EU exit “will heavily impact the GAA”

Posted By: March 29, 2017

Andrew Madden. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, March 29, 2017

THE GAA will be “heavily impacted” by Brexit, according to a leading figure in Gaelic games.

Speaking to The Irish News ahead of a GAA-Brexit seminar yesterday, Mark Conway, founder of both Club Tyrone, the county team’s support network, and the GAA lobby group Of One Belief, warned of the implications potential a border and other issues could have on the sport.

To explore these possible effects Mr Conway, who came into the public eye when he led opposition to the introduction of government grants for inter-county players in 2007, organised a ‘Tyrone Talks Brexit’ event at the GAA Centre in Garvaghy.

One of the most obvious worries for the GAA in dealing with Brexit would be the possibility of a hard border, which in the past hindered travelling fans and teams from the north and south during the Troubles.

For instance, going from Donegal to Clones – the traditional home of the Ulster Senior Football Championship Final – will mean two border crossings with a non-EU state.

Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan will be in the championship from the Republic of Ireland while Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh, Down and Antrim will compete as counties from a non-EU country.

The GAA was represented at the all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit at Dublin Castle in November, however, a lack of clarity in what Brexit will actually mean – especially in Ireland – has made future planning difficult.

Speaking to The Irish News, Mr Conway said the decision to host the event was simple.

“We believe the GAA is, and has been since partition, Ireland’s leading 32 county organisation and is therefore likely to be heavily-impacted on by Brexit,” he said.

“Nobody seems to know what that impact might be but, nearly a year after the Brexit vote, we just thought somebody needed to get the discussion going within the GAA.

“There’s an old Irish saying, “Múineann gá seift… Need teaches a plan”. That’s where tonight’s talk is coming from.”

Other issues tackled last night included currency rates, which are already causing problems for the GAA.

At the home of Ireland’s Gaelic Games – Croke Park in Dublin – grants are made in Euro and their value in the north is subject to exchange rate movements.

Ticket prices are also subject to currency fluctuations, the like of which saw the value of the pound plummet following the referendum vote in June.

The keynote speaker for the event was Peter Quinn, a former GAA president and well-known businessman.

“Given his background and ability to ‘cut to the chase’ on things, Peter was the obvious choice as a speaker and we’re honoured and delighted to get him,” Mr Conway explained.

“For a generation of us, nobody has had a more significant positive impact on the GAA than Peter.

“We deliver a wide range of talks and seminars here, some looking at the past, some at the present and some, like tonight’s, at the future.”