The early history of both the Gaelic Athletic Association, formed in 1884, and the Gaelic League, shows clearly the way in which both organisations were used by Irish nationalists as a means of promoting Irish nationalism.
It is often pointed out that there were some ‘Protestants’ involved in the Irish cultural movement eg Francis J Bigger, Roger Casement and Alice Milligan, and it is true that there were Protestants in the movement but they were nearly all Irish nationalists. Generally their interest in Irish culture developed into a commitment to Irish nationalism.
Today Sinn Fein continue to pursue a cultural nationalist agenda. Around the time of the IRA hunger strikes they launched a new cultural campaign and at a conference in West Belfast Padraig O’Maoicraoibhe, a Sinn Fein cultural officer, said, 'I don’t think we can exist as a separate people without our language. Now every phrase you learn is a bullet in the freedom struggle. The process of decolonisation will have stopped half-way if, the day we succeed in driving the English from our shores, what is left behind is an Irish people possessed of the language, culture and values of the English.'
2. Strengthening the nationalist community – providing cultural confidence, strengthening solidarity and building capacity.
There is nothing inherently problematic about the Irish language, Gaelic games or any other form of Irish culture. They are part of our cultural wealth. The problem is about the way they have been used by Irish nationalists and republicans to further their political agenda.