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.