‘No directive’ from GAA prohibiting carpooling at underage level

Some clubs say there is uncertainty over the fuel-saving practice due to child-protection concerns

The GAA has moved to reassure parents and clubs who may have raised concerns that child protection laws could be a barrier to any carpooling in response to rising fuel prices.

Petrol and diesel prices have approached €2.20 at the pumps and for many carpooling would seem an obvious option to help parents ration their fuel while transporting children to weekly training sessions and away matches which are sometimes on the other side of the county.

However, many clubs said they don’t feel like they can actively encourage sharing transport to underage games due to child protection regulations, unless the drivers are Garda vetted.

Meath GAA public relations officer Ciaran Flynn says carpooling is an option as part of the GAA’s Green Club Initiative for senior players, many of whom drive themselves, but would probably be an issue for underage players.

“I live in Hayestown, outside Navan myself but play for Dunsany, which is a round trip of 38km three times a week,” he said.

“Carpooling is part of our Green Club Initiative which tries to promote conserving water and energy and finding more sustainable ways to matches.

“Some fixtures, for example a game between Drumconrath and Ballinabrackey on the other side of the county is a 140km round trip.

“When I played underage it was a regular occurrence that five or six parents would generally ferry the whole team to matches.

“Now child protection laws take priority so parents really shouldn’t be driving or taking responsibility for other children unless they, like the coaches, are Garda vetted. We do encourage all parents to get Garda vetted.

“Some parents may not know the parents of other kids on the team very well and so may be a little cautious on allowing their children to go with almost strangers while other parents may not want the responsibility of driving with another child in case of an crash.”

However, a representative for the GAA said that there was “no directive coming from Croke Park that prohibits carpooling” and requires Garda vetting.

Alan Milton, head of GAA communications, said that parents agreeing to carpool kids to and from matches and training, “that’s an arrangement between parents as opposed to the club”.

“The club can decide themselves what they want to have as best practice but that’s at their discretion, it’s not coming from us,” he said.

The only condition coming from the GAA is that an adult cannot carpool a child who is not their own to a match or training without the permission of that child’s parent. Also, in the case of younger children and depending on age and size, booster seats must be in place, Mr Milton added.

Eleanor Reidy, communications officer for Tusla, says if parents are officially considered club volunteers, they would need to be Garda vetted. But if it’s a private arrangement between neighbours and friends, vetting is not required.

Further information is available at vetting.garda.ie

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast