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Ball up in air over access to Gaelic grounds

By Jarlath Burns

Published 20/02/2016

Jarlath Burns
Jarlath Burns

The GAA, for all its perceived failings, is a very democratic organisation. This being the case, the process of overturning rules can often been viewed as a prolonged, even tortuous, process.

Yet, at the end of the day, rules are rules and are framed in the Official Guide of the Gaelic Athletic Association to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of what is Ireland's biggest sporting body.

Among those is Rule 5.1 (a), which states that property vested in the GAA "shall be used only for the purpose of, or in connection with, the playing of the games controlled by the association and for such other purposes not in conflict with the aims and objects of the association, that may be sanctioned from time to time by the central council".

Like most rules, it has its supporters and its detractors - yet it remains very much in place and must be adhered to.

There is, of course, a clearly defined mechanism by which rules can be changed and that is through the forwarding of a motion to annual congress.

This is the first step in the process - the big challenge is to acquire a two-thirds majority of votes, so that a rule can actually be changed.

When the GAA voted to throw open the doors of Croke Park to international soccer and rugby back in 2005, this was done on the basis of a 227-97 vote that testified to a clear willingness to embrace change.

But it must be remembered that this applied to Croke Park only and for the limited time in which it took to complete the Aviva Stadium.

I am led to believe that there may be a motion before congress in Carlow at the end of this month seeking to have Rule 5.1 amended and should this come up for debate, then the current feeling of the association on this particular issue will be tested.

There are a lot of rules that we may, or may not, like, but the avenues are there by which change can be brought about.

I am currently chairman of the standing committee on the playing rules and we are constantly confronted by pleas for change, but these must be seen to be channelled through the democratic process.

It is understandable that situations will arise from time to time that may evoke sympathy, but at the end of the day, the fair and impartial application of all the rules could be said to form the very bedrock of the GAA.

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