GAA to act swiftly on racism claims
GAA:The president of the GAA’s Ulster Council, Aogán Ó Fearghail, has warned that any player found guilty of racism will face severe penalties. The Ulster Council are due to meet tomorrow night to investigate allegations that Crossmaglen’s Aaron Cunningham was subjected to racist abuse during Sunday’s Ulster final at the Athletic Grounds.
Cunningham claims that two Kilcoo players abused him on separate occasions and they he was called a “nigger” and a “Paki” during the game. Kilcoo said last night that they would co-operate fully with the investigation and were “shocked and saddened” by the allegations.
Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme earlier today, Ó Fearghail said the claims would be investigated as a matter of urgency. “We’re meeting tomorrow night, we’re going to establish a small group to investigate what has happened as per our rules and our inquiry will be swift,” he explained.
“It is not something we would tolerate at any level. One case of alleged racism is far too many. We spend a lot of time, particularly in Ulster, working with communities that would not have been part of the GAA. We spend a lot of time and energy encouraging people to come along into an inclusive GAA. We’re not going to allow any allegations of racism damage that.”
Asked what sanction any guilty party could expect, Ó Fearghail said “severe penalties would be applied.
“The sanctions are very clear. Rule 1 states very clearly that we are anti-sectarian, anti-racism. If there is anybody found to be in breach of that then they will be found to have discredited the association. The rule for that is very clear also – a minimum of eight weeks and a maximum of a lifetime ban.
“I can’t pre-empt, naturally, what has happened (in this case). We are still going to set up our investigation, it’s going to happen. If proven guilty certainly severe penalties would be applied.”
Cunningham, whose father Joey was a well-known footballer with Armagh in the 1980s and one of the first black inter-county players, alleged he had been targeted during yesterday’s 3-10 to 1-9 win over the Down champions. Cunningham spoke afterwards, saying the abuse had started in the first half, and he expressed his anger at what had happened.
“You go out to play football in a good sporting manner, hard-hitting and that, but when race comes into it, I think it’s disgusting, to be honest. I don’t want to let it overshadow what has been a good game and a 10th title for us, three-in-a-row and number five for myself. But I feel it has to be said, because what was said has no place on a football pitch.
“I don’t actually want to repeat it but the N-word was used and the word Paki was used too. Looking at me, it’s a bit ignorant on his behalf for calling me a Paki. I addressed the linesman, who was standing no more than 10 yards away. I can’t say if he heard it or not. He said he didn’t. I told him what was said. I just felt it was absolutely disgusting.
“There is no place for it whatsoever. You have the likes of my father, he played football as well. I think he was the first black player to play in Croke Park. I’m sure you could talk to a handful of boys and they’ve all had some sort of racist abuse. And as I say, it happened out there today and it’s absolutely disgusting. But I don’t want to let it dampen what has been a great day.”