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Minster Simon Harris lauds GAA clubs for their help fighting COVID-19


By John Harrington

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, recently visited the COVID-19 Community Testing Centre in Croke Park. While there, he spoke to GAA.it about the hugely positive role that GAA clubs have taken on in the fight against COVID-19.

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Q: Minister, you've been here in Croke Park today to see the testing facilities. What have been your impressions?

A: It's peculiar being here in Croke Park for a testing facility rather than a game but my impression here is that such amazing work has been done in such a short space of time and our Health Service has had to build up an entire new testing infrastructure from nothing for a virus that is new to the world in relative terms.

And I think what you have here is a real good example of partnership of the GAA working with the Health Service to meet the needs of the Irish people. And I'm conscious of course that the GAA's involvement doesn't stop here in Croke Park. Right across the country so many clubs in all communities are involved in looking after each other.

That Irish 'Meitheal', if you like, where people come together at a time of difficulty. People doing the groceries and checking in on a socially distant way on an older neighbor and walking the dog of somebody who's self isolating and coming together which I suppose is the very ethos of the GAA. So, while it's a weird feeling to be here in a Croke Park like this I think it's a testament to the principles of the GAA that the organisation has really stepped up and played such a major role in our national effort to beat this virus.

Q: That 'Meitheal' you speak of, helping the most vulnerable in our communities, the work the clubs are doing, has that been particularly helpful for the HSE in terms of maybe taking the burden away in certain non-emergency cases?

A: Yeah, I mean, what we need to do here is make sure we can use our healthcare professionals to do what they're trained to do what they want to do what they're really skilled at doing. But we also know that there are non-health things that need to be done. There's dogs that need to be walked, there's grass that needs to be cut, there's messages and prescriptions that need to be picked up and there's older people who may not have a support network who need a friendly phone call to check in on them.

And the fact that the GAA has stepped up in that regard with other community organisations right across the country makes me very

proud to be Irish I think it should make every member of the GAA very proud of their organisation. It's really expanded to the Health Service, if you like. It's grown the health family and it's being key to to our success. I mean when I think of COVID-19 I really do think of Team Ireland and everybody coming together, everybody playing their part, nothing being too much for anybody.

That has definitely been key to our success so far in suppressing the virus but it's also been key to try to keep us all going at what is a very difficult time for people but trying to motivate us and encouraging each other when you see those acts of kindness happening in towns and villages right across the country.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., and GAA President, John Horan, during a visit to the HSE COVID-19 community testing centre at Croke Park in Dublin. 
An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., and GAA President, John Horan, during a visit to the HSE COVID-19 community testing centre at Croke Park in Dublin. 

Q: In terms of keeping a positive mental attitude, I'm sure you'd love to back here again in Croke Park soon under different circumstances?

A: Yeah, look, we're all looking forward to the resumption of sport. There's so many great days out here every year but also at pitches up and down the length and breadth of the country. Of course we have to do it in a way that's safe, so we want to see the gradual return to sport. We don't want to see the restrictions in place for a one moment longer than they need to be. But we have to follow the evidence, we have to listen to the public health doctors because at the end of the day it's about saving lives.

But we want people back playing sports as quickly as as possible and as soon as it's safe to do something.

Q: How helpful has it been that that message that you're speaking about has been echoed by the GAA and clubs around the country to the members?

A: Oh it's been so helpful. I mean the GAA has such a reach into every town, every village, every parish across the country. It can do what we can't do. It can very easily mobilise an army of volunteers and also a network of information. I'm sure those WhatsApp groups in clubs right across the country pinging with messages of what the needs of the people in their local town and villages are and I've seen this and I've heard of these examples as well. So to be able to tap into the network that is the GAA and to really mobilise that GAA army for the good of Team Ireland has been invaluable.

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