14 May 1998 Edition

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Antrim GAA Board pull a fast one

Speaking exclusively to An Phoblacht, a senior County Antrim committee member has exposed the attempts of the County Antrim GAA Board to stifle debate about dropping Rule 21 (which bars members of the crown forces from the GAA).

It appears that the Ulster GAA executive has reneged on its decision to allow grassroots club members to decide what direction their County Boards would take at the extraordinary GAA conference on 30 May which will vote on the issue.

The Antrim controversy surrounds three moves. Firstly, at a meeting in Ballycastle last Tuesday, GAA official Joe O'Boyle over-ruled an association by-law in ruling that the vote should be taken by secret ballot, normally reserved for the election of GAA officials.

Secondly, members and club officials have been warned not to talk to the media, under threat of suspension. As one GAA member pointed out, this is contrary to the actions of GAA president Joe McDonagh who has actively courted the media.

But the most serious and undemocratic move by the Antrim Board is the distribution of 18 votes to the three Antrim divisional boards. This means that only a few clubs will have to support the Antrim executive for it to claim a mandate for scrapping Rule 21, effectively silencing any opposition.

The GAA club official expressed concerns not only about the influence of the four Knights of Columbanus on the Antrim County Board, but also at the comments of a senior Board official who told him that Rule 21 was as good as gone.

The GAA source said that rather than a decision coming from the grassroots, as the executive had promised, a decision would come from the top. He added, ``the executive have failed to take the time to consult the people on the ground.'' The committed GAA man said he suspected that the move to drop Rule 21 was being influenced by financial considerations. He simply asked, ``what price is your soul?''

An Phoblacht
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