HC Deb 10 July 1980 vol 988 cc738-9
6. Mr. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the ban which the Gaelic athletic association places on membership by police, Army and Royal Navy personnel, he will review his policy of granting the association aid from public funds.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Philip Goodhart)

While the Government deplore the particular restrictions imposed on membership of the Gaelic athletic association, we do not intend to reverse the policy followed by successive Governments in Northern Ireland during the past 18 years of giving this association some financial assistance. The GAA does not receive the full support that open membership clubs receive. It is entitled only to a restricted grant rate because of its membership restrictions.

In present financial circumstances all grant aid schemes must be subject to further examination but, whatever changes may prove necessary, restricted membership clubs will not be grant-aided at the same rate as open membership clubs.

Mr. Robinson

In view of the discrimination exercised by the GAA, will the Under-Secretary explain how it is possible to reconcile the payment of vast sums of public money to this organisation with section 19 of the Constitution Act which states that it is unlawful for a Minister to aid or encourage an organisation to discriminate?

Mr. Goodhart

That point has already been considered by the courts.

Mr. Wm. Ross

How does the Minister justify restricting the grants if payment of them falls wholly within the law?

Mr. Goodhart

All restricted membership clubs receive grant at a lower rate than do those clubs with an entirely open membership.

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