A top television pundit has provoked a storm of criticism after telling unionists that it’s none of their business if GAA clubs are named after Republican hunger strikers.
All-Ireland winning Derry footballer and commentator Joe Brolly is at the eye of the storm after his remarks, made in the wake of a speech by First Minister Peter Robinson praising the GAA for forging better community relationships in the North.
Robinson’ had praised the GAA in an address at a Co-operation Ireland dinner in Belfast.
But some unionists criticised the GAA and insisted the association still had much to do to improve relationships with their community, highlighting the specific issue of the naming of clubs and competitions after IRA and INLA members.
The Irish Independent reports that Brolly, whose hometown club in Dungiven is named after republican hunger striker Kevin Lynch, said the name issue was a ‘sideshow’ as he replied to the criticism.
Brolly stated: “It’s nobody else’s business - it’s as simple as that. People can either like it or lump it.
“That’s the way societies and communities work. Kevin played hurling for Dungiven and for Derry, and the hurling club was named for that reason. We’re very proud of him.”
The report adds that Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister was one of those who had raised the issue of club and trophy names following Robinson’s speech.
Allister then criticised Mr Brolly’s stance. He said: “The remarks by Joe Brolly underscore just how foolish Peter Robinson was in attending the event and praising the GAA for supposedly reaching out across the divide.”
The First Minister however used the GAA event to outline his commitment to the peace process and to change.
Speaking at the dinner, Robinson said: “It would have been unimaginable a few years ago that I would be invited to give a speech celebrating the role of the GAA in peace-building or that I would accept.
“The GAA has taken significant decisions that have not only reflected the changing times we live in but more importantly have helped shape them.
“I am entirely convinced that a shared and united society in Northern Ireland is the only way forward for all of us. Our challenge must be to make what is often merely a sound-bite into a meaningful reality.
“Anyone who believes that there is a better alternative to the political process we are engaged in simply doesn’t understand reality.”
Reports on Saturday say Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is set to welcome the remarks made by Robinson when he speaks in London.
Ireland’s Deputy PM and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore has also praised the Robinson speech. He called it ‘timely, significant and courageous’.