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If the GAA were to dismisss the UAE, only Irish emigrants would suffer

It was with some disappointment that a number of members of Dubai Celts GAA and I read Kieran Shannon’s article (‘World’s big enough for GAA to look beyond Dubai’ , Irish Examiner, January 5).

I note that this disappointment arose from a number of inaccurate and harmful claims made in his article.

Firstly, Mr. Shannon neglected to mention that we in fact hosted the Dublin footballers in 2011 and the Galway hurlers are our guests at the time of writing.

I sincerely hope that this article has not discouraged any other counties from visiting us and providing us with the much needed exposure that our sponsors require. This sponsorship allows us continue to run the club and create a vital social outlet to the Irish community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It was quite disheartening to see a former guest of the club and a journalist that I regard as a thought leader, resort to pedalling tired tropes regarding socioeconomic factors in the UAE that we as a club have no control over.

These same statements have appeared in publications in the past that I had thought were inferior to yours.

Also, Mr Shannon imploring the GAA to ignore Dubai (and implicitly the rest of the UAE and Middle East) does significant damage to the work that has been done for Irish emigrants and development of the GAA across the region. This work is evidenced by Abu Dhabi hosting the first ever GAA World Games, and the Middle East League in Bahrain last October being the largest ever international Gaelic games gathering outside of the UK/USA.

I am fully aware that there are serious issues surrounding the mistreatment of labourers by their employers in the UAE and that I and the membership of the club are abhorred by mistreatment of our fellow residents. I am not for one moment defending such mistreatment. However, Mr Shannon’s article on this subject has tarred every UAE resident with the same brush. The UAE is a young nation and should be doing a number of things better, however it is a tolerant nation that allows me and people of various nationalities and beliefs earn a living, freely practice religion and native customs and live in safety.

For the sake of consistency, will Mr Shannon write an article demanding that the GAA cut all ties with the US due to their government’s drone programme when New York are competing in the Connaught championship? Alternatively, will he call for an embargo to be placed on China hosting the Asian Gaelic Games until they improve their human rights record?

Finally, we welcome Mr Shannon back to Dubai at any time to see the work being done here for the GAA and the Irish community, and that we and the city have indeed got soul.

Darragh Walshe


Dubai Celts GAA Club


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