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Allister's call to ban GAA jerseys from universities “absurd” says Flanagan

Published: 10 Apr 2014 15:110 comments

TUV leader hits back at Fermanagh-south Tyrone MLA in statement

A suggestion by TUV leader Jim Allister to ban GAA jerseys from universities in Northern Ireland because they are “creating a substantial chill factor” has been called “absurd” by Fermanagh-south Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan.

Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan and TUV leader Jim Allister.

Mr. Allister recently tabled a question for Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry to outline any discussions he has had with the University of Ulster regarding concerns that the “proliferation of GAA tops on campus” has lead to an “intimidating atmosphere for many students”.

In his response, Minister Farry revealed that the University of Ulster has now advised that a working group has been established to develop a good relations policy, in conjunction with the Students Union.

“An action plan has been developed, which will be presented to the relevant University committee in April. The policy will cover, inter alia, political expression, culture, language and dress code,” said Minister Farry.

Mr. Flanagan discussed Mr. Allister's complaint with the Minister during a meeting of the Employment and Learning Committee in Stormont this week.

Speaking afterwards, the Sinn Fein MLA said:  “The University of Ulster should not involve itself in this anti-GAA campaign. The university needs to promote diversity in sport and treat all codes with equal respect. The GAA is open to people from all traditions and ethnic backgrounds who take part and enjoy the many sporting and cultural events the GAA provides.”

He added: “The GAA teams at the University of Ulster have worn the university’s colours with distinction the length and breadth of this country. Is Jim Allister seriously suggesting banning the university’s players from wearing their tops on campus?”

Mr. Flanagan said he intended to raise the issue with senior management of the University of Ulster when the Employment and Learning Committee visits its Coleraine campus on April 30.

In a statement to this afternoon, Mr. Allister responded to Mr. Flanagan's comments.

"I wouldn’t expect Mr. Flanagan to care about Unionist students feel about the GAA. The question was asked because I was approached by a group of students from a Unionist background who felt that the proliferation of GAA tops created a chill factor."

"I for one can understand this feeling as it is a fact that throughout its history the GAA has been associated not just with Nationalism but with the violent Republicanism which is still defended by Flanagan and his party."

“If he wanted to find evidence of why the GAA isn’t a welcoming organisation for Unionists Flanagan wouldn’t need to look further than the comments of Joe Brolly who recently told us he was “proud” that his home club in Dungiven was named after convicted terrorist and INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch.

“He went further, telling us that 'it’s nobody else’s business' what clubs are called and 'people can either like it or lump it'", said Mr. Allister.

He added: “What sort of sport names its clubs after someone who engaged in an activity which can deny people the ability to ever walk again, never mind play GAA or any other sport?"

“Finally, if as Flanagan claims, the GAA is cross community and welcoming to everyone is Brolly wrong to say that those who object to clubs, competitions and grounds named after terrorists can 'either like it or lump it'?" he asked.

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