GAA makes pitch for hurling to get world heritage recognition

Hurling took a step closer to Intangible Cultural Heritage recognition from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) last night as a GAA delegation made a presentation to members of the body in Paris.

GAA makes pitch for hurling to get world heritage recognition

Hurling took a step closer to Intangible Cultural Heritage recognition from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) last night as a GAA delegation made a presentation to members of the body in Paris.

Over nine years since Fine Gael senator John Paul Phelan wrote to the world body seeking the game be considered a “cherished intangible asset” and four years after the plan to seek the endorsement was backed by the Government, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan yesterday led a group including former Cork star John Fenton and GAA president John Horan in making their pitch in the French capital.

They delivered it at a celebration of hurling staged in the Irish Embassy in Paris hosted by Ambassador Dermot Nolan, Ireland’s permanent representative to UNESCO. Invited guests, among whom were UNESCO ambassadors, heard speeches from Minister Madigan, Fenton, Horan, and other members of the delegation.

In their address entitled “Hurling — Ireland’s Living Culture”, UNESCO figures were also shown hurleys and sliotars dating back as far as the 15th century. Last December, uilleann piping earned UNESCO recognition following a similar event in the Irish Embassy three months previous and the hope is hurling will receive the honour before Christmas.

Should it be successful, it will join other sports such as Turkey’s Kirkpinar oil wrestling festival, the South Korean traditional sport of Jultagi (tightrope walking), Azerbaijan’s Chovqan, a horse-riding game, Mongolian knuckle-bone shooting, Brazil’s Capoeira Circle (a fight/dance sport), and Kazakhstan’s Kuresi, a form of wrestling.

Also in the hurling delegation were GAA director of games development Pat Daly, acting Camogie Association chief executive Louise Conlon and historian Daniel McCarthy, director of UCD’s World Heritage Management and Conservation programme Claire Cave and UCD Professor of Archaeology Aidan O’Sullivan.

I suppose the case we are making is that hurling has been around a long time, it is pretty much unique to Ireland,” Daly said in advance of the gathering at the embassy. “It is a distinctive game and if you mention hurling in this country it is pretty much tied up with Irish identity and everything that goes with that.

“Based on the history of the game and the societal impact it has and its contribution to identity and social capital and the identity to communities, we believe it merits recognition by UNESCO in an intangible cultural heritage context. It is a big reputational thing, but you’d still have to go out to promote the game.

“The fact uilleann piping got UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status last year is recognition of the uniqueness of uilleann piping.

Where it has come from and its contribution to the world of music. What we are talking about here is something comparable, it is recognition of the contribution hurling has made to society.

Daly praised Clare team doctor Dr Pádraic Quinn and fellow Clare man McCarthy who managed the GAA’s heritage framework policy.

It is McCarthy’s belief such recognition of hurling would increase its international audience and integrate hurling into Ireland’s heritage tourism.

While acknowledging the involvement of Ambassador Nolan, GAA president Horan extolled the qualities of the game: “Hurling is unique in that it is not only our national game, but is also a huge generator of identity and social capital. The fact that there are over 250,000 active players testifies to its inherent attraction and growing popularity at national level.

“The growth among indigenous communities, at international level, is a further manifestation of this and the increasing number of native-born Americans and Germans who are now playing the game is nothing short of remarkable.

“The Association welcomes the opportunity to spread the story of the game and very much appreciates the opportunity provided by Ambassador Dermot Nolan to do so.”

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