Belfast Telegraph

Ending security forces ban was good for GAA, says former chief

By Simon Rowe

Abolishing the ban on the security forces playing Gaelic games had a positive impact on the GAA, according to the body's former president Peter Quinn.

Mr Quinn - brother of bankrupt Fermanagh business magnate Sean Quinn - told how the then fledgling peace process dictated that the GAA should end its ban on the security forces, and that the "foreign games" of rugby and soccer should be accommodated in Croke Park - the GAA's home in north Dublin.

"We all knew those two bans had to go eventually," said Quinn. "But we also knew that getting rid of them at the wrong time would send the wrong signal."

Rule 21, which banned the security forces from playing, was eventually repealed in 2001. And Rule 42 - the ban on any sports other than Gaelic games being played at Croke Park - was repealed in 2005.

It was the consolidation of the Northern Ireland peace process that made repeal of the two controversial rules possible, Mr Quinn said. "It wasn't until the peace process had got legs that we could move those two bans, and we did," he added.

Removing the bans has been beneficial for the GAA, the former president claimed."The GAA has become a more open organisation, and that's only right because our games can stand in comparison to any other games in the world," said Mr Quinn.

The rule changes helped the GAA's bottom line, too. Repealing Rule 42 meant Croke Park chiefs could boost the stadium's income by hiring it out for rock concerts, rugby, soccer matches and American Football and Australian Rules matches.

A chartered accountant and financial adviser by profession, Mr Quinn helped to usher in a new commercial era at the organisation, playing an instrumental role in forging a much closer alliance between business and the GAA.

Ever since the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank, Mr Quinn has been embroiled in controversy relating to the collapse of the Quinn Group, formerly controlled by his brother Sean, once known as Ireland's richest man.

Sean Quinn was jailed in 2012 for contempt of court for selling off assets worth millions of euro, despite a court order.

But the successful redevelopment of Croke Park as a world-class stadium is Peter Quinn's legacy.

"The rebuilding of Croke Park represented a vote of confidence in our future," he said. "The finished product is "the finest stadium of its kind and the best stadium owned by any amateur organisation in the world."

Belfast Telegraph


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