Galway and Cork women’s teams ‘disrespected so badly’ by GAA and LGFA
Seanad leader Regina Doherty in angry Seanad outburst says treatment ‘unacceptable’
Regina Doherty: It was “really, really disappointing that our women were moved from billy to jack over the weekend”. Photograph: Tom Honan
Seanad leader Regina Doherty has condemned the GAA and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) over the handling of the women’s all-Ireland semi-final match at the weekend which was moved at the last minute from Parnell Park to Croke Park.
The former government minister said the Galway and Cork women’s teams were “disrespected so badly” by the GAA and “even more disappointing” was that the treatment was “compounded” by the LGFA and the explanation they “trotted out” for their treatment.
Ms Doherty’s angry outburst in the Seanad on Tuesday follows the controversy after the semi-final football match was switched to Croke Park because Parnell Park pitch was frozen and TG4 was unable to show their planned live television coverage.
The previous Wednesday it was announced that the match was to be moved from Limerick to Parnell Park because the Limerick venue was needed for training for the men’s hurling team.
Ms Doherty said “it isn’t acceptable for any organisation but particularly one that’s been given money, millions and millions and millions of euros” to show such disrespect to female players.
And she warned that “we absolutely need to make sure that it never happens again”.
The Fine Gael Seanad leader had been responding to issues raised by colleagues on the order of business.
She noted that nobody had raised the GAA controversy but in an unexpected and passionate speech she linked the treatment of the two teams to the global inequality between men and women.
The former Meath East minister said she knew that sometimes “people get tired of us and we seem to be bleating on” about gender inequality.
But she said “I think the really, really disappointing treatment of our lady footballers this weekend by an absolutely massively funded State-sponsored organisation goes to show how we need to keep bleating on about it week in or week out.
“And what was really more disappointing and compounded the issue yesterday was the explanations that were somehow trotted out as to why and who’s fault it was that the women were disrespected so badly over the weekend.”
The Galway team had seven minutes of warm-up before the 1pm match, having arrived at 12.30pm but LGFA president Marie Hickey said on RTÉ radio that if Galway had spent less time in the changing room they’d have had more time to warm-up.
Ms Doherty said it was “really, really disappointing that our women were moved from billy to jack over the weekend”.
She said “I totally get that” that there was a training session “for our lads” in Limerick and that they were their own grounds.
“But I don’t think it’s good enough the way they were treated and I absolutely think it’s horrendous that the girls got on the pitch within six minutes before the game starts and a referee thinks that’s okay just to tell them to get on with it.
“It absolutely is not okay. But it’s not okay for an organisation that is supposed to be representing these women and encouraging participation in what is the fastest growing sport in this country to come out and to explain as they did yesterday away that treatment as if it was nothing. It was not nothing.”
She added: “It’s a sentiment of how we actually dismiss women in this country at every level.”
Ms Doherty told her Seanad colleagues that “I’m a huge follower of Ladies’ GAA, maybe even more so than our lads but I get huge enjoyment out of sport and particularly out of GAA”.
The issue about lack of access to maternity leave for TDs had been raised following the announcement that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is expecting a baby and will be the first Minister in the history of the State to give birth in office.
Ms Doherty said “we started today’s Order of Business off about how unfair it is for women who can’t access maternity leave. They have a baby and they have nothing. They have to send in sick certs.
“It’s crazy and we’re ending it with regard to the manifestation of that mindset, (that) thinks it’s okay to treat our young women the way we did over the weekend, who play sport for the love of their county and the love of their country and it’s not on.”