Sinn Féin European Parliament Member Martina Anderson has paid tribute to the vital role that the GAA plays in local communities.
Ms Anderson, who is standing for re-election later this month, was speaking after taking part in a series of engagements with community activists in rural areas across the north this week.
The Derry native said: “During the past number of months I have held many meetings and engagements with the community sector in every area of the six counties.
‘What I have experienced, especially in isolated rural communities, is that the local GAA club is the hub of the community and a centre for vital basic services.
“I note with concern that certain political parties are critical of the GAA and do not believe that they should be eligible to receive EU funding through the Rural Development Programme.
“I challenge these politicians to come to rural communities and see for themselves what the GAA offers.”
Ms Anderson said that in the communities that I have visited, the local GAA ground is not only a centre for games but also a venue where women’s groups hold classes, where drama and arts sessions are held, where senior citizens convene activities, where after-funeral dinners are catered for, where community health and safety initiatives are held and where local charities hold events to raise much needed funds.
“In one of the villages I visited” she said, “the local GAA club is the base for a national series triathlon and the club was instrumental in forming angling, canoeing and running projects to service the needs of the local community.
“It is true that the GAA is more than a game, it is a way of life for thousands of people in this country and a lifeline for many isolated areas.”