Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has paid tribute to the vital role the GAA plays in local communities.
Ms Anderson was speaking after taking part in a series of engagements with community activists in rural areas of the North this week.
“During the past number of months I have held many meetings with the community sector in every area of the 6 counties,” said Martina Anderson.
“The local GAA club is the hub of the community and a centre for vital basic services, especially in many isolated rural areas.
“I note with concern that some political parties are critical of the GAA and do not believe they should be eligible to receive EU funding through the Rural Development Programme.
“I challenge these politicians to come to rural communities and see for themselves what the GAA offers. In the communities I have visited, the local GAA ground is not only a centre for games but also a venue where women’s groups hold classes, where drama and arts sessions are held, where senior citizens convene activities, where after-funeral dinners are catered for, where community health & safety initiatives are held and where local charities hold events to raise much needed funds.
“In one village I visited, the local GAA club is the base for a national series triathlon and the club was instrumental in forming angling, canoeing and running projects to service the needs of the local community.
“The GAA is a way of life for thousands of people in this country and a lifeline for many isolated areas.
“The GAA provides essential basic services and opportunities for rural dwellers and I reiterate my view that a well-funded Rural Development Programme is essential for the GAA and other rural organisations to continue meeting the needs of deprived rural communities.” ENDS/CRÍOCH