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Wise Comments From Jarlath Burns On United Ireland Go Viral After Election Last Night

Wise Comments From Jarlath Burns On United Ireland Go Viral After Election Last Night
Donny Mahoney
By Donny Mahoney
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There were emotional scenes at Croke Park last night as Jarlath Burns was elected GAA president. The Armagh great has made no secret of his interest in the role, but he was defeated last time around by Larry McCarthy. In the end he won convincingly last night and amazingly becomes Northern Ireland's first GAA president since Peter Quinn in the early 1990s.

Burns is an excellent communicator and a fascinating person. His day job is a schools principal at St Paul's High School in Bessbrook and he's a compelling choice to lead the organisation at this particular moment in Irish history.

Burns joined Thomas Niblock on the GAA Social podcast at the start of the month and gave some insight into his perspective on Unionism and the GAA's role in society in Northern Ireland.

The Silverbridge man has said in the past the GAA should consider not flying the tricolour at matches as well as consider not playing Ambhrán na bhFiann before games in order to appeal to the Unionist community.


Niblock asked Burns about those comments on the podcast. Burns spoke of his desire for a united Ireland and re-iterated his happiness to make this 'compromise' if it means a united Ireland is feasible.

"We need to chill a wee a bit on this and we need to be curious of and interested in other people's culture."

“I have a serious curiosity and interest in British culture and in the unionist culture, in Orange culture.”

“I’ve the Orange Order in our school all the time talking to our young people to get them to understand what that is about. What parading is about, what walking to give witness to their sincere belief in the reformed faith is about.

“If we show in our organisation that we have sympathy and an understanding for the culture of the Protestant people in Northern Ireland, maybe when we ask them to respect our culture, they will.”

“It can’t be our culture and nobody else’s. There is a significant British population who reside on this part of Ireland and they feel under siege.”

And they are misunderstood in many respects. And they become outraged and furious about a very many stuff because they feel their backs are against the wall.

“Because we are becoming a majority, we cannot do 'yahoo! what we want now with our flag and anthem. The GAA is a good example of how you do those things sensitively. We are proud to be Irish. The flag is my flag; it’s not everybody’s flag.

“I would be open to a situation in a new Ireland that wants to be fully inclusive of all traditions and faiths that it may be a compromise we have to make.”

It may be a compromise that we have to make and it wouldn't be a very big one for the big prize of having a united Ireland, which would be a dream for me.

These comments have been shared widely on social media since Burns's election last night.

Jarlath Burns on the GAA's role in Northern Ireland

Burns also described the special role the GAA has played in the complicated and often toxic political landscape of Northern Ireland.


“We are a fully inclusive organisation, we are anti-sectarian; that means that the GAA is open to every single person who wants to join the GAA and participate in our games.”

"We fly the flag on our own property, we put it up before the match, then we take it down. We respect it. We play the anthem at the matches and we respect the anthem and other people’s cultures as well.

“We have our past and sometimes I think the GAA has been more a play-thing of, rather than a player, in the various revolutions that have happened throughout the history of Ireland.

“We have steered a really difficult path through all of that, particularly during the Troubles when many of our members were victims and we hear of that all the time.

I just think we should always be a voice of reason and a voice of reconciliation.”

At a time of real change in Northern Ireland, it's re-assuring to have a GAA president who understands the subtleties relating to identity on this island, and who grasps the power that the GAA can play as a force for good.

SEE ALSO: We Could All Learn A Lot From Patrick Kielty's Mature Approach To A United Ireland



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