A host of delegates from the GAA will travel to Westminster on Saturday in a bid to seek official recognition and funding from the British parliament, the Times have reported.
More than 100 members of the association including Páraic Duffy, the director-general, the outgoing president Aogán Ó Fearghail and his successor, John Horan, as well as the Irish ambassador to Britain Adrian O’Neill will attend the function in the House of Commons members’ dining room.
“The GAA in Britain has been a home from home for the countless young men and women who have emigrated to Britain over the years,” said Northern Irish Labour MP Conor McGinn, who is hosting the event.
“It also provides the chance to second and third-generation Irish who were born in Britain to express their identity through these games. The association makes a major contribution to society in Britain and it is right for it to be recognised,” he added.
Outside of Northern Ireland, GAA games are unrecognised and unfunded by British sporting bodies.
The current impasse at Stormont means that the GAA has opted to take its case directly to London in the hope of convincing British representatives of the significant role that the games play in the social fabric of the Irish diaspora across the water.
“I have campaigned to get UK government and Sport England recognition and funding for the GAA and its 200 clubs and 9,000 members in England, Scotland and Wales,” said McGinn who is determined to secure support for the development of the games across Britain.
The meeting marks a unique opportunity for GAA delegates to give a voice to thousands of association members across the UK.
The scale of the Irish diaspora has seen the GAA become a pillar in the expression of cultural identity across communities nationwide, something that cannot continue to be ignored by Westminster,
The British Council is currently responsible for the seven GAA counties of Britain, namely Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, London, Scotland, Warwickshire and Yokshire, which cover a significant geographical area.
Several GAA representatives, including Ulster secretary Brian McAvoy have recently expressed deep concerns about the potential consequences of Brexit for the association in the North itself, and in the border counties.
“A ‘hard border’ would have serious consequences for the GAA,” said McAvoy to the Irish News last week.
“Many of us will be familiar with the days of long queues at the border and any return to that would have significant consequences for the GAA, even with a continued Common Travel Area,” he added.
Despite obvious progress made in recent years, some tentative issues remain from the Troubles such as the killings of Aidan McAnespie in Tyrone in 1988 and Sean Brown in Derry in 1997.
This weekend’s meeting will also present the opportunity to highlight the importance of finding a workable solution post-Brexit that would protect the interests of GAA players north and south of the border.
Senior columnist for GAA Wrap.