Naming of clubs after fanatics shouldn’t be tolerated by the GAA
If clubs really are all about the parish, then name them after the parish, not some paramilitary like Kevin Lynch
Joe Brolly: said naming of a GAA club in the North Of Ireland is no one else’s business and invited everyone to “like it or lump it”.
Kevin Lynch was a member of the Irish National Liberation Army. That means he pondered the political landscape of the North of Ireland in the 1970s and concluded his beliefs were worth killing people for. Given the sectarian history of Irish republicanism, such a conclusion mostly boils down to killing Protestants. Lynch figured killing someone was an acceptable price to pay to get what he wanted. By any reasonable definition of the word, that made him a fanatic.
Although Lynch was never convicted of killing anyone, the organisation he was a member of killed over 120 people during the Troubles. He himself was convicted of knee-capping and stealing guns. When in prison he went on hunger strike and starved himself to death in 1981.
Afterwards, the Dungiven GAA club in Derry, of which he was a member, renamed their hurling team after Lynch, a move that more than 30 years later has hit the headlines again through no less a figure than Joe Brolly.
RTÉ’s high-profile pundit reacted to criticism from unionist politicians by saying the naming of a GAA club in the North is no one else’s business and invited everyone to “like it or lump it”. This statement is so arrogant it is tempting to dismiss it as the boorish ranting of a moron oblivious to the political realities on this island, and in particular the suppurating tribal sore of politics in the North.
Except Brolly isn’t a moron. He is many things, but he is not a moron. In a society where walking down a street can be a political gesture, he must know how a GAA club’s continued and determined association to someone like Lynch must appear to the other side. So the fact he states he is proud of the association means he doesn’t care how it looks. So everyone can indeed lump it.
That nationalist outrage would reach stratospheric levels of indignation in the face of a similarly blatant association between a sporting club and a unionist fanatic is so self-evident it hardly needs to be outlined. But such fundamental self-awareness appears to escape Brolly. Yet he must know, better than most, how, in such a fractured society, every gesture is parsed and interpreted to within an inch of its life. That Brolly still doesn’t care how the naming of his GAA club is interpreted by the other side is his individual privilege. But surely the GAA should care.
Brolly’s comments came on the back of a landmark address by the DUP leader Peter Robinson to a GAA conference where he praised the work of Ireland’s premier sporting organisation in terms of integration. This is not an insignificant gesture. To many unionists at the height of the Troubles, the GAA was hardly an impartial bystander when it came to support for republican paramilitaries, either tacitly or otherwise.