The GAA is as much a community organisation as a sporting one which is why it is so important that social inclusion should be at the core of its ethos.
The Irish population is an increasingly diverse one and migrants from many different countries are making a significant contribution to their local GAA clubs since moving to Ireland.
Longford Slashers are a good example of a club who have welcomed the migrant community with open arms and are now reaping the rewards.
They’ve been very successful at underage level in recent years thanks in no small part to the influx of new families into the area and the club’s proactive approach in getting them involved.
More important than the silverware won is the way in the manner in which the club’s inclusive policy has made newcomers to the town quickly feel part of the community.
Longford Councillor, Uruemu Adejinmi, is the Slashers’ Integration Officer, and has experienced first-hand the positive impact it makes when the hand of friendship is willingly extended.
“Getting involved in the GAA is an easy win as far as I’m concerned as a migrant because you’re sharing the love that the Irish people have for their sport,” she told GAA.ie.
“The GAA is an opportunity for migrants to get involved, to blend in, to understand the Irish culture in terms of sport.
“And it’s an opportunity as well to embrace more of the new community and get them to see the welcome, the céad míle fáilte that the Irish are known for.
“That’s why I love getting involved, that’s why I became the integration officer, to get more people into the club, to experience the embrace I have received here, to experience the greatness of Gaelic Football and to join the Longford Slashers GAA family.”
The founding fathers of the GAA hoped the Association would help consolidate Irish identity through the playing of our native sports at a time when they were close to dying out altogether.
Gaelic Games are thriving now and the time for consolidation is long past. Now there is far more to be gained from sharing our sporting culture with others.
Proof of that is vividly illustrated by the rapid growth of our international GAA units which now number over 400. Once traditionally a home from home for Irish ex-pats, GAA clubs outside of Ireland are now bastions of multi-culturalism and a great advertisment for the GAA's embrace of diversity.
Most recently, in collaboration with Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI), McTavish developed the Association’s Responding to Racism (R2R) educational and awareness campaign which includes both education and procedures to follow should any incidents arise in GAA clubs.
See below for further information on the GAA’s commitment to promoting equality and eliminating discrimination.
What steps has the GAA taken in recent years to promote equality and eliminate discrimination?
In the GAA official guide, the Association is Anti-Sectarian, Anti-Racist and committed to the principles of inclusion and diversity at all levels. Any conduct by deed, word, or gesture of sectarian or racist nature or which is contrary to the principles of inclusion and diversity against a player, official, spectator or anyone else, in the course of activities organised by the Association, shall be deemed to have discredited the Association.
The current Diversity and Inclusion officer, Ger McTavish, employed in 2019, is determined to further develop the policy and practice of using the family of Gaelic games for cultural integration and social inclusion engaging people from our diverse ethnic population in Irish society, along with making sure that all the games in the Gaelic family are adapted for people with different abilities.
Responding to Racism, discrimination, and different forms of hostilities
In March 2020 in line with the INAR Human Rights week, Ger McTavish launched the first GAA Responding To Racism (R2R) educational and awareness campaign. The campaign, which includes education elements and procedures to follow should any incidents arise at any level of the GAA, has been developed in collaboration with Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI).
The GAA aims to offer an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone. Inclusion essentially means people having a sense of belonging, of being comfortable in being part of something they value. Inclusion is a choice. Diversity means being aware of accommodating and celebrating differences. Inclusion and Diversity in many ways go together. Real inclusion reflects the diversity, i.e. it aims to offer that sense of belonging to everyone, irrespective of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, race or minority community and/or disability.
The GAA’s Manifesto is summed up by the statement "GAA- Where We All Belong" / "CLG - Tá Áit Dúinn Uilig Ann".
We’re proud of and celebrate our Irishness; a celebration of our GAA, our shared values and of every person who helps make the GAA what it is - in every corner of the globe; that we focus on Gaelic Games and activities; that we’re community-based; and that we cherish our amateur ethos and volunteer base. We remain and are proud of what we are but in doing so and in remaining true to all that, we are open and welcoming to others.
How is the GAA educating our younger members that discrimination in any form is not tolerated by the Association?
Code of Behaviour (Underage)
Since it was adopted in 2010 the Code of Behaviour has highlighted in simple language, understood by children and young people, that expressions and actions of a racist nature are not acceptable and will not be tolerated. In addition to our Association rule 1.12 in which conduct of a racist nature will be deemed to have discredited the Association we also have Rule 7.2 (e) an on the field of play rule that addresses racism while the above Code has also been enshrined in Rule.
Incidents of alleged racism can now be dealt with at club, county or national level by select Code of Behaviour Committees appointed and trained for that purpose.
Child Safeguarding Training
The GAA is the first NGB in Ireland to include a case study on racism amongst young people, as part of our child safeguarding (protection) training. Participants address this case study as form of child abuse and are asked how to address any racism and how to be proactive in addressing such matters. 22,800 GAA coaches attended this training in 2019.
GAA Tackling Bullying Programme
As the only Sports NGB with an anti bullying training programme regular workshops are delivered at Club level in response to incidents of bullying which at times may also include interventions as a result of racist actions.
In October 2019, as part of a new child safeguarding section, the content of the referee's training programme was amended to include a case study on incidents of a racist nature calling at or during games. Whereas a referee may take immediate action during a game if they are aware or witness racism referees are now obliged to report any allegations of racism during or after a game to their relevant GAA County Board.
With the assistance of Consensus NI and the National College of Ireland, a five week (weekend) training programme was agreed to upskill 20 tutors as part of the introduction of Restorative Practice services in the GAA. This new form of support and alternative intervention has been specifically chosen to deal with disputes not traditionally dealt with under Rules, including issues of racism or bullying and personal conflicts. the training will commence as soon as is practically possible.
Looking to the future
On a broader front the inclusion and equity measures in the extant European commission white paper on sport will be fully implemented in a systematic way starting with the Club to Community programme where local clubs will engage . There is the template being used to guarantee a social compact with people with different abilities that will provide physical access in stadiums and other club facilities. There is many area of human rights and promotion of equality that is coming into the organisation through the Diversity and Inclusion officer Ger McTavish.
There will also be an adaptive sport strategy that will expand the work already achieved by the GAA. Ger is currently working with UNESCO Tralee, Council of Europe and European commission on a human rights program. The Rights Understanding in Sport Toolkit (TRUST). This project will develop a programme for sports practitioners in educational institutions and the wider community on providing human rights education and raise awareness of the potential role sport can play in human rights promotion. A second project that we are involved in is Responsibility Sport with Erasmus plus, Solidarity and Responsible Sports Euro leaders Training in collaboration with University College Cork.
The project aims to introduce in sports academies and sports clubs, procedures that can combat social problems that today's sport faces (violence, racism, intolerance, discrimination, gender inequality, inequality of access to sports, language stereotypes and others). For this, we will want to create a social responsibility stamp and a recognition process adapted to sport and we will want to develop a European course training to sports directors (and consultants) in these issues. We want to make these actions recognized at the national and a European level through a common recognition. We continue to work closely on many collaborations with Sport Against Racism Ireland and many other stakeholders.
For more information please contact GAA National Diversity & Inclusion officer Geraldine Mc Tavish