Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Kids with sticks running around on the Shankill

There were kids from loyalist and nationalist traditions running around with sticks on the Shankill Road yesterday.

No this isn't THAT STORY!

Picture by Brian Little in the Belfast Telegraph
What it is though is kids from fours schools St. Paul's and St. Kevin's on the Falls coming to the Norman Whiteside playing fields on the loyalist Shankill Road and playing hurling with kids from Edenbrook and Glenwood Primary Schools, in front of the head of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association).

It is believed to the first time that the GAA President has visited a game on the Shankill, indeed it is probably the first time a game under any GAA code has been played on the Shankill. But hte kids from the four schools have been training together for a year and formed a club called Lamh Dhearg or Red Hand.

The name come from the mural on the Shankill (which is Gaelic for "Old Church") which says Lamh Dhearg Abu, "Victory to the Red Hand". It does show up the strange juxtaposition that often occurs between Unionist and Irish cultures in this strange land of ours. The hurling team is an example of how the two perceived "cultures" aren't really all that different after all. These are just boys having fun with sport.

As the head of Edenbrooke Primary, Jonathan Manning says:

"It’s been very positive and the children have enjoyed learning a new sport, new skills and the physical attributes. On this occasion sport has been a vehicle to break down barriers."

and his opposite number at St. Kevin's Primary, Angela McLaughlin added:

"The children have been meeting for a while to practice their skills. Last year they travelled to Croke Park to play against a Dublin team. It’s amazing to think children from the Shankill played hurling in Croke Park and children from the Falls Road have been on the Shankill playing hurling."

When I was the age of the players and indeed to recent years these four schools would have been either side of the peace wall in West Belfast. If a sport that was once seen as a divisive symbol and used for political ends can now be used to unite, there certainly is hope for our future here in Northern Ireland. This is the sort of brandishing sticks in public that we should be encouraging while condemning the other sort, plus guns being fired that occurred in the Short Strand are last night.

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