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'Pretty clear' where the GAA would stand on border poll, says President John Horan

GAA president John Horan at the Limavady Wolfhounds GAC yesterday where he officially opened the new gym facilities at the Derry club; pictured with young club members.
Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

PRESIDENT John Horan has admitted it is “pretty clear” where the GAA would stand in the event of a future poll on Irish unity – but refused to be drawn on whether the association would take an official position on the matter.

Last month former Derry forward and GAA pundit Joe Brolly urged the GAA to abandon its political neutrality and show “leadership” by giving its backing to a referendum on Irish unity.

And those sentiments were echoed by ex-Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns, who said the association's aim is to "strengthen national identity" in a united Ireland.

GAA president Horan, who was in Derry yesterday to open Limavady Wolfhounds’ new gym, gave his thoughts on a possible border poll down the line – though still feels it is “somewhat speculative” given the continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“We look upon ourselves as a 32-county organisation, so I think it’s pretty clear where the GAA would stand if such a poll came,” said the Dublin native.

“It’s somewhat speculative, there’s not even a hint of a date or timing or anything like that, so we just need to wait and see what happens.”

When asked whether if he could see the GAA giving a poll its public backing, he added: “Well, we are apolitical so…

“We’ll do anything that helps the 32 counties play our games across the country, but we are an apolitical organisation.”

A new Brexit deal deadline of October 31 was set on Wednesday night, after withdrawal from the European Union was initially scheduled to happen on March 29.

Should it eventually proceed, the ramifications for the GAA are potentially huge, particularly if it came about without any agreement between the different parties, which could potentially lead to the return of a hard border in Ireland.

A return to border checkpoints would also have a significant impact on a north-south organisation like the GAA, where county and club teams cross the border on a regular basis.

Horan acknowledged that it would be “a disaster” if that scenario transpired.

He continued: “Even if you take myself coming up here. I was able to sit in the car and say, 'right, that's the length of time I am driving and I will get there', because there are no road blocks or checkpoints coming up the road.

“There's no point us exercising energy on this at the moment. For the very good reason, I was listening to it on the radio coming up, nobody knows what is going to happen.

“So we will just have to wait and see. It would be a disaster to have to revert back to what went on before, but we will exert as much influence as we can. At the same time, I think it's ultimately above us, in a way.

“To me it would be a very speculative exercise that may not give us any outcomes and ultimately, will there be another referendum in Britain? Will they change?

“And you could exercise a lot of energy into it and nothing could come of it. Ultimately, as an organisation, we wouldn't want to see any border coming back.”

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