Role and Interaction of GAA with the Diaspora: GAA

I welcome the witnesses. We are joined by Liam O'Neill, president of the GAA and Páraic Duffy, director general of the GAA. We have asked Mr. O'Neill to discuss the GAA's role and interaction with the Irish diaspora, so we are delighted to have both the president and the director general here today. Before introducing both men, I want to note the role played by the GAA at Croke Park in particular. Some members may have attended the meeting hosted by Mr. O'Neill on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. His contribution to that meeting was noted by all the delegates, particularly the role the GAA has played in reconciling the two parts of the island. As well as that, the GAA is making inroads, particularly in the UK, as a result of the sport being broadcast in the UK by Sky. Mr. O'Neill also mentioned that the Queen spoke to him about watching some GAA matches as well. He has done a great job as an ambassador for the country in that role.

This is a very important meeting for us because the GAA is one of the largest Irish associations abroad, with over 400 clubs overseas. For many Irish emigrants, the GAA is the first port of call. It plays a very important cultural and social role for Irish communities abroad. I have seen this, as have some of the members, in our visits abroad, whether in Hanoi, Treasure Island in San Francisco, Chicago, New York or any of the various other areas where the GAA has a presence. There is now even a presence in Myanmar. That network is extremely important for us overseas. We are delighted that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade plays a key role with the GAA in fostering, not so much a sports relationship, but a social relationship in the funding it provides to the GAA abroad. It is important for the committee to have that close relationship between the Department, the committee and the GAA.

Without further ado, I will call on the president of the Gaelic Athletic Association, GAA, Mr. Liam O'Neill, to make an opening statement. I believe he also has a presentation to show to members on the television monitors. Both witnesses are welcome and the joint committee is delighted to have them. I thank them for their attendance.

Before I hand over to Mr. O'Neill, I must attend to some procedure and I remind members, witnesses and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure their mobile telephones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference with the recording equipment in the committee rooms. As members are aware, today's meeting is being broadcast live on television on the Oireachtas channel.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person or body outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(i) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. If they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they will be entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I invite Mr. O'Neill to make his opening statement.

Mr. Liam O'Neill

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil áthas an domhain orm agus ar an Uasal Duffy a bheith anseo inniu chun an deis a ghlacadh an leagan amach atá ar CLG thar lear a mhíniú. We are delighted to be here to discuss the GAA abroad and our connection with the diaspora. Mr. Páraic Duffy will take us through the presentations and we will answer questions or make some further statements thereafter. We will provide some clarity first.

Excellent.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

I hope the presentation will provide a context for the GAA's activity overseas. I will present some facts and figures to give members an idea of the extent of the GAA involvement with the diaspora, as well as a general overview of where we are and the general direction in which we are trying to go. As I am sure members are aware, in early January, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade held an assembly of ambassadors and consuls general from most locations around the world in Iveagh House. I attended that assembly on two days, one to take part in a panel discussion and on the second day for a meeting with the ambassadors from the 20 biggest countries in which the GAA is present overseas. The strong message to emerge was the important role the GAA plays from the Department's perspective in reaching out to the Irish people in the diaspora. It is fair to state that the general tone and tenor is reflected in the quote on the slide on display that "The GAA is the foremost organisation today in terms of active engagement with the Irish abroad". The point to come across strongly was that if the ambassadors and consuls general wished to engage with the Irish abroad, the best way to so do was through the GAA clubs. It has probably become the easiest point of access which is something of which we are very proud and wish to continue to develop. I make the point that our relationship with the diaspora is spelled out clearly in our own rules. One of the aims of the organisation is to promote its aims among communities abroad through its international units. That is a stated goal of the association and we take that responsibility and objective seriously. The photographs now on display were all taken in units abroad and I will seek to discuss those in more detail as I move on.

I will give a brief outline as to where our clubs are located. New York, which was the traditional starting point for the GAA abroad, now has 29 clubs, while in Britain we have a total of 83 clubs. In North America, we have another 97 clubs outside New York, located in virtually every major city in the United States. In Canada, we have 20 clubs while in Australasia, which encompasses both Australia and New Zealand, we now have 63 clubs. We now have 73 clubs all over Europe, located as far east as Russia. There are 22 clubs in Asia in 11 countries and in the Middle East, which is our newest county board, only having been established last year, there are now 11 clubs across six countries. There is a total of 398 clubs abroad in 41 countries. Two of the more recent ones are stand-alone clubs, namely, the South Africa Gaels and the Hurling Club of Buenos Aires, which has recently been re-established.

In respect of those 400 clubs dotted throughout the world, the GAA pursues what we hope is a cohesive strategy based on partnership, planning, funding and development. It is important to note that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is an important part of that partnership. It is a strong and active partner that has been very supportive of our efforts, not so much to develop the games overseas but to make it possible for people to play the games overseas and bring that sense of community they have in their clubs at home to wherever they now live. I will provide a few facts and figures about the engagement with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. That partnership has been in place since 2007 and over the past seven years, which coincided with my term as director general, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has provided €2.9 million and we have put in another €5.8 million. This has been through funding for games development personnel and capital projects in Britain and North America, on which I will give more details in a moment. In addition, in the last couple of years there has been funding through what we call global games development projects. As for personnel, we employ community development administrators in Britain and North America of whom we have eight in Britain, five in North America outside New York and one in New York. Overall, we have six people working full-time on the ground with the clubs in New York and elsewhere in North America, of which there are approximately 130 if one includes Canada, as well as eight full-time people in Britain. The global games development projects are smaller amounts that have been distributed over the past three years to specific projects and specific clubs all over the world.

In respect of capital funding, one great thing for the GAA in recent years has been that our clubs abroad are now seeking to go beyond simply playing the games and are trying to establish permanent homes on the same model as a club here at home where one has playing facilities and one tries to add to them. In the slide on display, I have indicated six projects abroad that the Department has supported over the past five or six years and these have been developments of huge significance. The model on display at present is of the Rockland GAA club in upstate New York. That club has developed two pitches, a main pitch and a secondary pitch, and is now in the process of building a community centre there just as one would have at a club at home. That club envisages this as establishing a base for the Irish in that part of New York. It is a major project and the GAA itself has funded several pitches and now the latest infrastructural development, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I will revert to the figures later on.

The Chairman has seen the facilities at the Treasure Island complex in San Francisco, which are fantastic. It is an old naval base just outside the city at which the land was acquired and two wonderful pitches were developed, as well as facilities. The facilities in Chicago Gaelic Park and in Boston probably are well known to many members. The most recent one is Ruislip, London at which we are upgrading the GAA grounds, again with support from the Department, as well as a significant financial input from us of €2 million. The most recent development in the United States has been with the Shannon Gaels club in New York. Shannon Gaels is a club that has been given property by New York City in Queens. If one travels from Manhattan to the airport, one will pass close to where the Shannon Gaels club is developing its new grounds. It is a club with a lot of undocumented Irish among its membership and there are a lot of young people with young families. The Department recently gave €250,000 towards the development of its ground there and we have just put in €500,000 of our own. The last location listed on the slide is Willawong Park, which is in Queensland, Australia. These are all projects into which we recently have put funding for infrastructural development. This has become one of the big challenges for us in that as the games grow abroad, the expectations of the units abroad for funding from home has also grown. While this is very good, it certainly puts a little pressure on us but we are trying to meet that demand.

As for the range of activities abroad, I will mention a few of them. Mr. O'Neill can speak in depth about them all when I have concluded because he has visited or attended all of them. The Continental Youth Championships, CYC, take place each year for clubs in the USA and Canada and the location rotates from year to year. Last year they were held in Boston while this year they will be held in San Francisco. In 2004, just over a decade ago, 40 teams participated whereas in 2014, more than 230 teams took part with 2,500 participants aged between eight and 18. It is the biggest international festival of indigenous sport in the world and we now have similar models in Britain on a large scale and on a smaller scale with the China Youth Games. The next slide shows some more photographs, after which I will turn to a recent project involving the South Africa Gaels. Again, it is being funded as part of the global games development projects and we received a small amount of funding from the Department for it. It is operative in the townships around Johannesburg and last year saw a trip to Ireland by the South Africa Gaels team. They visited Áras an Uachtaráin, Croke Park, etc. That is an example of the spread of the game in that part of the world.

The Asian Gaelic Games are one of the more well-established activities and again, Mr. O'Neill can tell the joint committee of his experiences there shortly.

That is a hugely successful tournament that has taken place every year since 1996. The host cities have been Manila, Singapore, Phuket, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Penang, and Bangkok, all in Asia. It is a two-day tournament which brings together teams from all over Asia. For the teams taking part it is akin to the All Ireland final, in that the winning of that tournament is highly prestigious. Alongside the tournament itself every year there is a new Asia-Pacific Ireland Business Forum which has been extremely successful in enhancing business connections between Irish business and business in the Asia-Pacific and Gulf regions. The 2015 games will take place in Shanghai alongside the introduction of the China Youth Games. There is an important link there between both the games and the development of trade opportunities. We find that in Asia many of the people who are involved in the organisation of the GAA are also the people who are involved in Irish businesses overseas.

A new club has been established recently in Augsburg in southern Germany and has been partly funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. That has been quite successful. We also have similar stories in parts of France and Italy and Spain. In 2014 for the first time we had international football matches played between France and Italy.

In March 2015 the first GAA World Games will take place in Abu Dhabi; 28 teams from Argentina, Asia, Australia, Canada, New York, North America, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East will take part. The only teams that are not taking part are the Irish teams because they would probably be too strong for the international teams. Alongside that a business forum will take place and partners there will include Tourism Ireland, ConnectIreland, and Enterprise Ireland and over two days the championship will be played. It is a big event sponsored by Etihad and created huge interest in more international units.

We have made a huge effort this year to get our games broadcast abroad through Sky in Britain and also through GAAGO. Our games have been watched this year in 167 different countries; we know everyone who watches the games and where. That has been a huge support to us in trying to spread the games overseas. Most important, we did that because of the demand from the Irish abroad. I attended the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle in 2013 and many people complained about the fact that they could not access GAA games abroad. Mr. O'Neill and I decided that we would make the games available to the Irish overseas. We have done that through GAAGO and by making the games available through Sky. It has been hugely successful and the feedback, most important, not on a commercial basis, but from the Irish abroad, both in Britain and overseas, has been absolutely fantastic. It is hard to put into words what it means - one would need to speak to people overseas - that on a Sunday they can sit down and watch the games that are played in Ireland no matter where they are in the world. In 2015 there will be 100 games made available to the Irish overseas, not only the championship games but the national league games and so on. If one is interested in the GAA and interested in Ireland and living abroad that is a huge plus and it has been a really good initiative, one I believe we can claim some credit for.

We are always driving forward and we are currently seeking UNESCO heritage status for hurling. That is a work in progress and will require the Irish Government to sign the UNESCO convention before we can move on with that. I am sure the committee will be supportive of that.

I will finish with a few quotes that capture the spirit of the GAA abroad and what it means to people. One of the points I will make here is that one of the most notable things about the GAA abroad is that many of the people who are involved in it are people who never had an involvement in the GAA at home. They may have had a passing interest in our games and gone to the odd match but when they go abroad it is the chance to become part of a community. It has amazed us on numerous occasions that people will come to represent an overseas unit at an event in Ireland, and I have had this experience myself with a couple of my students whom I taught in St. Macartan's College in Monaghan, arriving as delegates to a congress or a convention even though they never had the slightest interest in GAA when they were at home. Now they are secretaries or chairmen of clubs because they went abroad and they wanted to feel part of a community, part of the Irish abroad, and to keep something of what they had here abroad.

I will not read through all of the quotes but the committee will see from them some of the benefits provided by GAA clubs abroad. The club in Stockholm provides jobs and homes, and helps members to register for tax and benefits. The Irish clubs abroad are quite happy to welcome those who come from Ireland who need a bit of help. They see themselves as a support system and they see that as part of their brief and part of their role.

The second quote is from 2013, before the games were broadcast on Sky, "I was still very lonely returning [back] to Liverpool ... I went along to my first Gaelic Football training session. I was made to feel very welcome [and] I knew that being in Liverpool [would be] a lot easier." That sums up a lot of them; they just want to be part of an Irish community. Similarly, Philip Hearne in Toronto talks about the same thing, how they used to go down to watch the games to be part of a group gathering around the screens to watch the matches but now they can watch the games in their own home.

I will make some final points. For the Irish abroad the GAA represents an opportunity to play Gaelic games and, perhaps more important, it is an opportunity to meet people and to make friends, to network on a professional level and to find employment. That is a huge part of this. It is an opportunity to retain and pass on Irish culture to others and to the next generation.

Recently, an ambassador from a European country made the point that he wanted to organise an Irish St. Patrick's Day event in his city but he said the only organisation that could make it happen was the GAA club. I do not say that with any sense of triumphalism because it has happened this way rather than us seeking to do it. It has become a huge part of what the GAA abroad is, the meeting point and the connecting point for the Irish abroad. It does not matter if one has an interest in Gaelic games or not, one will be very welcome in the GAA. That is the important thing about the GAA abroad. One does not have to have played before or have been involved before. If one wants to join to be part of a community that is fine; everybody is welcome.

Research has been carried out recently by the Clinton Institute in UCD on the Irish diaspora and I believe it was very positive in terms of what the GAA contributes in terms of its engagement with the global Irish. As I said, we see ourself as providing a connection with home and an important networking role.

That is how we view the GAA abroad and for us it is a hugely important part of our work that we want to continue. Mr. O'Neill will be happy to draw on his experience as he has been to most of those places that I mentioned where GAA games have been played over the past three years. We will be very happy to respond to any questions or comments the committee members wish to make.

Would Mr. O'Neill like to say anything?

Mr. Liam O'Neill

I will put into context some of Mr. Duffy's comments about the games. The Continental Youth Championships in the United States are an absolutely huge event. Americans like to plan a year in advance. They do not take holidays at short notice so they already have their flights booked for San Francisco. They have their holidays built around it. Irish families will go to San Francisco to take part in the games. They will take it very seriously because Americans take sport seriously. It is unlike in Ireland; in America one plays to win. It is difficult for us to understand that at times. They are driven by participation in sport and success in sport. It is heartwarming to see so many people descending with camper vans. In Randall's Island in New York this year there was a whole tented village. Each club brings its own tent or has a tent provided for it. It is their base for the week. They have hotels booked. There is a huge family atmosphere. Something that we would not experience in Ireland. I think the Americanisation of the Irish and the organisation that Americans bring just brings the thing to a different level. It is really heartwarming to go and see it. It is staggering that they play 550 games on 17 pitches over four days. Even with the North American finals for adults the first game of the morning can start at 7.30. I would not like to try to organise a Laois Junior B final for 7.30 in the morning but that is the way they do it. They just go and do what has to be done.

In Asia at the Asian games people came from all over Asia at their own expense. Singapore brought 11 teams, more than 220 people, to participate in the Asian games in Kuala Lumpur. It is just mind boggling at times. They play short sided games because of the heat and they have to organise hydration. It is really well organised. People fly in for the games.

The interesting thing about the Asian games, which is increasingly happening now, is the fact that we are now linking our games and GAA people with business. This is a huge step forward. I have attended the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum both in Croke Park and Kuala Lumpur and to see the business people interacting is fantastic. We have now a situation where people are saying, "We are there, we are involved in business, why not do business amongst ourselves, why not find better leads for Ireland, why not just get more business done?" A significant thing too is that because of our partnership with ConnectIreland we now reach out to a huge number of people and get people to sign up, people who are working abroad or working in companies that are thinking of locating to Europe. ConnectIreland's message is: "Let us know please. We will try to entice them to Ireland." It is well known now that more than 1,000 jobs have been brought to Ireland so far by that means. I think there are huge connections. That is one of the spin-offs of it. The GAA abroad is different now. The old fashioned GAA was London, Birmingham, New York, Boston, and maybe Chicago. Now it is spread all over America. The interesting thing is that people abroad want to be part of it.

A total of 300 hurlers play in Milwaukee and they are organised by a Dane called Dave Olson. They are Americans, not Irish, but they have just taken to our sport. Hurling and camogie clubs have started up in Denver and Indianapolis.

It is a surprise to us that people would take to hurling and camogie as adults but they want to conquer what they see as a warrior sport and a sport that is carefully ruled and has definite safety regulations but also gives a chance for physical activity and skill. It is eye-opening to see their attitude to it. At a previous Oireachtas committee meeting when we were discussing the Sky component of the media rights deal, I related how in games I attended in Bahrain, the ladies football team from Abu Dhabi was all teachers while the team from Riyadh was all nurses. People from Australia who saw what they were doing and saw the community spirit in the games liked them and wanted to be part of them. I spoke to three Australian nurses in Bahrain who said that their time in Riyadh was made bearable by the fact that they not only found a wonderful sport but a wonderful community as well. The community aspect of our games gets to people. On the importance of broadcasting the games abroad, I quoted a nurse from Galway who said, "Seeing the games in Riyadh would be like a Band-Aid on a homesick heart". That was a wonderful means of expressing what it meant to her.

We started in 1999 in Europe with five teams. Mr. Joe McDonagh went across to form a county board. I was involved in Leinster coaching at the time. We were twinned with Europe and we saw this as something that might expand. As Mr. Duffy said, it has grown to more than 70 clubs. Brittany is the only place in the world where Gaelic games are on the formal school curriculum because of a partnership between a second level school and the Leinster Council. They have formalised it. They see Gaelic games as providing the key component for their second level schools. We have not even managed to do that here but, hopefully, we will. I am delighted that the Croatian ambassador is present. Nobody would ever have envisaged that there would be an interest in Gaelic games in Croatia, so much so that the country would like to see the All Stars play at some stage. That is an example of the impact the Irish are making abroad. People see that our games are competitive and friendly and there is a community spirit about them. It is also interesting that we have eight or nine clubs in Galicia, Spain and, by the end of this year, we will have 14. They are starting up of their own volition because they see Gaelic games as a means to express their Celtic origins. No one would ever have envisaged that.

We will be charged with finding a mechanism to guide the development of Gaelic games abroad. We have traditional strongholds in New York, which is big, and we support Gaelic Park as well. Then there is Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. I visited San Francisco recently and was followed out there a week later by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Deenihan. We were looking at a ground which we could lease from the city and a complex to share with other sports. However, a new stadium is being built there and the stadium group would like to incorporate a Gaelic games field and other sports fields in the new complex. People are beginning to realise that the GAA has something to offer.

When the first group left Ireland and arrived in Sydney, they expected us to have a GAA field ready for them. It took a while and we have one now but people expect that sort of response from us. The Irish abroad want their children to play Gaelic games and that is why we have development officers. That initiative is working well for us. Access to the games on TV or the Internet is a vital component for us in spreading the games. We find people want to join the games in their hundreds.

However, the adult players who travel to populate the adults teams in the north American competitions might squeeze out the young people coming through if we do not find a balance. We are trying to work with New York and the north American board to find that balance and to give the children of Irish emigrants and their friends and neighbours a career path from childhood to adulthood. We get to visit the Irish centres when we are abroad but everything changes. The centres were fantastic when the emigrants arrived. They are old buildings, although a great deal of work has been done by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to renovate them and to make them more relevant but the difficulty is the younger transient population cannot give a commitment to these centres and to a certain extent, the GAA clubs are bolstering them at this stage. That is part of life; things change. The games and clubs are smaller than here but there will be more of them in the future. However, there is no doubt that if one wants to reach the Irish abroad, the GAA club is the place to go first. It is also important when people want to connect with home. People know the GAA abroad will help out.

The president gives presidential awards to people who give great service not just in the context of the games but in community activity. Approximately 20 months ago a young man from County Down, Kevin Bell, lost his life in New York. Some fundraising was done and the residual funds became the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust through which the bodies of people who die abroad are brought home. This fund was started by a GAA person and, staggeringly, it has repatriated 60 bodies of young Irish people. Mr. Duffy and I could not possibly claim credit for that. That is not down to the GAA but it is about members of the GAA doing what they would do at home and helping out. The advantage the GAA has is people bring their experience of home with them and they want to replicate it while building communities abroad in the same way we, as an organisation, have helped to build communities here. In Ireland if we strengthen our communities we will strengthen our GAA clubs. If we invest abroad, activity will expand to fit the space we provide for them. That is why it is important to provide facilities. It is important for us to put down roots and remain relevant for Irish communities.

We have been all over the world in the presentations but one country was not mentioned. Ireland is doing a great deal of business with China. For example, the beef market was recently opened to us and our exports to the country are at an all-time high. There was a high profile visit of the then Vice-President of China, now President, Mr. Xi Jinping, to Croke Park. When we visited China two years ago, he told us that the picture of him playing football in Croke Park is on his office wall. Has the GAA been in contact with the diaspora in Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong to promote Gaelic games?

Mr. Liam O'Neill

We are strong in all those cities. People will have to accept it will take us longer to conquer China but we are strong in those three cities. Shanghai hosted the All Stars and it was a huge experience. There is formal contact through Mr. Pat Daly, our games director in GAA headquarters, between UCD and a sports university in Shanghai. While we were out there, we showed the students how to play games and they took to them instantly. The reason is China is the country in which stick and ball games were first played. The officials in the Chinese sports university indicated to us that the difficulty they have is they are trying to spread a coaching model for table tennis because players in other countries cannot beat them. They want to build that sport up in the same way we are trying with Gaelic games. Unless we build capacity in people abroad to play our games, we will never have a vibrant international competition.

The first world cup, which will be held the weekend after next, will be significant. One competition will be mainly for Irish people playing Gaelic football in the areas Mr. Duffy mentioned all around the world. There will be ten teams in each competition but there is a competition for teams from countries in which only non-Irish people will play.

At some point, native players from various countries will represent their homelands in a world cup-style Gaelic games competition. However, that is a little down the road.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

We have clubs in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

That is good. The photograph of Mr. Xi Jinping in Croke Park can be seen in many places in Beijing at present and I know the Chinese are very proud of it.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

An intern from Shanghai University is currently working with us in Croke Park.

Good. In view of the numbers present, I intend to confine members' contributions to three minutes each. Some may wish to pose questions, while others may want to make observations. I call Deputy Smith.

The uachtarán and the ard-stiúrthóir have outlined a marvellous success story for us. That story is a testament to the leadership provided by Croke Park over the years and to the volunteers who run clubs on the various continents. Mr. O'Neill is due to complete his term of office next weekend and I compliment him on a very successful presidency. I am sure he will enjoy the meeting of congress in Ballyconnell at the weekend. I welcome the ongoing and important support provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the various groups involved.

We often discuss the possibility of extending votes in elections here to members of the diaspora. It goes to show the increasing relevance and importance of the diaspora that its members will be able to vote in elections for president and other offices within the GAA in the future. That is a welcome development.

Where GAA clubs abroad do not have their own playing facilities, do they encounter difficulties in terms of accessing suitable facilities? Where public facilities are available, are they allowed to use them? In recent years I had the opportunity to watch London senior footballers play in the qualifiers at Croke Park. I also watched the New York women's team play in the All-Ireland junior final. There is a major cost involved in such teams travelling here to compete in the end stages of championships or whatever. Is the GAA in a position to provide financial assistance to the clubs - or counties, if one wants to refer to them in that way - which reach the ultimate stages of competitions?

Féile na nGael is an important event in the GAA's calendar. I recall attending it in Cavan many years ago, when both New York and London were represented. Is the GAA able to encourage greater participation in Féile na nGael on the part of clubs from the various continents?

Mr. O'Neill stated that GAA clubs have taken on the role previously played by county associations in the past. From attending county association meetings in Cavan and Monaghan, I am aware that, unfortunately, the age profile has increased substantially. I would not like the county associations to go out of existence. I hope that the existing architecture can be maintained and that there is a good working relationship between clubs and county associations. I am aware that they do not exactly dovetail with each other but it would be important that as great a level of co-operation as possible be maintained.

Reference was made to Gaelic Park in New York. For those of us who spent time working in that city when we were students, Gaelic Park was our refuge at weekends for many years. Is that facility still privately owned or is it owned by the New York county board?

Deputies Quinn, Durkan and I, among others, have raised the issue of the long wave radio service to Britain on previous occasions. RTE has indicated its intention to retain the service for a period. In that context, it was mentioned that funding from the emigrant support programme could assist in ensuring that the service will continue. I do not believe we should go down that route. Huge demands will always be placed on the emigrant support programme, the funding from which is put to very good use. I presume our guests have made their concerns with regard to the continuation of the long wave radio service known to RTE. Many people who are based in Britain and elsewhere, and even those north of the Border, are reliant on the service in order to obtain GAA results from home. I hope our guests will continue to exert pressure on RTE in the context of ensuring that the service remains in place.

What our guests outlined in their presentation speaks for itself, it is a marvellous success story. I wish Cumann Lúthchleas Gael continued success.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an uachtarán agus an ard-stiúrthóir. The GAA is actively seeking UNESCO heritage status in respect of hurling, which would be great and which would underline the uniqueness of the sport. Will our guests outline the process involved in this regard and how such status will benefit both hurling and the GAA? Is there anything the committee could do to assist the process?

Our guests referred to outreach programmes in communities. In some instances, the areas in which clubs abroad are based are not necessarily home to Irish communities any longer. How do the outreach programmes operate in such circumstances? On the question of the relationship between clubs and Irish embassies abroad, will our guests provide examples of the close co-operation that exists between the two? I am aware that the GAA is involved - in the context of using its contacts, etc. - in the movement for immigration reform in the US. Will our guests comment further on that matter?

On the investment in club infrastructure, including pitches, abroad, has there been any negativity from Irish politicians or others in society here in that regard? Members should really declare their interest in respect of this matter because many of us are strong supporters of Gaelic games. I can understand why the deal with Sky in respect of broadcasting rights is popular among those abroad, and I can see the benefits involved, but I do not believe that many people in Ireland would agree with it.

I thank our guests for attending and for their presentation. I take this opportunity to congratulate them on the evolution of Gaelic games into worldwide sports. We are all more conscious than ever of the fact that we live in a global community. It is appropriate, therefore, that the GAA has responded in the way that it has by spreading its wings in international terms. There is more to be done in that regard. The availability of coverage of GAA matches virtually worldwide is, as our guests noted, a hugely important development. People like to feel that they can touch base with home regardless of where they find themselves and modern technology allows them to do so.

I also wish to congratulate the GAA - and the other sporting organisations - in promoting the national image. People throughout the country travel all over the place to watch GAA, soccer and rugby matches. This is because we have a great interest in sport. In that context, I should welcome what is fast becoming our next national game, namely, cricket, and the fact that we are lending players to neighbouring countries in order that they might lead their teams. What I want to do here is emphasise the huge importance of using sport as a means of expanding our culture worldwide. I completely agree with what Mr. O'Neill said in respect of promoting business and industry through the medium of sport, which is also very important. A huge amount of work has been done in promoting our national image abroad in recent years and it has been of huge benefit to both the Irish psyche and the country's economy. I fully support what Deputy Smith had to say with regard to the retention of the long wave radio service to the UK. I can see the relevant radio mast from my back door and I am aware that it is doing no harm whatsoever. Long may the service it facilitates continue.

I apologise for my late arrival. I have had an opportunity to read through the presentation and I congratulate both of our guests on it. I wish to endorse the comments that have already been made. In the interests of brevity, I recognise all of the issue so accurately outlined by our guests. I wish Mr. O'Neill well in the final few days of his presidency. It seems that no time has passed since our first meeting following his coming to office.

I wish to make two points. I ask our guests to reflect upon them and perhaps over the next couple of years Mr. Duffy will consider how the relationships involved might be consolidated. The Irish constitute the biggest European tribe in the world. Germans constitute the largest ethnic group in the United States but its members do not recognise each other for all sorts of reasons.

The biggest tribe is the Chinese and the second biggest is the Indians. We are the next in terms of networking.

The GAA has brought a dimension to networking that I do not think anybody could have predicted and its scale clearly surprises itself.

In terms of ConnectIreland, the business network, we need an Irish salesperson in every village in the world. As Sean Lemass famously said, the world does not owe Ireland a living; we must earn it. I refer to the globalised world market and having that kind of connection, like in Milwaukee where Danes have come into contact with Ireland. If we can turn people into sales people for Ireland, provided our product is good and people want to buy it, then our children and our grandchildren will have a living in a global economy.

The funding comes from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. What can we do? What do the witnesses think we should explore or examine to consolidate that? I am thinking about 20 years or 30 years into the future rather than 20 back. I say "Well done" to the GAA.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

I will respond to the Deputy's last question, which is a very fair one. We had a meeting with the ambassadors in January. One of the suggestions made at the breakfast Mr. Niall Burgess hosted was that we would set up a small working group comprising the GAA and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to address the kind of issues about which the Deputy spoke, namely, how we can assist the Department in its work and how it can assist us. That is a fair point and the kind of question that underpinned the agreement.

It has, in effect, started.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

Yes.

I welcome Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Duffy and thank them for their very informative presentation. Many of us would not be as aware of the extent of the international presence of the GAA. Have the witnesses ever approached a television station to broadcast information on what is happening abroad, because it would be an extremely interesting programme? It could perhaps show matches or snippets of matches that have taken place, especially the more high profile matches.

Do the civic authorities abroad fund or assist the work of the GAA? I presume they would in New York. Internationally, do they recognise the contribution the GAA makes to their communities? How self-sufficient are the clubs currently? Does the GAA have to supplement the activities, including the games and the extracurricular activities of the clubs abroad? What is the level of self-sufficiency? I can fully understand it contributing to the development of those clubs but does it have to contribute to the running, organisation and management of the clubs?

I thank both contributors. I come from a rather different background in terms of sporting activity. As a young student in Synge Street, I think I had a reaction against the GAA because if the Christian Brothers saw us playing soccer, which was the game we used to play on the streets around Portobello, we suffered badly. For a long time, I had a negative reaction to the Christian Brothers and the GAA because they were synonymous with each other for penalising us poor working class kids in Portobello.

Once I got involved in politics, I discovered the likes of the Liffey Gaels, the Lorcan O'Toole club, the Good Counsel club on Davitt Road and the St. James's Gaels. To think the GAA is a purely voluntary and amateur organisation, and to think that what we were presented with today is as a result of a grassroots movement, is mind-boggling. I congratulate the organisation and say I hold no ill-will from the days of my deviant youth.

As politicians, we are anxious to bring back as many as possible of our diaspora. Clubs in Ireland have been decimated because of emigration. Are there any good examples of indigenous people in the countries in which we have all these clubs engaging in the process? In the long term if people return, would they be replaced by indigenous populations? Do the witnesses think the games are sufficiently attractive to absorb indigenous people?

We are all sports fans. That the Irish cricket team won its match against the United Arab Emirates today is a phenomenal success and as sporting people, we should congratulate it.

The GAA is looking after the Irish diaspora throughout the world but we have a different diaspora in Ireland. We have just created 70,000 citizens who come from 160 different nations. I am familiar with the name of Jason Sherlock who is Vietnamese-Irish. I congratulate the GAA and just as the schools are absorbing this cultural diversity, I hope there will be more engagement by the new communities in Ireland in these games.

I join in the words of welcome to the uachtarán and the ard stiúrthóir. In particular, I congratulate Mr. Liam O'Neill on a wonderful presidency and the very fine contribution he has made to the organisation during his presidency. The presentation highlighted an amazing success story, namely, the fact the GAA, an amateur organisation, has managed to spread the organisation throughout the world in a relatively short time to a situation where it now has more than 400 clubs overseas. I can certainly confirm that the organisation in Milwaukee is particularly strong. I had the pleasure of being part of a Galway delegation there some years ago and of putting on the jersey and playing against a team there. As was rightly said, it is mainly Americans who are playing the game there.

I very much welcome the fact a very strong relationship has developed between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the GAA which has the potential to forge very strong business and commercial links between Ireland and our diaspora. What is particularly wonderful about the strength of the GAA abroad is the connectivity it provides between people who are living and working abroad and keeping them in touch with what is happening.

We talked here previously about having a formalised system where we could permanently keep in touch with our diaspora through a dedicated website or whatever. The GAA should be central to any plans we have to strengthen the links and to keep in regular contact with the diaspora. I wish the GAA continued success in its endeavours. I look forward to seeing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade forging stronger links with the organisation and seeing the GAA continuing to grow in every corner of the world.

Cuirim céad fáilte roimh na toscairí. Ní rachaidh mé siar ar an méid atá ráite ach tréaslaím leo as ucht na hoibre atá déanta acu. Ba mhaith liom tréaslú le Liam O'Neill go pearsanta as ucht an jab atá déanta aige ó thaobh cur chun cinn na Gaeilge le roinnt blianta, fad agus a bhí sé mar uachtarán. Bhí an-áthas orm é a cloisteáil ar Raidió na Gaeltachta maidin Dé Luain agus a cloisteáil go bhfuil gradam faoi leith le bronnadh air. Is maith an aghaidh air é, mar tá an-obair déanta aige ó thaobh cur chun cinn na Gaeilge. Maidir leis na clubanna thar lear, tá cuid mhaith acu as Chonamara, as Tír Chonaill agus as áiteanna eile agus tá Gaeilge acu. Tá na clubanna ar fud na tíre seo ag cur chun cinn na Gaeilge, ach cén deis atá ann ó thaobh cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar fud na cruinne maidir leis an bhforbairt atá dhá dhéanamh?

Although Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Duffy have sold themselves well here, I think they have undersold themselves a little. One benefit I have noticed from visiting some of the clubs abroad is the social benefit. There are two elements to this. One is the social aspect, the music, the culture and the language, while the other relates to emigrants abroad who have found themselves on hard times. They might be out of work and be finding it difficult to adapt to their new lives and their new homes. The GAA plays a central role in this, but does it have a formal role? Is there training available to club and board members to help deal with people who might suffer from depression or feel down? We have heard that some people get into trouble with drugs, alcohol, etc. The GAA has good programmes on these issues here, but are these programmes extended abroad?

I heard a fantastic interview this morning on Raidió na Gaeltachta about liathróid láimhe, handball. This has not been mentioned yet today, but teams will travel from Connemara to Canada in the next couple of weeks to play in international competition. Handball is a more accessible game to be exported. Can our guests tell us more about the success of exporting handball through the clubs as an international sport?

Arís, tréaslaím bhur gcuid oibre libh. Mar urlabhraí Shinn Féin ar an diaspora, tá súil agam oibriú go dlúth libh sna blianta beaga atá romhainn.

I apologise for missing the presentation. I have a vested interest in this issue. I am a member of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael and had the privilege of being on the first comhairle programme with Liam O'Neill, an t-uachtarán. I compliment and pay tribute to Liam O'Neill as he comes to the end of his term of office as uachtarán on the way in which he has quietly and effectively brought our games to all parts of the world. He and Páraic Duffy have transformed how our Gaelic games are transmitted and covered and ensured the diaspora can, at the flick of a switch, watch our games.

Senator Mullins mentioned connectivity and one of the best things the GAA has done has been to make our games available to the diaspora. I know from having been abroad recently that in a city such as Taipei or other vast cities, Irish people are delighted to be able to see these games and to have that connection with home. Our Gaelic games are a manifestation of our Irishness. We have had a fantastic president of the GAA in Liam O'Neill. He has visited almost every club and parish in the country during his term and has put people at the front during his presidency, in particular those abroad. The GAA is very important to Irish people all over the world now.

I note that the photograph used in the presentation is a picture of the airport departure gates, but there is a big change in this regard now. I have been talking to people in New York about new developments there, where we will have a fantastic showpiece for Gaelic games there and for North America. Under the stewardship of Mr. Páraic Duffy, we have seen the Government improve the link to the diaspora abroad through the emigrant support programme. It is important to look at this in the context that the GAA is about people and the players that play our games. The impact of this on the diaspora cannot be underestimated. It is not just about playing the game. Traditionally abroad, Sunday morning was about going out to watch the Sunday game, but now it is a whole social setting, with Irish people coming together. Sometimes people are lonely and homesick, do not have work, have no money or have issues with addiction. Now, they have a great support network within the GAA abroad. I am pleased that in many parts of the world, Irish people involved in CLG lend support in a professional way by helping people get jobs or find housing. There is solidarity among them. Cumann Lúthchleas Gael is also involved in the passing on of our culture our games and the Irish language.

When I knew Mr. Páraic Duffy and Mr. Liam O'Neill were here, I did not want to let the occasion pass without congratulating them on their work. It is easy to be blasé about the support and commitment given to people, but we must commend the way in which the GAA abroad builds a structure, the club, and puts in place a social infrastructure that makes it personal to the people. This would not be possible without the support of the funding partnership or the commitment of people like Liam and Páraic. I congratulate Liam O'Neill on his successful term of office. He has come a long way since we were on the comhairle programme and has probably done much better than I have. I commend him and thank him for his great work.

I suppose I should congratulate Deputy Buttimer on Cork's win over Clare on Saturday night.

Nothing is won in February.

I must agree with my colleague from Cork, nothing is won in February. It is when the business is done that Kerry comes to the fore. I welcome Liam O'Neill and Páraic Duffy to this meeting. As a chairman of the Kenmare Shamrocks hurling and Gaelic club for five years, from the age of 27, I learned more in that committee room than I have learned in this committee room, with all respect to the Chairman. I often found GAA committees far more political than politics, because there was so much passion involved. The Kenmare club has a distinct and unique record in that our players were the first to play in Holbrook in New Jersey in a hurling match in 1857, in the same field where baseball was founded. We were ahead of our time in that regard. Kenmare men like Seán Price and Collie Mathers who is not from Kenmare but whom we will give an honorary title, are still developing GAA games in the US, through having Shannon Gaels' new grounds on Long Island.

The diaspora has come to the fore since the global economic forum. I was appointed by my party leader as the first spokesperson on the diaspora in the Seanad because we believe it is important our many citizens living overseas should have a voice at home and Fianna Fáil was the first party to call for a Minister for the diaspora. I am glad that Deputy Deenihan has been appointed to that post and he has been doing a great job since. The GAA has been the minister for the diaspora for the past 100 years and more. What does the GAA believe the Government and future Ministers should be doing in the long term? The GAA has delivered on the sporting end, but not just in that area. As colleagues have pointed out, this is also about health, mental health, jobs. Anybody looking for a job abroad turns up at the GAA club and will probably get a job that way. What should the new Ministry be doing for the diaspora? The GAA has the best built-in network of any organisation and is probably best placed to advise on this, with all due respect to the Department.

There is plenty of variety in the questions that have been asked. Some questions overlap, but our guests can do their best between them to answer the questions.

Mr. Liam O'Neill

I will deal with a couple of points based on the notes I jotted down. I am glad Deputy Byrne has forgiven the Christian Brothers.

We are working in many countries and we welcome people coming in and joining our clubs. This ties up with the promotion of Gaeilge also. We have a talent competition called Scór. It was set up purely to promote Irish culture and heritage and some of our acts are based on these. We have solo song, recitation, a drama or léiriú and music competitions. However, we have changed the competitions somewhat. We felt that while we have a brief to promote our language and culture, we cannot continue to be a monocultural organisation in a multicultural society. Therefore, we have changed our rules significantly and now if people want to recite, sing or dramatise something, it can be something from the history, mythology or culture of Ireland or of the country of origin of the person participating.

We recognise that the competition has to be inclusive because if people from abroad come to our clubs, we have to accept their right to perform their activities. Our decision to open up this competition is a significant step. While not everyone agreed with it, it has now been accepted that we are trying to open up the GAA in every possible way.

As regards being inclusive on our teams, reference was made to Jason Sherlock. In 1949, when County Laois last qualified for a senior hurling final, the captain was a man called Paddy Ruschitzko, which is not a Laois name. Paddy had Polish origins and my county was very proud to have him as our captain. This has been going on for a long time. People from abroad who join our clubs are made welcome. The GAA is delighted to be an inclusive organisation.

Shannon Gaels in New York are entering our Scór competitions. The Glór na nGael competition to which Senator Ó Clochartaigh referred also has a best club award with a prize of €1,000. We are delighted that people are beginning to assert their language and culture through GAA clubs.

Deputy Neville asked whether the civic authorities abroad recognise the work being done by the GAA. This is a difficulty because most facilities on the Continent are owned by municipal or local authorities, which means recognition is required to use them. It is difficult to secure recognition in all 27 member states of the European Union and non-EU countries. We could liaise with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ascertain whether we could address this issue together. Clubs also experience difficulties opening bank accounts abroad because different rules apply in different countries. The GAA's presence in such a large number of countries creates a challenge. It may be argued that we should be able to get around this, but good governance and transparency are also necessary, and it is best that we ensure that is the case. This is a difficulty which can be overcome.

I was pleased to hear Deputy Quinn's comment that we need someone in every city to connect with the GAA. ConnectIreland is the means by which we can achieve this. The GAA would not claim to be doing this alone. While we were reasonably successful when doing this work alone, the position changed when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recognised what we were doing and decided to support us. This was a major boost to our collective confidence, as it demonstrated to the authorities abroad with which we were dealing that the Department was working side by side with us. This stamp of approval was a significant step.

Mr. Duffy referred to the funding of €2.9 million provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The GAA also provides €5.8 million in funding. In allocating this funding to the GAA, the Department recognised that we are doing good work and acting as a conduit through which good ideas could flow back and forward. We are most happy with this.

As to how we could all work together and plan for the next 20 years, we must get serious about working in partnership. Mr. Duffy indicated that this process has started. We must row in behind it and ensure everyone is made aware of what is happening. We also need to have achievable and measurable objectives. People will then see us working together. Irish people are great and can achieve great things on their own, but when we get together we can achieve a hell of a lot more. That is the key message I wish to send today. We are open for business and partnership, as is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is a matter of finding the means to develop a cohesive plan and work together. Given our reach - and I say this in all modesty - the GAA can be a force for good among the Irish community abroad and in the communities in which Irish emigrants live. We are fiercely proud of this.

The Féile competitions were mentioned and the need to bring people from abroad. While the games must be organised in a way that allows people to take part, we cannot subsidise everyone taking part in a game. We give a large subsidy to the continental youth games in North America. We had an international minor tournament which we dropped in the early 2000s and we are heavily subsidising the all-Britain competitions because we regard those as focused. We are also delighted to augment funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs for development officers abroad. Partnership is what matters in this regard because people on the ground are much better placed than we are. It is preferable to have people who will augment what the volunteers are doing and add value to it. That is the beauty of how this works.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

I will respond to a few questions that Mr. O'Neill did not cover. Deputy Brendan Smith asked a question about Gaelic Park. The landlord of Gaelic Park is Manhattan College, the university that adjoins Gaelic Park. The GAA has a very good relationship with the college. We have a long-term lease, and a 3G pitch was developed on the grounds not long ago. There is also a process under way to develop a community centre with community facilities such as a bar and restaurant. Gaelic Park is still very much at the heart of the GAA in New York and, as I noted, the GAA has a long-term lease on the property in partnership with Manhattan College.

The Deputy also asked a question about RTE's longwave radio service. The GAA has been supportive of the campaign to retain the longwave channel in the United Kingdom from the outset, for the simple reason that it provides a very important service for older Irish emigrants. For many emigrants, listening to RTE, including its coverage of Gaelic games, is extremely important. We have been very supportive of the campaign throughout.

A question was asked about whether there has been any opposition from clubs in Ireland to the increasing funding for international activities. While there has not been much opposition, there is an awareness of the issue. The GAA has limited resources and, as with the Government and everyone else, we could do with more money. For this reason, we must use what funds we have as best we can. Last year we invested €2 million in Ruislip, and we provided €500,000 in funding to Shannon Gaels just a couple of months ago. Clubs in Ireland that are seeking funding may argue that we should prioritise clubs at home. While this has not been a major problem, it would be wrong to state that it is not an issue.

Deputy Eric Byrne asked a question about attracting people who move to Ireland to Gaelic games. This has been a challenge, because soccer is the first game of most of those who move to Ireland from abroad, be it from Africa or the rest of Europe. The reason is that soccer is the international sport with which people are most familiar. A couple of years ago, when we brought representatives of many nationalities to Croke Park for a seminar, we found that many of them believed that one had to be Irish to play Gaelic games. They viewed Gaelic games as exclusively Irish. This is changing, however, especially as children go to primary schools and start to play our games. I have seen evidence of this in Croke Park in recent years. In the next few years, we will see many more players of African or continental European extraction playing Gaelic games. This is a slow process that is developing as people from abroad become part of the community. As those with refugee status integrate in the community, we will see more of them playing Gaelic games. Nevertheless, it remains a challenge because people from abroad are not familiar with Gaelic games.

A very good point was made about the GAA's role in providing assistance in the area of mental health. This is one of the issues we discussed in our meeting with Irish ambassadors. Anne Anderson, our ambassador to Washington, emphasised that one of the major challenges the embassy faces in the United States is that of Irish people abroad who have mental health issues or are down and out and experiencing other problems. Croke Park now has a very strong health and well-being section. We employ four people who work full-time on mental health, health and well-being and so forth. Many of the resources we have developed in this area could be used by our clubs abroad. One of the issues we intend to explore with the Department of Foreign Affairs is how clubs abroad could utilise some of the skills we have developed for clubs here. We have not yet taken these programmes outside Ireland. It was an issue about which Ms Anderson was enthusiastic and it is something we need to do. The working group we have with the Department of Foreign Affairs will examine this issue.

To briefly address a question asked by Deputy Brendan Smith, one of the problems the GAA faces abroad is the issue of bank accounts. The cultures abroad differ greatly. For example, it is very difficult for our clubs to open bank accounts in China, whereas it is relatively straightforward to do so in other countries where one might expect it to be difficult. There is also a significant disparity in terms of the availability of facilities and the level of support available. Apart from New York and, to some degree, Britain, we have not had any success in securing funding from governments abroad. In terms of opening bank accounts, renting facilities and so forth, the position varies greatly depending on location. No single description fits all countries.

Will Mr. Duffy elaborate on the importance of achieving UNESCO cultural heritage status for hurling? I believe the committee will reach unanimous agreement in support of such status. What action can the joint committee take to assist the GAA on this issue? What would be the benefits of securing such status for hurling?

Mr. Páraic Duffy

I come from County Monaghan and, similarly to Deputy Brendan Smith, football is my first game. Hurling is unique and everybody from abroad who watches it is taken by the game. I am sure everyone present will have had the same experience.

The hurling we have had in recent years has brought that home. It is unique, something which is being recognised more and more. We are currently involved in a number of European projects with the European Union, in terms of keeping alive and recording the skills of the game. For us, there is a major advantage in the recognition of hurling as a unique warrior game in terms of spreading the sport. It also has advantages in terms of funding to protect the future of the game. That is dependent on the Government recognising the conventions. It is one area where the committee could be of some assistance.

We certainly will lobby for that and ensure that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is informed. I will not say anything about Laois.

Mr. Páraic Duffy

I would like to make one point before we finish. There is a very good relationship between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the ambassadors abroad, the consulates general and the GAA. It is important to put on the record that we appreciate the support they give to our clubs abroad, in terms of attending functions, opening doors, getting around red tape and so on. The Department and its representatives abroad have been very good, and I want to put that on the record today.

Does Mr. O'Neill want to make any further comments?

Mr. Liam O'Neill

We are happy enough.

I travel in my role as Chairman, as do other members. Everywhere we go I have to commend the work done by our consulates, embassies and ambassadors. They will always give priority to the GAA to ensure that we see the work it and local clubs are doing. No matter what reception one attends on our behalf, young GAA players always attend. The €3 million the Department has given to the GAA over the past number of years was money well worth spending. Obviously, it works in partnership, which is extremely important.

Mr. O'Neill's legacy will be that he extended the games worldwide, in particular in the media. That is something for which he will be remembered. That is extremely important for most members of our diaspora. We saw a match live in Hanoi some time ago. I am sure that is happening all over the place. Technology has moved on very quickly. It will be part of the legacy he leaves as uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael.

Are the members okay with that? I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the witnesses for coming before the committee. They have given us some very interesting facts on their work abroad and the number of people on board. It is good to hear that the GAA is extending the facility for the diaspora for those suffering from stress and other problems. Many of the Irish abroad suffer from stress and mental health problems. As the witnesses said, some of the centres in the US are in old buildings and there is always a new way of doing things. We always have to be learning. The GAA's role in that area has been extremely important and for that I commend the witnesses.

We will keep in touch and the presentation has been important to us. We have learned something, as I am sure have those watching the proceedings, about the important role Cumann Lúthchleas Gael plays all over the world and at home. For that we thank it. The witnesses have dealt with all of the questions very comprehensively and we look forward to keeping in touch with them regarding other issues which will affect the committee.

We will go into private session for the rest of the meeting. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The joint committee went into private session at 3.55 p.m. and adjourned at 4 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 March 2015.