Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has defended the funding that has been provided to Dublin GAA going back to his time in office.
Ahern played a significant role in Government money being provided for the development of Gaelic games in his native county, close to €1m per year since 2005 via Sport Ireland, which works out at approximately €13m.
In front of an Oireachtas committee last year, former GAA director general Páraic Duffy explained that Ahern was integral to the funding being directed to Dublin.
“That money, originally, when it was allocated to the GAA, was allocated specifically for Dublin, for the development of hurling and football. It was when Bertie Ahern was Taoiseach and, to be fair, it has been really successful in terms of broadening the participation of the games in Dublin.”
On Radio Kerry’s Terrace Talk programme this week, Ahern explained why GAA in Dublin requires assistance.
“It’s always a fair question to ask, but I remember the beginning of this decade when Pat [Gilroy] had come in and we got hammered by your good selves (Kerry, 2009 All-Ireland semi-final).
"We weren’t doing well at the end of the last decade. As manager of the team, Pat was going around trying to organise funding. If the success didn’t come in 2011 and the good league campaign, we wouldn’t have got the sponsorship.
“Yes, Dublin has a big population, but it’s a tough game in Dublin. It’s huge soccer country; it’s huge rugby country; it’s huge people-who-couldn’t-care-less-about-Gaelic-football; huge new Irish population, if I put it that way; and you have people who just aren’t sympathetic to GAA in the city.”
Ahern accepts the popularity of Gaelic games in Dublin has soared, but pointed back to when that was not the case.
“I remember back in ’95, coming back up from a commemoration in Wexford the day of the All-Ireland final, and I had to go to Liberty Hall before I saw the first Dublin colours. It’s not like that now, but it was like that.
“I’m not saying Kerry people, because I think we have great respect for each other, but there’s a lot of people… like, we didn’t win an All-Ireland in the 30s, we won in ’42 and the next one was in ’58, then it was ’63, then we had the great team of ’74 to ’77 then we had to wait until ’83, just one, and then ’95. This decade has been brilliant and I keep saying it to Dublin supporters they need to understand that this is a rarity.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.