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28 May 1998 Edition

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Rule 21 under fire

In the face of growing opposition to the proposed abolition of Rule 21 the Management Committee of the GAA will be putting a second motion to the extraordinary Congress of the association to be held on Saturday May 30.

President Joe McDoagh is proposing that the rule, which bans the RUC or British forces from participating in Gaelic games, should be suspended. To get the rule abolished would take a two thirds yes vote of the Congress but to get the rule suspended may only require a simple majority. The association has so far refused to clarify the exact voting percentage required.

This suspension proposal would effectively be deletion of the rule by the back door. The Management Committee obviously worried at how their new motion will be seen by ordinary members, the majority of whom oppose any change until the RUC is fundamentally reformed, are to hold the Congress behind closed doors with the media excluded.

This latest motion highlights the fact that the whole issue has become something of a vote of confidence in President McDonagh who is the driving force behind achieving some change to the rule.

In response to the original motion to abolish the rule, Breadan MacCionaith of the Garvaghy Road residents group, called on the Association to postpone any decision until the Nationalist community in the North are treated with respect by the Crown forces. He said, ``All members of the GAA must be aware of the disgraceful and unjust manner in which these forces have treated the Nationalist community in Portadown over recent years. Few among you would not have shared the feeling of total humiliation experienced by our entire community when parishioners were physically and forcibly prevented from attending normal Masses.'' He also appealed to Committee members to Come to the Garvaghy Road this summer, ``I would also like to invite an tUachtaran Joe McDonagh and other senior officials of the GAA to come to Portadown in July to observe our experiences at first hand.''
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