Brendan Crossan: More GAA figures need to express their solidarity with Palestine

A motivating factor for all of us is knowing that our grandkids are watching

Former Tipperary ace Timmy Hammersley has backed the Gaels Le Chéile campaign
Former Tipperary ace Timmy Hammersley has voiced his support for Palestine

AHMAD Shabat is in a hospital bed. The child looks agitated and tearful. He lost his entire family in an Israeli airstrike. Ahmad was the only survivor.

His uncle now looks after him. Ahmad was hit by a second Israeli airstrike but was only slightly injured. His uncle brought him south of Gaza where he was hit by a third Israeli airstrike.

His uncle, Ibrahim Abu Amsha, explains: “He’s behaving differently, he’s scared of everything. He always asks to sleep in my lap. He doesn’t know he’s lost his parents, nor his legs.”

Channel 4′s Kill Zone: Inside Gaza: Dispatches, screened on Monday night, was one of the most powerful, saddest pieces of film ever made documenting the human catastrophe of Gaza.

Yoav Gallant, from Israel’s Ministry of Defence, said that they were “fighting human animals”. Always dehumanise your ‘enemy’.

Stories told through the eyes of children, doctors and journalists, the film chronicles the early days, weeks and months of Israel’s murderous campaign and is brought right up to date with the latest figures of 35,000 dead Palestinians, 14,000 of which were children.

The Gaza Health Ministry estimates there are 10,000 bodies buried under rubble.

Palestinians have been refugees in their own land long before Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel on October 7.

Given the recent strikes on the refugee camps in Rafah – Gaza’s most southern city, bordering Egypt – only the few believe that this is not genocide.

And what kind of black heart - only former US Presidential candidate Nikki Haley - writes on the side of artillery shells ‘Finish Them’?

What is happening in Gaza is one of the deepest pockmarks in human history.

Large swathes of Gaza have already been reduced to ghostly carparks. What is Israel’s end game here? Or can we already guess?

It’s staggering to think that 14,000 dead children is still not enough for the American President Joe Biden to say: ‘Stop. Enough is enough.’

The GAA’s stance in modern times is apolitical, even if this approach doesn’t always represent its membership.

But this moment in history beseeched the Association to record its dismay at Israel’s eight-month bombardment of the people of Gaza, their schools, universities, hospitals and mosques.

In the grand scheme of things, the GAA/GPA’s statement on Wednesday, calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow aid to reach Gaza and for “all hostages” to be released – presumably they mean in both territories - will not in itself achieve a great deal.

If the United Nations and all other diplomatic efforts haven’t made any impact, a short statement from a sporting organisation on these faraway shores won’t either.

But it is better than saying nothing at all, as one poster succinctly put it: ‘Your silence will be studied by your grandkids’.

Those who preach that sport and politics should never mix generally have a vested interest in preserving the status quo in society.

They also know that sport can be a catalyst for change – and that no-one in 2024 has to wait around on people at the top of a sporting organisation to give them their consent to say or do something.

Take a bow Bohemians FC.

While there was expressed reticence in the higher echelons of the GAA about if – or when - to come out and publicly support the plight of the Palestinian people, Danny Hughes didn’t wait.

“The Palestinian flag should be flown at every GAA match,” he said in an interview with The Irish News in February.

Timmy Hammersley, the former Tipperary hurler, used his social media platforms to highlight his support for Palestine and condemned the Israeli Defence Force at every turn.

When the Dublin Ladies football team lined out with a banner in February supporting a truce in Palestine, Hammersley wrote: “Are all the other high-profile GAA and sports teams in this country willing to leave the Dublin Ladies team to stand alone? Including their own fellow Dubs?”

He continued: “Anyone worried about their reputation or sponsorship opportunities, it’s small change compared to what’s happening in Gaza.”

We need more outward expressions of support/condemnation than press releases hitting journalists’ in-boxes.

Michael Dara McAuley, Pat Gilroy and Dessie Farrell have all made strong statements in support of the rights of the Palestinian people - and there are an increasing number of GAA figures doing the same.

Nobody was waiting around on the GAA/GPA releasing their statement on Wednesday - but the top brass clearly gauged the pulse of the nation and were right to issue the words that they did, even though they could have been stronger.

Similarly, Gaels Le Chéile - a Gael on Gael pressure group seeking to bring about constitutional discussion on the island of Ireland - is another expression of where a group of like-minded GAA people have got together to promote their ideals and aspirations.

And why shouldn’t they argue for a better, fairer Ireland? Indeed, why should sports figures in general feel that they shouldn’t inhabit political spaces or conversations?

While the bloody siege of Palestine continues and more innocent lives are lost, it can be recorded that the GAA at least said something.

A motivating factor for all of us is knowing that our grandkids are watching.

St Malachy's 2016 boys
St Malachy's 2016 boys scooped the TAMHI trophy on penalties at the Marrowbone Millennium Facility
THE St Malachy’s OB Youth 2016 boys team scooped the inaugural TAMHI trophy at the Lord Mayor’s Day at the Marrowbone Millenium Pitches in north Belfast last Saturday.
St Malachy’s won the tournament on a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Outgoing Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy was on hand to present medals to all the children who participated in what was a “hugely successful” day for the local community.
TAMHI’s Michael Meehan was delighted to see the increased footfall around the new facility where there were food stalls, bouncy castles and face-painting.
“The idea was to get a lot of happy faces among the kids but among the adults as well,” he said.
“That’s what we strive to do at TAMHI. We are playing the game that we love and have a bit of fun.
“TAMHI is a mental health charity that wants to make a difference to local people’s lives and to teach mental health awareness and mental wellness in schools, sports clubs and youth clubs. We are there for anyone who needs help in our communities.”