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Minister of State Ciarán Cannon, TD., Remarks at the GAA Embassy Dinner

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a pleasure to join you here this evening to mark the 7th All British Championships, which I look forward to visiting tomorrow morning at the Tír Chonaill Gaels club. I know this competition goes from strength to strength and has served as an example for others to follow.

I’m delighted that we’ve been joined by many distinguished guests from the GAA, led by GAA President John Horan, Ladies GAA Chair Marie Hickey, Chair of the GAA British Provincial Council Paul Foley, Chairman of Ulster GAA Michael Hassan and London GAA Chairman John Lacey. I’m also delighted that Michael Kingston, Chairman of the ABCs, can join us for what I hope will be a well-earned rest from his exertions this week, as well as Brendie Brien, whose idea the ABC’s originally were.

The GAA in Britain has always been a welcome home from home for the many people who have moved between our two islands over the years. There are many people who came to Britain from Ireland who found a welcome sense of community and familiarity in the GAA. This sense of community is at the heart of what we are celebrating tonight and is to be seen in clubs around the world. Indeed, in my role as Minister for the Diaspora, I’ve had the opportunity to see how the GAA are knitting together Irish communities across the world. I know for instance here in Britain there is a programme called ‘Good Match’ to link GAA clubs to other Irish community groups, something which I think will be of great benefit to both sides.

None of what the GAA does would be possible without the tireless commitment of the many volunteers who give so generously of their time and efforts to ensure that Gaelic games continue to grow and flourish and remain at the heart of our community. I know that is certainly the case at the ABCs, both in terms of organising it and for the many who work to prepare the teams and then bring them to the Championships. I look forward to seeing all of that work in action when I visit the ABCs tomorrow and to having a chance to talk to many of those present to hear their stories.

I’m glad that the Irish government, through its Emigrant Support Programme, has been in a position to support the GAA’s efforts overseas and I believe that this has been very positive both for the GAA and for the Irish diaspora. Here in Britain this has seen the establishment of a network of games development officers, supported by Irish Government funding, across Britain who work with schools and clubs to broaden participation in our national games.

It has also allowed us to provide some funding towards capital projects undertaken by the GAA in various parts of the world including Britain. Indeed I had the pleasure of visiting one such site on my last trip to Britain when I visited Ruislip, headquarters of the London GAA, and saw the magnificent new development which had been carried out on the grounds there, with some support from Irish government funds.

While there, aside from the great GAA hospitality, John, Mark, and Donal, took the opportunity to tell me about their plans for a second phase of development, to refurbish their clubhouse and make it fit for the future needs of both the GAA and the wider Irish community. I was of course already aware of those plans through their contacts with the Embassy here and aware also of the extensive information they had provided on the proposal. But it was great to hear from those who will carry out the work planned and to see their enthusiasm for what was planned.

I’m now very pleased to be able to announce that the Irish government has agreed to support this project by way of a £200,000 grant from the Emigrant Support Programme. Our investment in the new facilities at Ruislip recognises the central role of the GAA in the Irish Emigrant community in London. I know that Croke Park has also indicated its commitment to this project, which should hopefully let this project get underway in the near future. I look forward to visiting the centre next year after its refurbishment.

I hope that this cooperation between the Irish government and the GAA will further cement the links between us and enable the GAA to continue its work of binding the Irish community together and ensuring the strength of that community in times to come.