the former Armagh man said.

"I think the GAA have made great strides. Is there more room [for change]? Absolutely.

"I'm wondering why - again, after all these years - there isn't more members of the Protestant community playing GAA. They're still few and far between.

"I'm just wondering, do we need to look at ourselves and think: 'Is it welcoming enough?'

"And I think the answer to that question right now is no - that there's too many obstacles in the way.

"But again, for that to shift, it's going to take a lot of work."

Education

McConville believes that it requires buy-in from across the communities to help Protestants feel welcome into clubs.

"We live in such a diverse society, and we're still crippled with issues from 50 years ago," he said.

"Education, for me, is a very obvious thing if we are looking to build bridges, or change, or learn from the past. Education might be the right place to start.

"If there's enough will to make that happen, we certainly can push towards that. But, realistically, is it going to change anytime soon? No.

"I use the example of primary and secondary education, and the polar opposite they are to what happens when people go to college. Maybe we should look at third level education, and filter the way that we think about third level education down to secondary education."

East Belfast GAA

Dave McGreevy, one of the founders of the East Belfast GAA club, spoke about incidents of bomb alerts against the club based in a largely-Protestant area.

On the lighter side of things, uptake for membership for the island's newest GAA club has been very good - from both sides.

"We have had support from the entire east Belfast community - from everyone, across the board. People from here are playing for us.

"We were looking to get together an under-12 boys' team together and enter a team next year, and the amount of people that got in contact challenged my perceptions. It is now how it is advertised.

"There were a few wee incidents up above, and the groundkeeper straight away came over and checked we were ok. He was saying 'you guys are very welcome here' and made us feel more than welcome."

McGreevy said that he got emails of support from people he 'really didn't expect to get emails off.'

"We were getting weird emails like 'I'm a Protestant - can I join!?' says McGreevy, laughing.

"It seems to be that people joining the club don't really look at the world [through the lens of Catholicism/Protestantism].

"Who looks at the world like that, realistically? They are the kind of people that we're getting to join!"

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