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A Sign of the Times?

By Patrick Van Roy On July 18th, 2020

Guest Post by Seimi



Newly formed club, East Belfast GAA play their first official match tonight, when the men’s team take on St. Michael’s, Magheralin.

The club’s formation has been mentioned a few times on these pages by various posters, most recently in comments (I think) when Noel wrote about his trip to Belfast.

Despite some of the naysayers on that particular post, Belfast, and NI in general, continues to explore a shared history and heritage, and east Belfast are particularly adept ‘ceannródaithe’ (pioneers) in this field. EB GAA’s president, Linda Ervine, also heads the Turas project on the Newtownards Road, where hundreds of local people are attending Irish language and history courses, and some of them have moved on to universities to continue their Irish studies at third level.

Linda also recently announced the opening of the area’s first Irish medium nursery.

Of course, this recognition of shared history and heritage goes both ways, and much of the work they do is aimed at educating those not from the area in the rich history of what used to be the heart of the ship-building industry.

The crest of the club brings together the strands of a diverse city: the Red hand of Ulster, Shamrock and Thistle celebrate both ‘sides’ of the community, and also highlights the strong link with our Scottish cousins. This is further reflected in the tri-lingual motto – Together, Le Chéile, Thegither – demonstrating a coming together of not only the languages, but the speakers, the people. The image of Belfast’s famous cranes, Samson and Goliath stands over the motto, a reminder of that same ship-building tradition, and an image that is quintessentially Belfast.

Only the most divisive, unsettled among us could begrudge this club every success, either in tonight’s match or in the future, correct?



31 Responses to “A Sign of the Times?”

  1. Many thanks, PaTroll.
    East Belfast GAA lost their first match tonight 2-10 to 2-5, but it was a great result for a team which literally did not exist this time two months ago. As one member tweeted, when asked how long the project had been going – 7 weeks from first tweet to first match!

  2. no problem

  3. That’s a genuinely interesting story.

    Good luck to them and to all the other teams, and to all their supporters

  4. Cross-community projects are always a good idea. I hope it works out. There will be further matches that you can keep us apprised of.

  5. The Ladies team play their first match tomorrow (18th) against Saval, from Newry.
    East Belfast GAA will play across four disciplines: Men’s Football and Hurley, and Ladies Football and Camogie. From the looks of some of their videos, they are over-subscribed in terms of potential players, and their Twitter feed has loads of previously non-GAA followers (I’m gonna stick my neck out here, and suggest many of them are Protestants/Unionists) asking about the scoring system and when and where the home matches will be played.
    t’s very early days, but here’s hoping it lasts. Anyone who knows Belfast will understand just how huge this is.

  6. very interesting seimi thanks,

  7. Thanks Seimi. I’ve been following this story with interest. It’s a great initiative and hopefully will benefit the county team too!

  8. Nice story.

  9. It’s a good news story and another positive development in a changing city.

    I understand there have been concessions made for the club around the flying of the national flag and Amhrán na bhFiann which is the norm for GAA events at a particular level. When Charles asked the question yesterday, in the event of Irish unity would unionists stay and I answered I suppose it depends what a reunified Ireland would look like I thought about the club. People think that Irish unity means the north being simply tacked onto it’s natural hinterland but reunification would require a negotiated Ireland and I for one would hope that Irish Nationalism & Republicanism would be generous enough in spirit to ensure that the injustices and mistakes of the Orange State weren’t repeated.

    Linda Ervine is of course widely respected for her cross coummunity and cultural work but I have also seen comments from a harde line within the unionist community branding her a traitor selling out her culture and heritage for thirty pieces of silver etc.

  10. I didn’t grow up with hurling. But it is a fun sport to watch. My father in law is from Galway and never saw the Galway team play live until he was in his 80’s (at Boston’s Fenway Park of all places).

  11. Good news stories like this are always welcome haring about from Northern Ireland. I was wondering, is there any widely played team sport that is particular to the Unionist community ?

  12. The most exiting sport in the world Mahons:


    Not sure Colm. I was about to suggest cricket as a possibility but then remembered that SF MLA, former H block blanketman and hunger striker, Pat Sheehan is a massive cricket fan.

  13. Great stuff, Seimi.

    Co. Antrim used to have a good hurling team. Antrim in fact is the only Northern county to make it to an All-Ireland hurling final, and it did so twice.

    The GAA can afford to be generous in the light of these developments. Stirring as they often are, republican songs will have to be dropped at GAA games in the north, and it should be universally recognised as a bad idea, for example, to call a camogie tournament in Belfast after Mairead Farrell.

    Reconciliation is an end in itself; but even if one sees these changes only from a longterm political perspective, reconciliation is also an absolute prerequisite for Irish unity, no matter what form that takes. There will otherwise never be a majority in favour either North or South.

  14. here’s an unusual sweet story with an Irish connection

    Why I fell in love with Irish dancing
    Morgan Bullock is an African-American Irish dancer from Richmond, Virginia. After a TikTok video of her lightning-footed jigs went viral, she was accused of “cultural appropriation.”

    Then she got a call from Riverdance..


    she’s really good eh ?

  15. There is no such thing as cultural appropriation.

  16. // is there any widely played team sport that is particular to the Unionist community ?//

    Irish flag burning.

    But of course real reconciliation will come only when we see an all-ATW Gaelic team. Mike and Allan will probably go for the hurling team, as they like to take good swipes and give something a real bashing.

    But I can already see David come soloing up the right wing before hand-passing to Colm in mid field who gets it across to Patrick, who in turn lashes the ball over to Petr, who – well used to raising a clenched fist – tips it over the bar for bejaysus a fine point altogether.

  17. I prefer to see us all lined up in perfect Irish dancing harmony swishing our legs up and down with our wee green dresses and long ginger wigs on (for authentic effect) 🙂

  18. Kurt,

    Believe it or not I’ve just sent pat a blog on that piece. Thanks for stealing my thunder 😉

  19. arrrg paul …my hand is up …. great minds though 😉
    wow Exodus post and Irish Dancing on Sat , we don’t know how lucky we are 😉

  20. I can’t see your Exodus post kurt

  21. Republican songs will have to be dropped at GAA games in the north, and it should be universally recognised as a bad idea, for example, to call a camogie tournament in Belfast after Mairead Farrell.

    Two points of correction there Noel. AFAIK the only official sond played at some levels of GAA gams is the Irish national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann. The Mairead Farrell camogie tournament isn’t organised by the GAA but is a tournament organised by Féile an Phobail/ the West Belfast Festival during thefestival.

  22. imminent colm we hear , got the nod last night ..
    i do hope peeps will watch the clip in the middle of the thread
    its says more than all my tripe, pretty sure of that 😉
    sadly I’m on shift in 30 mins .. have a great day

  23. Seimi

    Great story! It’s nice to see Belfast, a city with a “troubled” past, seizing the moment of peace through sports. Individuals can make a difference.

  24. The image of Belfast’s famous cranes, Samson and Goliath stands over the motto

    Much like Cockneys being born within the sound of Bow bells, as the saying in Belfast goes, if you can’t see Samson and Goliath from your bedroom window you’re a culchie.

  25. I thought the modern version was if you can’t find Bobby Sands Boulevard you aren’t a real Belfast Boy 🙂

  26. Only the most divisive, unsettled among us could begrudge this club every success, either in tonight’s match or in the future, correct?

    Not being of the tribal loyalty type of thinking, especially when it comes to the linking of sports and religion, I would hopefully wish the club, and its participants and supporters; every good wish in the world.

    However, when thinking such as is mirrored by the actual happenings reflected in my post, when the orders from shadowy supposedly-Unionist thugs take precedence over the wishes of ordinary folks to live wherever they choose, the apparent goodwill is, unfortunately, overshadowed by the reality that, on both sides of that divide.

  27. Following on:-

    the simple fact that when the peace walls gom down, that will be a better indication
    of how things have changed.

  28. One must crawl before one walks.

  29. ….come down….

  30. Mike, you can’t expect to dismantle the mindset of a state that was built on division and discrimination overnight.

    As to actual happenings, these are somme comments about the project and Linda Ervine, from exacrly the same kind of people who complain that the GAA isn’t inclusive:


  31. Noel
    I think the football team also made it to the all-Ireland final two years in a row. In fact, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that they are the only team to lose two all-Ireland finals in one year! They made it to the final in 1911, but it was delayed because of bad weather, so they couldn’t play until January 1912, when they lost. They then made it to the 1912 final and were beaten again.
    I’ll have to look it up.
    My Granda played for the County footballers, as did a couple of cousins in football, Hurling and Camogie.
    I briefly played for Mitchell’s in Belfast, until the extended family found out. “We’re a Rossa family!” came the outraged cry, and so I joined Rosa GAC. Second match with Rossa Hurlers, who do we play? Mitchell’s. My former team mates kicked lumps out of me that day! 😂