I wouldn’t describe it as a dog returning to its own vomit but I find myself drawn to news items about the University of Ulster, especially the Jordanstown campus. This morning they’re in the news because they’ve launched a Gaelic games academy. Martin McGuinness was there, praising UUJ for its advanced facilities and opportunities ‘not just for the cream of GAA talent. It will also promote the sport at all levels through coaching for local schools, both on and off the campus’.
That’s good to hear and, if true, is a reversal of the way UUJ acted in the past. When I was a wage slave on that site, I made regular use of the campus swimming pool. In fact, when I was interviewed for a job there back in 1979 and they asked me had I any questions, that was my first one: ‘Have you a swimming pool’? They had and it was an excellent one, and I used it constantly. All four of my children learned to swim there and I used to nip down to it for a quick plunge at lunch-time. Then, without consultation, the university closed it. Why? It cost too much. The fact that it was a wonderful facility for students, staff members and local schools, including Special Needs schools, made no difference. Some of us mounted a campaign of protest which got media attention and annoyed the authorities but it made no difference in the long run. The pool was closed and we were told it was part of a major development for ‘elite athletes’. A bit like the 11+, when you think of it: good for the top performers, a disaster for everyone else.
So well done, UUJ, for the new Gaelic games academy. Don’t forget to publish an annual report showing how you’ve served the local schools and local people, OK?