A statement from the President Republican Sinn Féin, Des Dalton.
The decision of the London County Board to allow the British Army’s Irish Guards Regiment to affiliate to the association in London and enter a team in the 2016 Junior football championship is a betrayal of the history, ideals and ethos upon which Cumann Lúthchleas Gael was founded. It is another example of the cultural imperialism which underlies the project of normalising British Rule in Ireland.
The GAA was one of the cultural and sporting bodies founded at the end of the 19th Century as part of Irish Cultural revival aimed at the de-Anglicising Ireland, now it is being hijacked in order to undo the work for which it was founded and which has been at its core in the decades since. Irish national games and music - as we witnessed in 2013 when the Fleadh Cheoil was held in Derry to promote Derry as a so-called “UK City of Culture” - are being turned back against the concept of Ireland as a separate nation with a distinct historical and cultural identity.
The GAA has long been recognised as a bastion of Irish culture, cultivating in our youth an awareness of their unique cultural and national identity. But now the hierarchy of the GAA have allowed our association to be absorbed into a process which is about undoing the work of the GAA since 1884. The GAA has long been targeted by the 26-County and British States as a weapon to be used in the normalising of British occupation.
In 2001 following intense political pressure the GAA dropped Rule 21 which prohibited members of the British Crown forces joining the GAA. Since then the England Rugby team was allowed to play in Croke Park while a team from the RUC/PSNI played a 26-County police force team there in 2011. In May 2011 the Queen of England was hosted there by the hierarchy of the GAA.
We applaud those delegates who withstood the threats and blandishments of Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster and resisted this latest sell-out. However the hierarchy of the GAA have once more disgraced themselves.
In the centenary year of the 1916 Rising, when we will remember the Irish from London - many of them members of the GAA – who took their place in the fight for Irish freedom, we will now have the spectacle of a team representing the British Army participating in the London championship.
The very notion of Ireland as a distinct nation is under severe threat. As we approach the Centenary of 1916 this cultural imperialism must be resisted.