Published: Wed, 01 July 2015
Sean Kelly MEP highlighted the GAA’s success in promoting traditional sports at a national and global level at a major conference on sport he chaired in the European Parliament, Brussels this week.
In hosting the conference, Mr Kelly, a former GAA President, focused on the significance of traditional sports and games in Europe today: “Traditional sports in Ireland enjoy a very strong position. Unfortunately of course, this cannot be said about the sports of other countries. Many European traditional sports and games have disappeared, or are struggling and this is the reason why this conference comes at a great time,” Mr Kelly told attendees.
“In Ireland, there are national, inter-county and club leagues, and a local club in almost every town or village. Not only this, but the GAA is the largest Irish organisation overseas, with over 400 GAA clubs outside the country. My own club here in Belgium, which I am the Honorary President of, has over 100 players registered, both Irish and non-Irish. I am proud to say that Irish people nurture their traditional sports outside of Ireland but promote it highly for everyone to come and play so that people of other nationalities can learn it and participate in it too.
“Hurling for example is an Irish stick-and-ball field sport that dates back some 2,000 years. There’s a game in Scotland called Shinty, derived from the same root as the Irish game of hurling but which has developed quite differently over the years. A composite-rules shinty–hurling game was proposed, and now there are annual tournaments between an Irish and Scottish team. This is just one example of traditional sports strengthening cultural bonds. There are many more and I am glad that we can all work together in Europe and beyond to promote our traditional sports and education.”
Mr Kelly said the importance of sport and physical activity is now fully recognised at EU level where sport, health and education policies all have a key role to play. “The Erasmus+ programme 2014-2020 is the first ever EU funding programme to target sport, which is a great opportunity for European sporting movements and organisations.”
MEP Kelly was joined by Pat Daly, the GAA’s Head of Games Development and Research in highlighting the Association’s contribution.
The conference included the presentation of the results of a European Commission-funded project ‘TAFISA Recall’ that aims to reintroduce traditional games into the lives of children and youth.
See some photos from the event on our Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seankellymep/sets/72157655278230055