Sports organizations should tackle “cultural barriers”, commission report says

Stormont set up a commission in 2016 to find consensus on contentious cultural issues

A report dealing with flags and culture in Northern Ireland recommended that sports bodies address ‘those cultural aspects of their organizations which may be seen as barriers’.

Stormont set up a commission in 2016 to find consensus on contentious cultural issues and their report was released after an almost two-year delay.

With regard to sport, the committee makes recommendations more general than specific aimed at “creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for people across our society”.

The report stopped before making direct proposals on changing the hymns at sporting events or flags.

The Flags, Identity, Culture and Traditions Commission was due to submit its report in December 2017, 18 months after its creation, but its work was affected by the collapse of decentralization in January 2017.

Its findings were presented to the Stormont executive in July 2020 but have not been made public until now.

The £ 800,000 report, which is 168 pages long and contains 17 chapters, lacks an action plan, meaning the proposals are unlikely to be implemented anytime soon.

Among its observations, the Commission noted that “sport plays an important role in the cultural life of Northern Ireland and a vital role in social networks and social cohesion”.

He learned of and praised “a number of examples where sport has played a positive role in building good relationships between people of different identities,” but was made aware of “some instances where the use of flags , hymns or songs “has led to” some people feeling excluded from certain sports which they perceive as exclusive of their cultural or political identity “.

They mentioned the efforts of some of the major sporting bodies towards greater inclusion, including the Irish Football Association’s ‘Football for All’ strategy and Ulster Rugby’s initiatives to go beyond its grassroots. of traditional supporters.

The Commission also recognized GAA decisions to remove previous bans on playing or attending “foreign games”, allowing members of the security forces to join the GAA and lift the ban on “sports. foreigners ”on GAA land.

Members heard examples of people who felt “compelled to make choices as to which national flag they should compete under and were criticized for their decision.”

NI Sport “a more proactive role”

Looking to the future, the Commission said that the statutory body that exists to support the development of sport in Northern Ireland – Sport NI – “should play a more proactive role” in creating “a society in which everyone can live. feel free and welcome to practice the sport of their choice ”and the role that sports organizations can play in achieving this.

Among its recommendations are that Sport NI should include in its vision, mission and strategic objectives “an explicit reference to the role of sport in helping to build a shared society” and “provide sport organizations with practical guidelines. on the treatment of questions related to identity and division within sport “.

The Commission further recommends that “together with other statutory bodies which finance sport, it [Sport NI] be obliged to make any funding it invests in sports organizations conditional on the demonstrable implementation of good relations plans, with defined and measurable results, and that funding and other support be made available to help sports organizations to do it “.

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