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Croke Park move showed maturity, says ex-GAA star

The Irish Times – Monday, July 11, 2011

BARRY ROCHE, Southern Correspondent, in Ballyvourney

THE OPENING up of Croke Park to other sports was a sign of the maturity of the GAA and if any similar application was made to open up other GAA grounds for other sports, it should be considered on its merits, former Cork GAA star Jimmy Barry Murphy said.

Mr Barry Murphy, a six-time All-Ireland medal winner and a successful All-Ireland-winning coach, said he believed the GAA had responded well to changed circumstances in the wake of the Belfast Agreement.

Speaking on “The Need for a New Revival”, at Scoil Shamhraidh na Saoirse, organised by Sinn Féin, Mr Barry Murphy said the decision to open Croke Park to other sports while awaiting the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road was a cause of much controversy and discussion within the GAA but the then president, Seán Kelly, showed great leadership on the issue.

“Not too many years ago, many of us would have found this totally unacceptable but the Good Friday agreement and its massive endorsement by a huge majority of people showed us all, north and south, that times were changing and the challenging of long-held beliefs had to be faced by us all.

“To me, opening Croke Park showed a maturity and confidence in our association that we could play a small but significant part in helping to change some of the prejudices and beliefs held by some.

“For me, it was a concession well worth making in comparison to many that had to be taken by so many people who lived through the conflict in the North.”

Mr Barry Murphy said that the GAA’s priority was rightly the promotion of its own games but he would like to think that if a similar application came from other sports for the use of any other GAA grounds, it would be considered on its merits.

“Obviously the promotion of Gaelic games is our priority but where we can be accommodating to other sports, let’s do it. We have nothing to fear from these situations . . . opening Croke Park proved that,” he said.

He also praised the GAA for its response to the murder of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr when “great GAA men carried his coffin”.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams told the summer school the party was seeking a new republic for the 21st century and its construction “must involve reconciliation between orange and green”.

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