The GAA has reiterated its commitment to inclusion and diversity in the wake of a series of testimonies from young Gaelic games players who have been victims of racist abuse on the field.
In the past week, Gaelic footballers Stefan Okunbor and Franz Sauerland, and Antrim ladies footballer Lara Dahunsi, have shared their experiences of racism.
And in a piece titled ‘Zero tolerance for racism in Gaelic Games’, GAA.ie’s chief writer John Harrington said it was important that the players’ voices are heard.
“It is only by shining a light on such discrimination when it occurs that it can be exposed and rooted out.”
Harrington added: “The Association is anti-sectarian, anti-racist, and committed to the principles of inclusion and diversity at all levels. These values are enshrined in the GAA’s Official Guide.
“The racist slurs suffered by Franz, Stefan, and Lara proves there is a journey still to travel, but the GAA has worked hard and continues to work hard to ensure that inclusivity is a byword for Gaelic Games.”
Dahunsi was disappointed the GAA or LGFA hadn’t released a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter protests.
Today, Ger McTavish, the association’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer, explained the efforts being made to address racism on behalf of the Gaelic games family; the GAA, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, and the Camogie Association.
“The GAA is made up of one race with many ethnicities that we support in our community awareness campaigns and all educational sport programmes,” McTavish told GAA.ie.
“The diversity and inclusion work in the GAA takes many forms and we endeavour to develop policy and practice of using the family of Gaelic games for cultural integration and social inclusion of people from our diverse ethnic population in Irish society, along with making sure that all the games in the Gaelic basket are adapted for people with different abilities.”
In collaboration with Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI), McTavish developed the Association’s Responding to Racism (R2R) educational and awareness campaign.
It details procedures to follow should racist incidents arise in GAA clubs, with the first workshop taking place in Mayo last March.
Pakistan-born, All-Ireland winning, Mayo U-21 footballer, Shairoze Akram, explained the value of the the initiative to GAA.ie.
“I think those sorts of workshops are very important going forward. It's about educating not just players, but coaches as well.
“Because coaches will then go back to their own clubs and counties and the message will be reiterated to all the players from a young age.
“Everybody needs to be educated on that what you say and what you do can have consequences and a negative effect on an individual.
“The education side of it is very important because some kids might say things without knowing exactly what it actually means and others mightn't realise what they're saying is offensive."
Akram suffered racist abuse on the pitch in his younger playing days.
“But once I started playing up to minor and U-21s and started playing with Mayo people would get to know you as a persona and they wouldn't feel the need to say stuff like that.
“I don't think we have the same level of racism in Ireland that you would in a country like the USA, but you would be foolish to say there is none or that it isn't an issue at all.”