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Jack Boothman: First Protestant president of GAA dies

Published 10/05/2016

Jack Boothman pictured in 1997. Photograph by INPHO/James Meehan
Jack Boothman pictured in 1997. Photograph by INPHO/James Meehan

Jack Boothman, the first Protestant president of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), has died.

The Co Wicklow man was president of the GAA between 1994 and 1997 and was a member of Blessington GAA club in Wicklow.

He was at the forefront in the abolition of Rule 21, which debarred members of the British forces from joining the association, in 2001.

"We sadly learned this morning of the passing of our lifetime member, former player, Club official in several capacities and present Club Trustee, Jack Boothman,” read a statement on Blessington's website.

"We were immensely proud of his achievements nationally and I know he took huge pride in his own Club, none more evident than when we hosted last years Feile.

"As a mark of respect we are closing the pitches and the facilities for the rest of the week."

SDLP Sports spokesperson Justin McNulty MLA has expressed his sincere condolences.

He said: "Jack Boothman is an iconic figure within the GAA. His work on the development of Croke Park brought the association into a new age, able to continue to attract new generations of players and community activists.

"But Jack will also be remembered for his outstanding outreach work. As the GAA’s first Protestant President, his election itself was a pivotal moment in the association’s history. Jack went further than that, reaching out across traditional divides throughout Ireland.

"The GAA is a better organisation as a result of his influence. His legacy is one of rich diversity and we are all grateful to him for that.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends from across the island at this difficult time. I hope they will be comforted by the knowledge that Jack’s work will be remembered and celebrated for years to come."

Current GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail expressed his sympathies.

"Jack Boothman was a man I considered to be a friend and he served the GAA with distinction. I had the privilege of knowing him since the 1980s and have very fond memories of attending an Irish language course with him and Joe McDonagh in the Meath Gaeltacht of Rath Chairn. He was great company.

"He had great interest in the club and the last conversation I had with him recently he told me ‘don’t forget about the clubs.’

"On behalf of the Association as a whole I would like to offer my condolences to his wife Nuala and his extended family and his wide circle of friends."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also paid tribute.

He said: "My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jack Boothman at this difficult time.

"Jack Boothman was a GAA president who, through his actions, left an indelible mark on the GAA.

"I was very privileged to meet Jack at many GAA events. Jack was a gentleman and I always found him to be very warm and courteous.

"He was a proud GAA man and his family and club Blessington GAA in Wicklow will be rightly proud of his many achievements at local and national level."

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