§ 14. Sir John Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if the Department of Education for Northern Ireland will discuss with the Gaelic Athletic Association the withdrawal of its rule 15 in respect of the Province; and if he will make a statement about the ban on British soldiers, Navy men and police.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
The Government have repeatedly stated that they deprecate the GAA rule which limits its membership. I have no reason to believe that it would be responsive to further representations at this time.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
But is there not a new development? Has not Captain Fitzgerald of the Irish Army become captain of the British Lions rugby football team, and does not that provide an opportunity to take up the matter afresh? While my hon. Friend is about it, will he ask the president of the GAA to reply to the very courteous letter that I wrote to him several years ago?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Will the Under-Secretary confirm that there is grave anxiety about this matter in Northern Ireland? While the rule remains, with its discriminatory approach, many are concerned that large Government grants are being given to the GAA? Does the hon. Gentleman know of any other country where such a situation would be allowed to continue?
§ Mr. Scott
It is worth reminding the House that grants have been paid to the GAA since 1962 and that the rule has been in existence for the whole of this century and for some time previously. Stopping grants to the GAA would require a change in the law and I should prefer to keep up pressure and persuasion on the association to get rid of its offensive rule.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the first rule and the basis of the GAA is the 910 political objective of bringing about a united Ireland? As it mixes its politics with its sport, surely he should not be negotiating with it at all.