A mother of four has asked the High Court for an injunction restraining Dublin-based GAA side Fingallians from barring her children from participating in club activities.
Sinead O’Farrell, of Sandford Wood, Swords, was on Monday granted permission by Mr Justice Brian O’Moore to serve short notice of the injunction proceedings on the officials of Fingallians GAA Club.
Richard Kean SC, for Ms O’Farrell, told the court his client was seeking the restraints on behalf of her children Luca (10), Cai (eight), Nia (six) and Alia (five) who, along with her and their father, Jason, have been banned from the club.
Mr Kean, with Ger Colleran BL, instructed by Robinson Solicitors, said the O’Farrells were paid-up members of Fingallians, of Seatown West, Swords, and all of her children play football and hurling. The application seeks injunctions against club officials Colin Foley, Carl Jones, Eoin Martin, Denis McCarthy, Sarah Nixon and Pat Ward.
In an affidavit, Ms O’Farrell said a dispute arose following a boys under-9 football tournament in Newry, Co Down last year. She claims her husband, other parents and volunteer coaches were unhappy with the approach to the tournament taken by Richie Herity, who was the head coach of the under-9 group.
The fallout from the tournament led to her husband and other adults whose children were part of the group being fired as volunteer under-9 coaches in September, she claimed. Since the removal of those parents, she said, communications and meetings with club officials have not resolved the matter.
Ms O’Farrell also claims she understands that one particular communication from the club was a “clear suggestion/invitation for my family to leave Fingallians GAA and go elsewhere”.
Her family was asked earlier this month by a senior club official to refrain from attending the club until a meeting between her husband and the club’s chair has occurred, she alleges. Ms O’Farrell claims the affair has caused her and her husband profound shock and distress.
She said the matter is now urgent as their children are due to return to training on the new Fingallians all-weather pitch. Her solicitors wrote to the club seeking an undertaking that no steps be taken by the Fingallians to prevent the O’Farrell children from accessing the club’s facilities.
In reply, the club said the children are “entitled to the same access to the club’s facilities and activities as all other club members in good standing” and it has “no intention to exclude them”.
The club accepted that there were difficulties between some of the mentors of the particular group and certain parents of children in the group. Some of the volunteer mentors have refused to coach the children of those parents, the club said.
The club said it was attempting to avoid distress by taking steps to place these children with other squads whose mentors have agreed to coach them.
Ms O’Farrell said the children are “wholly blameless”, being “victimised”, separated from friends and “punished” over something they have no connection with. She is seeking injunctions restraining the officials from interfering with her family’s right to attend the club and participate its teams or groups.
She also wants the court to declare that the club’s message allegedly sent to her husband earlier this month purporting to ban the family from training is unwarranted, unlawful and has no legal effect.
While only Ms O’Farrell was represented in court, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore gave permission for the proceedings to be served with short notice on club chair Mr Foley, vice chair Mr Jones, secretary Mr Martin, juvenile chair Mr McCarthy, children’s officer Ms Nixon and disciplinary chair Mr Ward.
The case will return to court on Thursday.