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GAA voted Ireland’s greatest ever force for social change

The GAA beat both St Vincent de Paul and Mary McAleese to be named as the most responsible for social change in Ireland, in a survey commissioned by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE GAELIC ATHLETIC Association (GAA) has been voted Ireland’s ‘greatest ever force for social change’ – beating the likes of both the St Vincent de Paul and Mary McAleese.

New research commissioned by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland shows that the organisation’s dedication to funding, developing and nurturing entrepreneurship in Ireland has lead it to be identified as a driving force for social change among the public.

The survey revealed that one in two people wanted to help make social change happen in Ireland, with the public identifying local community, disability, and education as the areas they would be most likely to be involved in. Only 14 per cent said they would not like to participate in social change.

The survey, which included over 200 Irish adults, underlines a desire for real social change in the country and reveals a public willingness to get involved in making it happen, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has said.

One in two (48 per cent) respondents said they would be willing to get involved in making change happen – with education (26 per cent), local community (20 per cent) and disability (12 per cent) being the areas that appeal most to potential volunteers.

The organisation, which has a presence in every county in the country, is seen as the most responsible for social change, while St Vincent de Paul came second place (19 per cent) and former President Mary McAleese came third (12 per cent) in recognition for her work in building bridges between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Others figures identified as making a significant positive social impact on Ireland were John Hume (9 per cent), Bono (4 per cent), Bob Geldof (4 per cent) and Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of Focus Ireland (2.5 per cent).

Cultural identity and community

The importance that Irish people place in cultural identity and sense of community as a nation were identified as the two elements of society we are most proud of sharing 82 per cent of the vote between them (43 per cent and 39 per cent respectively).

A sense of charity and generosity came third in the public vote with 12 per cent of the public saying they are most proud of that aspect of Irish society.

Meanwhile, Irish politics and health systems were identified by the public as the aspects of society they are least proud of.

Some 35 per cent of respondents identified individual citizens as being most responsible for making social change happen in Ireland, compared to just 24 per cent who identified politicians and political parties as being the most important for doing so. The lack of faith in the political system was further highlighted by the 70 per cent of respondents who identified it as the area of Irish society most in need of reform and improvement.

Irish charities and NGOs were viewed to be the area of society least in need of change or reform, polling just 1 per cent.

“The public evidently wants social change and is signalling that it is most likely to come from individuals and communities rather than the traditional institutions of government, church and business,” said Sean Coughlan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. “It is both hugely significant and encouraging that nearly half of the public are prepared to assist in making a contribution to the changes we need in the near future.”

Column: I had no job but volunteering helped me feel more fulfilled

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