GAA Football

Irish unity 'inevitable' and DUP has itself to blame, says Joe Brolly

Joe Brolly has been critical of Arlene Foster's DUP 

JOE Brolly claims the DUP has “squandered” the chance of making Northern Ireland work and claims northern nationalists are now psychologically wedded to becoming part of a United Ireland.

The Belfast-based barrister says the Good Friday Agreement was unionism’s best hope of making the north a viable state.

“They’ve blown it. Any opportunity for a pluralist Northern Ireland has been squandered and deeper down this wouldn’t have been the case at the time of the Good Friday Agreement,” said Brolly.

“Deeper down now, the Catholic people of the north say: ‘Well, look, it’s a United Ireland now. That’s where we are and that’s where we’re moving to now.’

“Psychologically, I think the DUP has played a huge role in creating that because they really did make it a cold house for Catholics.

“And there was no need for it. [In relation to an Irish Language Act], they should have been saying: ‘Of course, there will be an Irish Language Act because it’s very important to a lot of people in this community and that it’s a vibrant language in some parts of the north. Of course we want to facilitate that and protect that,’ and get out there and to be seen publicly supporting it.

“That’s a civilised society. That’s what a peace process is, and that’s what it should look like. So they’ve screwed that up.

“Beyond the traditional nationalist communities there has been a distinct change of attitude,” Brolly added. “I detect it all the time, about the DUP, the old testament sort of stuff, the inhumane stuff that they espouse, it is no longer acceptable.”

Derry’s 1993 All-Ireland winning forward also cited the DUP’s policy stance on ‘Brexit’ and the “inevitable errors” they made in negotiations with British Prime Minster Boris Johnson and predecessor Theresa May.

Joe Brolly, during his RTE days, has never shied away from the big issues in society. The Derryman insists the DUP has missed the boat to make Northern Ireland work

“They made fundamental but inevitable errors with Boris Johnson and Theresa May because they don’t have any long-term strategy; they are more an emotional movement than they are a political party, and that emotional movement is something that we know only too well – that triumphalism, treating you as inferior, that Arlene Foster-Jim Allister style: looking down their noses at people. And it’s not acceptable.

“And these losers who are recruited by the DUP, because they’re tub-thumpers and they’ll get elected; increasingly the unionist community has got to be saying: ‘We’ve got to be doing better, we’ve got to do better.’

Brendan Crossan: A genuine pity Joe Brolly won't be banging the drum against GAA pay walls

“Increasingly, people of talent are going to emerge who see a pluralist, sensible, civilised future and will work towards that.”

After a three-year absence of local government, Brolly feels the reconfigured Stormont Executive will not sate the appetite of Catholics/nationalists for a United Ireland

“The DUP were, in effect, neutered and are left all of a sudden powerless,” he added. “They had no choice but to make the deal, and put the gloss on it that there is an Ulster-Scots officer, and that’s fine. We’ve no issue with that. But no-one forgets that they’ve been dragged to this kicking and screaming…"

The Dungiven man makes his return to our television screens this weekend with pay-per-view channel eir Sport who have secured a 15-game Allianz League ‘live’ package for the new season.

Brolly will be covering the NFL Division One game between Donegal and Mayo in Ballybofey on Saturday night. After a 20-year association with RTE, the Belfast-based barrister was dropped by the national broadcaster last September.

Read More: I was hurt by the manner of my exit from RTE: Joe Brolly

He surprised many observers by accepting a role with eir Sport earlier this month despite railing against the GAA going down the pay wall route.

“[Leaving RTE] was a very public humiliation. It was a shock for me and it was a shock to my system,” Brolly said.

“I was very hurt at the disloyalty, the relish with which it was done, as if it was just a piece of business. I gave my heart and soul to the RTE thing. I was part of the furniture, really comfortable, I knew the game inside out, I knew how to play the game.”

Brolly didn’t appear on the RTE couch for the All-Ireland final replay between Dublin and Kerry last summer with former Mayo boss Stephen Rochford stepping in as a guest pundit.

“I mean, what qualifications did Stephen Rochford have to sit there on All-Ireland final day, the jewel in our crown, people tuning in from all over the world – what are his qualifications for this?

“What connection does he have with the audience? What is it that he brings? And the answer is – nothing. Nothing that would be remarkable or interesting. This is part of the national conversation and what’s going to happen increasingly is The Sunday Game is not going to be part of the national conversation. It is becoming more and more banal.”

For years, Brolly divided opinion within GAA circles, often setting the agenda. He also acknowledged that he loved the cut and thrust of ‘live’ television which encouraged him to accept eir Sport’s offer of covering their National Football League games between now and the end of March.

“I wouldn’t be held back by the fact that it was ‘live’ television. I could sense that people were on the edge of their seats, or people were angry, or people were enjoying this…

“I was conscious of that connection [with viewers]. I also knew how to create the debate. You know, you’ve very little time when you’re on telly. I might have altogether six minutes throughout a whole ‘live’ broadcast, so you have to become expert at honing down the point and getting to the nub of it, which is why the dull banality of all the statistics that we were being encouraged to read out [don’t work]…”

Brolly is contracted to make four appearances on eir Sport during their National League coverage.

“Saturday night football is great. I’m going to try this with eir Sport. I couldn’t resist. I’ve agreed to do four ‘live’ Saturday night programmes and they’re all big games.

“I didn’t realise that they have 640,000 people getting the games for free as part of their mobile phone package… Also, this is the way it’s all developing.

“You look at GAAGO, for example. It’s been a brilliant success all over the world. It’s a lifeline, whether you’re on a mountain top in Tanzania, as a missionary priest whom I spoke to was, or wherever you are in the world.

“I would have been worried about that subscription model - €10 a game, but it’s a huge success and people want it.

“And that’s going to be the future of watching games. If the GAA had their act together, it should have its own television channel to deal with everything. And that would have to be subscription because it has to be paid for, and it would be going into our coffers.”

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