Association will support royal event, says GAA


THE GAA has said it is confident there will be no opposition within the association to Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Croke Park.

In a statement the GAA said it expected the historic visit would be welcomed by those who “play, administer and support our games”. The GAA also hoped that the visit would encourage more unionists to support and play Gaelic games.

Tourism interests also welcomed the visit saying it had the potential to attract large number of holidaymakers here.

The visit to Croke Park is significant, given the role of British troops in the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre at the venue, and would even have been contentious in recent years.

The associations’s decision in 2001 to amend rule 21, which prevented members of British forces from playing Gaelic games; the decision to open up Croke Park to rugby and soccer while Lansdowne Road was being redeveloped; and the two visits by the England rugby teams have changed the context of the Queen’s visit.

Many commented this week that the sight of prominent GAA figures carrying the coffin of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr, who was killed by dissident republicans, also provided a powerful symbol about how much things have changed.

The date of the Queen’s visit to Croke Park has not yet been announced in keeping with the protocol surrounding her itinerary, nor has there been any more detail about what she and Prince Philip will do there in the company of President Mary McAleese.

The GAA said the visit would be a chance to showcase Croke Park to a wider audience. GAA president Christy Cooney will use the opportunity to inform the Queen and her husband about the centrality of the GAA in Irish life. That is likely to include a visit to the GAA museum.

“We believe that this visit reflects and acknowledges the special place of the GAA in the life and history of the nation,” the association said.

It also expressed a hope the visit would be a chance to highlight the presence of the GAA in Britain.

Tourism Ireland said the visit had the potential to attract a “huge audience” of holidaymakers from Britain and worldwide.

Following the announcement yesterday of the itinerary for the royal visit the tourism body said it would be stepping up its publicity campaign in Britain.

“The state visit by Queen Elizabeth will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the island of Ireland to a huge audience of potential holidaymakers in Britain and throughout the world, and has the potential to deliver a major boost to Irish tourism in 2011 and beyond,” Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said.

An extensive promotional campaign involving radio, television, print and internet advertising will be put in place. The campaign will emphasise the “friendliness, welcome and fun for which Ireland is renowned” it said.

“A large media contingent will travel to Ireland to cover the visit . . . providing a truly unique opportunity to highlight the island of Ireland as a wonderful holiday destination,” Mr Gibbons said.

The visit will also include a trip to the Irish National Stud in Kildare, and its chief executive John Osborne last night welcomed the visit.

“We are delighted to be included on the itinerary for the Queen’s visit to Ireland,” he said.