The Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council Councillor Hubert Keaney hosted a reception at County Hall on Sunday for Aogán Ó Fearghail, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael. The ceremony was hosted in advance of the official opening of the GAA Centre of Excellence in Scarden later that afternoon.
Council Honours GAA President
In his address, the Cathaoirleach said
"It is a special day for your Association, and indeed the people of Sligo. The official opening of the Centre of Excellence in Scarden later this afternoon marks the culmination of years of outstanding endeavour by the Sligo County Board and the many people who worked alongside them to make this marvellous dream a glorious reality. This development represents Croke Park’s commitment to the sharing of resources combined with substantial funding by individual Clubs and members in Sligo. This infrastructure will greatly assist the coaches based in the county as they introduce children and young adults to our Gaelic culture. The fun, the friendships and the skills acquired in the new Centre and in schools throughout. "
Capital of Volunteering
Sligo is of course the European Capital of Volunteering for 2017 and it is very appropriate that we honour the leader of the largest voluntary organisation in the Country today. The GAA is an Association that has persevered, despite many challenges, primarily because of its uncompromising adherence to a democratic system, founded on the dedication and integrity of its volunteers. Volunteerism is in your Associations’ DNA, and I would suggest to anyone seeking a model or template of volunteerism, to reflect on the history of the GAA at local or national level. This is a proud day for the Sligo GAA family and the wider Sligo community who celebrate this wonderful occasion with you. These are days to honour previous generations and inspire the next, a day when we pay a public tribute to the men and women who served the GAA with such distinction.
Strength of Community
Secretary of the Sligo County Board Gerry O’Connor said it was important for the GAA to have role models, and this was view shared by Uachtarán O Fearghaíl on a recent visit to schools in County Sligo. He noted the significance of the recent Local Government reform, which had strengthened the power of communities and had energised them through their participation in the Public Participation Network. With over 400 voluntary groups, Sligo had one of the most progressive PPN networks in the country.
Sligo County Council Chief Executive Ciarán Hayes said the recent Centenary celebrations ‘was an opportune time to reflect on the role of the GAA in our society. It was interwoven into the fabric of Irish life, and imbued our citizens with a sense of place and identity. From a young age, pride in jersey, parish and school were instilled. ’The Chief Executive spoke of the development of Croke Park reflecting the maturing, inclusive Irish society, and noted that ‘the decision to open up Croke Park was an enlightened one.’ He outlined to his own family’s involvement in the GAA, and referred to an old photograph of Michael Collins and his Grandfather in Croke Park.
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail spoke of the importance of striking a balance between the Association’s history, heritage and values while remaining progressive and ambitious. He cited historian Diarmuid Ferriter’s comment that the GAA was the only organisation fulfilling the ideals set out in the 1916 Proclamation, and stressed the importance of ‘building bridges, not walls’ Aogán noted the relevance of the Biblical quote ‘Without a vision, the people will perish’, and said his firm belief was that ‘anything is possible when you work together as a cooperative.’
Following the reception, the guests travelled the short distance to Scarden for the official opening of the GAA Centre of Excellence.