No shock that 32-county GAA would support 32-county Ireland says President-elect Jarlath Burns

Jarlath Burns will be the 41st President of the GAA. Picture: Sportsfile.
Jarlath Burns will be the 41st President of the GAA. Picture: Sportsfile. Jarlath Burns will be the 41st President of the GAA. Picture: Sportsfile.

THE GAA will support a United Ireland in the event of a border poll on unification confirmed the Association’s next President Jarlath Burns on Friday night.

Speaking after his landslide election success, Burns, the first Uachtaran Cummann Luth Cleas Gael from the North since Fermanagh’s Peter Quinn held the office almost 30 years ago and only the sixth in all, has steered cleared of border poll debates in the past but he said it “wouldn’t be shock therapy” that the GAA – a 32-county organisation – would support a 32-county nation.

“I have taken a back seat in all of those debates because I felt that if I am going to be representing the GAA I have to do it very responsibly and in a way that takes consideration of the inclusive nature of the Association,” said Burns, a prominent cross-community bridge-builder in the North.

“In the climate where there would be a border poll called, it would be incumbent on all civic organisations to take a position on it and it wouldn’t be shock therapy to anybody to hear that the GAA, who have always ignored partition very honourably, would want to see a united Ireland.

“That is my dream and it is not a subversive dream to have, it is a very valid perspective, particularly in the context of Brexit. But we would have to do it very responsibly.

“If you look even at the last independence referendum in Scotland, both Celtic and Rangers – the two big sporting organisations in that country – took a position on independence.

“I don’t think it would be unreasonable for us to say that we would want to see our land united because, even practically, partition doesn’t work.”

Improving stadia and providing new playing fields will be among the goals of the Burns presidency. Among those stadia is Casement Park and Burns said that delays in the redevelopment of the Belfast ground are not the fault of Ulster GAA. He cautioned that bringing the project to fruition will require the support of the Unionist community.

“Casement is a very exciting project,” he said.

“Belfast, like Cork, is Ireland’s second city. I think Pairc Ui Chaoimh is a fantastic stadium and I commend Cork on going ahead and having the courage to build it. I would say we need to have the courage too to go ahead and build Casement.

“Where it is (in terms of development) at the moment is not the fault of Ulster GAA, it’s the fault of circumstances that are beyond our control and Northern politics.

“If you listen to any of the statements I have made, they are very conciliatory towards the Unionist population. They are a British culture who exist on our part of Ireland and we (the GAA) are promoting Irish culture. If we want support to build Casement Park we have to get support from the Unionists and they have to be giving support in the context that the GAA is an inclusive organisation because inclusion is one of our values.”

The GAA has pledged £15million for the completion of the Casement project and Burns said that amount was adequate. It is up to the GAA now, he added, to ensure that the Government with the remainder of the finance.