Northern Ireland news

Joe Brolly defends grants to GAA: 'The queen has taken everyone's shilling, starting with the invasion of Ireland'

Joe Brolly, James McCartan and Declan Bonner joined John Duggan on the podcast panel

GAA pundit Joe Brolly has defended grants awarded to clubs, saying: "The queen has taken everyone's shilling, starting with the invasion of Ireland."

The outspoken former Derry footballer told a podcast that the association had to work "to make sure we got what was owed to us".

"It was self-help, we did all of this ourselves," he said.

Mr Brolly was speaking during an 'Off The Ball' podcast alongside fellow All-Ireland winners James McCartan and Declan Bonner, who joined presenter John Duggan to reflect on the golden years of Ulster football in the early 1990s.

They recalled the Down teams who won Sam Maguire in 1991 and 1994, as the well as the victories of Donegal in 1992 and Mr Brolly's Derry side the following year.

The podcast also saw the panellists discuss current issues in the GAA, including Dublin's dominance and life as an inter-county manager in the pandemic.

The discussion moved to the GAA during the Troubles and how it has benefited from the peace process in terms of infrastructure, funding and support.

Mr Brolly said the GAA was "absolutely entitled to" such grants.

"Let me tell you how those grants came about - the Government of Ireland Act that guaranteed parity of funding for sports in the north," he said.

"I think the statistic was that there were over 1,000 council soccer pitches and not a single council Gaelic pitch.

"It was self help, we did all of this ourselves and when grants became available through the European funds, we, because we had very high capacity at clubs, because we are community based... So in the Dungiven club - lawyers, accountants, people involved in politics at a higher level - we were able to harness all that capacity to make sure we got what was owed to us.

"That's all we got and this sort of notion out there that we took the queen's shilling, let me be absolutely clear about this: the queen has taken everyone's shilling, starting with the invasion of Ireland.

"Her fortune didn't magically appear from nowhere."

The barrister also spoke about abuse aimed at Republic of Ireland footballer James McClean.

"He's a Derry republican and he has made no bones about that," he said.

"He has decided to wear his colours on his sleeve... when you step out like he has, when you say anything nowadays, there's going to be a backlash.

"Obviously, he doesn't deserve the level of abuse that's there, but once you're a high-profile person you just learn to filter it out."

He also discussed the political environment that the Stoke City winger was raised within.

"Anybody who grew up during James's era in Derry is very likely to have very anti-establishment tendencies," he said.

"Don't forget, the cradle of the civil rights movement was gerrymandering in places like Derry city, depriving many people in poor Catholic areas of the vote.

"These are things that young people nowadays would be stunned to learn about. So, there's nothing surprising about James being forthright about his views."

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