Northern Ireland

Ulster GAA boss: Learn from Brexit and plan for Irish unity in any border poll

Brian McAvoy, Ulster GAA secretary. Picture by Mark Marlow
Brian McAvoy, Ulster GAA secretary. Picture by Mark Marlow

THE head of Ulster GAA has said people should learn from Brexit by ensuring any future border poll has a plan for a united Ireland.

Brian McAvoy said the GAA has always remained neutral in other referendums but "will make its position very very clear" in an Irish unity vote.

Citing the "chaos" of Brexit, the Ulster GAA secretary said a border poll should plan for what a united Ireland would entail "so everyone knows what they're voting for".

It comes as high-profile GAA figures Joe Brolly and Jarlath Burns have spoken out in recent days urging the association to back a border poll.

While the GAA remained neutral on referendums such as same-sex marriage and abortion, it has been urged to officially step away from such neutrality in the event of an Irish unity poll.

Mr Burns said the GAA should not remain neutral in any future border poll, while Mr Brolly said the association's "endorsement and support for a unity poll" is "entirely legitimate, peaceable and reflective of our membership's views".

Reacting to the debate, Mr McAvoy said the GAA's aims include "strengthening of the national identity in a 32-county Ireland".

He said the GAA has "always been neutral" on Ireland's referendums, but on a border poll added: "I think this one's slightly different given our ethos."

"They will make their position known if and when a border poll is called and I think that's the appropriate time to do so," he told The Irish News.

Mr McAvoy said that speaking personally, he believes "we should always learn from history".

"And one thing that Brexit has taught us, if you vote or have a vote for change, and that vote succeeds, it's in everyone's interests to have an idea of what it's going to look like on the other side," he said.

"And we're paying the price because Brexit was never thought through – and we have been in chaos ever since."

He added: "I would like to know what would be on the other side, and I think a border poll would have a much greater chance of success if we knew exactly what was happening on the other side.

"And when that time comes, and there is a border poll, the GAA will make its position very very clear.

"But at this point in time, I don't think there's any prospect of a border poll any time soon."