By the late 1800’s Ireland was in a state of disarray. It already suffered a major famine that has a major impact on the Irish population. By now the English had control over Ireland and the Irish identity was fading.
It was believed that the Irish culture, customs and traditions came very close to extinction; this included the Irish language and even Irish traditional sports. This problem was very worrying for some and so Michael Cusack decided to form the Gaelic Athletic Association to help save traditional Irish sports.
To promote Gaelic Games
As an organisation to promote Gaelic Games the goals of the GAA had been:
- To foster and promote native Irish pastimes
- To open athletics to all social classes
- To aid in the establishment of hurling and football clubs which would organise matches between counties
- Games to be played on Sunday. This would give the working class a chance to participate in games.
- Members of the GAA could not participate in other games that were not part of the GAA. This was seen as essential to help the survival of Gaelic games.
The GAA and politics
The Gaelic Athletic Association found it difficult not to get mixed up in politics, after all Ireland was going through political mayhem for many years. As a pro Irish organisation many members had been involved with the IRB and it was believed some members became involved with the 1916 Easter rebellion.
By 1918 the GAA was banned by the English, but this wouldn’t stop Irish people playing their traditional sports.
The creation of Rule 21
The GAA quickly learned to keep sports and politics apart in order for the organisation and Galiec games to survive although it still needed to keep rules in place to preserve its purpose, to promote native Irish pastimes.
In 1897 Rule 21 was formed that prohibited members of the British forces from joining the GAA and many believe that because of this rule GAA remained a big part of politics, more so in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t until 2001 that GAA decided to abolish Rule 21.
Today the organisation is the largest in Ireland with over 800,000 members.