Mickey Harte: GAA could change its tune on national anthem

Playing anthem and flying tricolour at Gaelic games could cease when ‘time is right’

The GAA could cease playing Amhrán na bhFiann and flying the tricolour at Gaelic games when "the time is right", the Tyrone county manager Mickey Harte has said.

Mr Harte was commenting on what some unionists have described as obstacles to them attending GAA games.

In November the GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl said he accepted the Irish national anthem and tricolour caused “difficulty at home” and in the future that policy could change. But it would only happen in the context of an “agreed Ireland”, he added.

Now Mr Harte has also spoken of the potential for such change within the GAA. Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme, he said: "There was a time in the '70s when you weren't allowed to play, in inverted commas, foreign games and play in the GAA, so that changed.

‘Greater good’

“And then there was a time when Croke Park wasn’t open to other sport, there were times when the police force from this part of the world were not allowed to play. So these things changed over time, but they have to change when the time is right.

“People will know if it’s the right thing to do, and if it’s not the right thing to do for the greater good, then it won’t happen – so we have to wait and see and let time take care of that.”

Mr Harte said the status quo was “very dear to many people not because it’s anti anybody else, [but because] it’s just in their culture”.

He added: “We have to let people be as they are as long as isn’t disrespectful of others . . . We don’t want to take anything away from anybody. But if the time’s right and people felt there was some movement could happen in that that direction, then I think it will.”

Faith

In the interview Mr Harte also discussed the murder of his daughter Michaela in

Mauritius

in January 2011. He described how his faith continued to help him deal with that loss.

“It [her death] consumes you initially, but I think in my case, with my faith that I have in God, you get the capacity to move it to the side,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean to say that it goes away, that it doesn’t exist, but you learn how to control it, learn how to put it in a place that it doesn’t have to be in your face all the time,” added Mr Harte.

“Of course you’ll be reminded of it by the things in life, and people and memories. But, at the same time, you learn to live in a new place and I’m grateful that grace has come my way.”