GAA Football

Support for 'Gaels letter to Taoiseach' spreading throughout Ireland

Jane Adams and Paddy Cunningham have spearheaded the campaign for Antrim Gaels, which has gathered more than 12,000 signatures Picture by Hugh Russell

TYRONE’S All-Ireland winning captain Padraig Hampsey is among the 12,000 Ulster Gaels who have signed a letter addressed to the Taoiseach urging him to start preparing for a referendum on Irish unity and establish a Citizens’ Assembly.

The Gael-on-Gael initiative that began in Antrim and was spearheaded by former county stars Jane Adams and Paddy Cunningham is now gaining significant support from GAA members in other provinces, with some of Kerry and Dublin's big hitters expected to officially endorse the letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin next week.

Derry’s Chrissy McKaigue, Donegal’s Kevin Cassidy, Tyrone’s Padraig Hampsey, Monaghan’s Darren Hughes, Armagh’s Aimee Mackin and Down’s Fionnula Carr are some GAA figures leading the campaign in their respective counties in Ulster.

The letter, initially signed by 3,000 Antrim Gaels, was delivered to the Taoiseach in May but has never been acknowledged.

However, with numbers ballooning to over 12,000 in Ulster and other provinces embracing the aims and objectives articulated in the letter, Adams and Cunningham hope the Taoiseach will take notice and begin to plan.

Former Antrim camogie star Jane Adams said: "This initiative has gained huge traction right across Ulster amongst all codes and at every level of the Association. It is clear that these conversations are happening right across the island.

"That's why we are appealing to our fellow Gaels to join with us and endorse this letter."

Undoubtedly, the repercussions of ‘Brexit’ and the perceived slow, unwieldy nature of government has prompted GAA members to become more involved in the national conversation on a new Ireland.

“I think the Taoiseach should take note of all the Ulster Gaels and already there is work being undertaken in other provinces,” said Cunningham.

“I’ve sat on many zoom calls with Kerry Gaels, people who would have a lot more All-Irelands than anyone; their drive and appetite for change and the desire for a new Ireland is as strong as anyone’s in the northern province.

“This is the second formal hand we’ve put out to the Taoiseach and hopefully he’ll be in touch with us.”

In yesterday’s press release, entitled: ‘Ulster Gaels Appeal to fellow Gaels across the country to endorse letter to An Taoiseach’, Padraig Hampsey said: “The GAA is part of the very fabric of Irish society and rooted in communities the length and breadth of the island. I am appealing to Gaels across Ireland to endorse this letter and call for An Taoiseach to engage with us.”

A social media campaign will be launched next week by Gaels, while others wishing to add their support to the campaign can do so at the website www.gaelslettertotaoiseach.ie

Croke Park has yet to comment on the Gaels Letter to the Taoiseach.

Cunningham added: “This letter is the manifestation of the times that we’re living in and it’s a responsible thing for us as Gaels to contribute to the debate. This is not party political, this is driven solely by Gaels.

“We were hopeful that the Taoiseach would have acknowledged the letter we sent earlier in the year. We were disappointed that that wasn’t the case but the swell of opinion within the GAA across Ulster and Ireland is broadening day by day and I think he needs to appreciate the demands from Gaels.

“It’s the biggest community organisation in Ireland. We have 12,000 signatures – God knows where we’ll be at the end of this process.

“We are now calling on the other three provinces – Leinster, Connacht and Munster – to fall in behind the Ulster Gaels initiative and ask the Taoiseach to follow through with taking lead and planning for a referendum and to establish a fully representative Citizens’ Assembly.

“Debate is healthy and obviously there will be difficult conversations which everyone will feel is important. At the end of the day, if we don’t begin to plan or begin to form a Citizens’ Assembly to have these conversations to find out what each section of society desires, then until that process begins we’ll never know what those issues are and therefore we can't properly address them."

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