The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has been voted Ireland’s greatest ever force for social change, according to research commissioned by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. The Irish games group won out over the charity organization St Vincent de Paul and even Ireland’s former president and social advocate Mary McAleese.

The GAA’s dedication to funding, developing and nurturing entrepreneurship in Ireland has lead the Gaelic football and hurling association to be a major force for social change among the Irish.
As an organization with a presence in every county in Ireland the GAA is seen as being the most responsible force for change.

The GAA’s primary focus is on promoting Gaelic games, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, handball and rounders. It also promotes Irish music and dance, and the Irish language. The association has over one million members nationwide.

Since its foundation in the late 19th century, the GAA has grown to become a major influence in Irish sporting and cultural life with considerable reach into communities throughout Ireland and among the Irish Diaspora.

The St Vincent de Paul charity came second, with 19 percent and former president Mary McAleese came in third with 12 percent. She was recognized for her work in building bridges between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Others, identified as being responsible for a significant social impact in Ireland, included John Hume, Bono, Bob Geldof and Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of Focus Ireland.

Sean Coughlan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland said, “The public evidently wants social change and is signalling that it is most likely to come from individuals and communities rather than the traditional institutions of government, church and business.

“It is both hugely significant and encouraging that nearly half of the public are prepared to assist in making a contribution to the changes we need in the near future.”

Irish people put cultural identity and sense of community as a nation on the top of their lists as things the Irish should be proud of.

The Social Entrepreneurs Ireland survey also showed that one in two people in Ireland want to make social change in their local community, disability and education. Just 14 percent said they would not participate in social change action.

The survey of 200 people found that Irish politics and the health system were the aspects of Irish society that Ireland should be least proud of.