Thursday 20 June 2019

GAA must now show support for Donal Og

Like most men of my age I have difficulties with this subject -- I come from a different era when it was a crime that dare not speak its name.

I'm speaking, of course, about what was until relatively recent times a taboo subject -- homosexuality.

But with the Cork hurling star Donal Og Cusack bravely revealing that he is gay, I'm delighted to say that the last barriers have finally been broken down.

We've come a long way since the days when our greatest literary figure, Oscar Wilde, was convicted at the Old Bailey for his sexuality.

Younger readers of this column will probably be shocked to learn that homosexuality was only decriminalised in the last decades of the 20th century.

These days, society in general has learned to accept human beings who follow a different sexual orientation.

We rightly regard the days when the State and the Catholic church poked their noses into the bedrooms of the land as the Dark Ages of repression, persecution and discrimination.

Yet, until last weekend, the last remaining bastion was the world of sport, where gay athletes were reluctant to come out.

Step forward Donal Og Cusack, who, in his autobiography Come What May, has spoken of dealing with his sexuality while flourishing in one of the toughest sports on earth.

Make no mistake, he's a man's man.

And in his book, the three-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper declared that he was first and foremost a proud Cork man, a fanatical Cloyne supporter, a committed sportsman, and, only then, gay.

I was so impressed with his honesty and I applaud his courage as the first GAA player to speak openly about his sexual orientation.

Inevitably, he will face jeers and cruelty from a certain ignorant element of society. Indeed, he has already spoken of the taunts directed at him.

Yet I know the vast majority, particularly those in the sporting world, have already expressed their admiration and respect for this extraordinarily gifted star.

He enjoys the support of his proud and loving family, along with his Cork team mates and loyal Cork supporters.

His "coming out" in the macho world of the GAA will give a huge boost and encouragement to gay men and women in other sporting circles. And I would suggest that the GAA, as one of the most respected amateur associations in the world, could dispel any lingering whiff of homophobic tendencies in sport by openly welcoming Donal Og's announcement.

His brave stance will also pave the way for gay men in other male-dominated areas to speak openly and proudly about their sexual orientation.

I know this enlightened approach has spread to An Garda Siochana where homosexual members of the force are accepted and where there are units established to liaise with the gay and lesbian community.

This has long been the norm in other jurisdictions, notably in California and Canada, where there are units almost entirely comprised of gay and lesbian officers.

Now the GAA has hit the spotlight, as one of its brightest stars reveals that he is gay.

I believe this is a great opportunity for an organisation with an ethos steeped in conservatism and Catholic tradition, as it is ideally poised to fly the flag for tolerance and acceptance.

A public endorsement of Donal Og's comments would be a powerful signal that this new Ireland will no longer accept the corrosive poison of homophobic behaviour.

Thank God women like Sharon take a chance to help others

I'm sure there wasn't a dry eye in the country as freed Goal worker Sharon Commins returned to the loving arms of her family after 107 days in captivity.

I shared in the immense sense of pride and relief that followed the safe arrival of Sharon and her colleague Hilda Kawuki at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel on Monday night.

And it was especially heart-warming to see the joy on the faces of Mark and Agatha Commins and their two sons Derek and Martin.

This extraordinary girl displayed no tears, but remained calm and collected as she provided a harrowing account of her ordeal. She described in chilling detail how her captors carried out mock executions, firing guns above her head.


Sharon's incredible strength and courage is an inspiration to us all. And yet, her capture has raised questions about the merit of sending aid workers to dangerous areas.

The usual well-meaning chorus will insist that Sharon and Hilda shouldn't have been in Darfur, unarmed and vulnerable. Yet, I say thank God that we have women like these two, whose devotion and dedication to the Third World helps alleviate the hardship of others.

Sharon Commins' sacrifice as a Goal worker in Darfur is immense. Both she and Hilda were well aware of the dangers, but this is what makes them real heroes. We should be so proud of them.

We will never forget how Daily Mail slung mud over Gately's untimely death

I noted with satisfaction the mounting number of complaints about the disgraceful article about tragic Stephen Gately in the Daily Mail.

As the entertainment industry and the people of Ireland were the focus of an extraordinary outpouring of grief at the singer's tragic death last weekend, one publication broke ranks to produce an ill-informed and totally unjustified tirade.

Columnist Jan Moir's mud-slinging could not have been more badly timed, crassly referring to "the sordid reality of the Boyzone star's demise" and taking a pop at civil marriages. It was grossly offensive, not only to Stephen's memory, but also that of his partner Andrew Cowles and his family.

Making matters worse, the Oirish edition of the paper quickly sought to distance itself from the article. What else can we expect from a publication of this calibre? I suspect that defence was mounted in an attempt to avoid further damage to the paper's position in this country. Mark my words, ordinary decent people will not be fooled.

Time to give the Grimes your support

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

They can't sing or dance, but John and Edward Grimes have survived to fight another day on X Factor.

Maybe it's the fact that they've struggled on despite being the victims of a vicious hate campaign, but I'm actually beginning to like these guys.

Who cares if their singing talent is minimal?

They're Irish and deserve our support.

Do your best lads!

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