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First Protestant GAA chief who helped end ban on UK forces dies

By Allison Bray

Published 11/05/2016

Pioneer: Jack Boothman
Pioneer: Jack Boothman

Tributes have been paid to Jack Boothman, the former GAA president who led the campaign to abolish Rule 21.

Mr Boothman, who turned 80 last year, passed away yesterday.

He made history when be became the first Protestant president of the GAA, from 1994-1997.

He championed the campaign to abolish Rule 21, which prevented members of the British security forces from joining the organisation.

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail said Mr Boothman was not only synonymous with the GAA, he was a friend and "served the GAA with distinction".

Former GAA president Sean Kelly MEP called him "a wonderful Gael" with a "great sense of humour and very generous".

"He worked very closely to make our games and our association broader, and to end any discrimination that existed, which was, in one sense, what people saw rule 21 doing," he said.

"His quiet work in the background, where he did most of the work, brought the Ulster Council with him and they brought their members with them.

"Then attitudes changed, and those who were maybe reluctant in the beginning had such respect for Jack and that created a more positive attitude and a broader view within the association."

Mr Boothman was well regarded as the face of the GAA in his home county of Wicklow where he was an active, lifetime member of the Blessington GAA club and club trustee until his death following an illness.

He had a special affinity with young players, Wicklow County Board chairman Martin Coleman said. "He loved working with youth and he would always be the first one to come over and shake their hands," he recalled.

Blessington GAA club chairman Michael Sargent said the grandfather and father-of-six was regarded as a "father figure" to the club's members and the wider community at large.

Mr Boothman is survived by his wife Nuala and their children Siobhan, Patricia, Catriona, Janet, Robert and John.

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