Strong penalties to fight racism already in place
Published 08/03/2013 | 07:59
Two high-profile incidents involving Ulster players has thrown into focus the need for the GAA to update their policy towards racist and sectarian remarks made to players.
Incidents involving Ciaran McKeever and more recently Aaron Cunningham in the Ulster club final earned the GAA criticism for their handling of matters.
Criticism that GAA Director General Paraic Duffy feels was not commensurate to the response.
"The rule that stands at the moment, the penalties range from a minimum of eight weeks to debarment from the Association. The powers for racism at the moment are as strong as we possibly can get," he explained.
In recent weeks, the club of Wexford's Lee Chin – a dual player of Chinese heritage who was racially abused in a club game – wished to bring a motion to Congress for racist abuse to be dealt with under the playing rules.
However, a moratorium on changes to playing rules means that it cannot be dealt with until 2015.
Even with a rule change of that type in place, Duffy still insists that it is extremely difficult to make charges in these instances.
"A guy is not going to make a racist remark within the hearing of the referee. And unless the referee hears it ...
"This has been established by law before – the abuse has to be heard by the person.
"In the Ulster club final, a player got four months. Under the rules, he could have got anything from eight weeks to debarment.
"I understand that the Kilcoo club have debarred a member for racist remarks made in the stand.
"The rules as they are at the moment are there to deal with racism in the strongest possible way," he said.
"I would have no truck for people who make racist remarks or for boards or committees that don't deal with them, but I genuinely believe that it would be the general view of those within the association," he added.
As Ireland becomes a more multi-cultural society and the Association moves with the times to reflect that, Duffy feels that the integration of other nationalities will take a while to bear fruit.
"There is one huge problem; the people who come into Ireland, no matter where they have come from, have no prior experience of Gaelic games.
"They have come from any part of eastern Europe and they have never seen Gaelic games.
"Now, how good have we been at integrating them? They would naturally gravitate towards soccer, as their first game as a field sport. No matter what part of the world you are in, soccer is played."
However, with Gaelic games coaching in schools, Duffy believes that the GAA playing ranks will have a distinctly more cosmopolitan feel in time.
"School is where they are introduced to the games properly. A child isn't going to play Gaelic football or hurling if he has not played before. Given time, that will increase," he added.