President highlights GAA’s role in peace
Higgins says association plays crucial role in promoting community North and South
President Michael D.Higgins with his wife Sabina photographed during the St.Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin last Sunday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons /The Irish Times
The GAA has been central to reconciliation in the North as well as to bringing generations together, providing a sense of home to the diaspora and alleviating loneliness, President Michael D Higgins has said.
Addressing the association’s annual congress in Derry today, Mr Higgins praised initiatives it has taken in the North “in promoting reconciliation on this island and in extending the hand of welcome and friendship to communities in the North who traditionally did not participate in Gaelic games”.
He said the sense of renewed optimism in Derry and the palpable sense of community solidarity was a transformation in which the Derry GAA had played no small part. This reflected the GAA’s mission statement, he said, which affirmed: “We welcome people of all nationalities, religions, ages and abilities into our association and we make it easy for everyone to take part.”
The association was more than just a sporting organisation, but the “beating heart of many communities across the country, connecting neighbour to neighbour, promoting solidarity among young and old and uniting a diverse and eclectic mix of people as they cheer together for their county colours”.
Such was the integral role of the GAA in society they were the obvious choice he said, to manage an initiative, b y his predessor President Mary McAleese, to tackle isolation felt by many older men in rural communities.
“Today a wide range of activities are carried out in clubs across the country alleviating much loneliness and enabling both the renewal of old friendships and the formation of new ones. I look forward to receiving representatives who are involved in the GAA Social Initiative in Áras an Uachtaráin in May.”
Referring to the reach of the GAA abroad, he said it had “provided an important sense of home and community for emigrants over the years many of them battling against sense if displacement as they tried to create new homes around the world”.
Additional reporting: PA