GAA accused of discriminating against Senators over All-Ireland

FG members claim the Seanad was not given the chance to buy final tickets

The victorious Dublin team following the All-Ireland senior football championship final replay in  Croke Park, Dublin. Fine Gael Seanad members have accused the GAA of discriminating against Senators. Photograph: ©INPHO/James Crombie

The victorious Dublin team following the All-Ireland senior football championship final replay in Croke Park, Dublin. Fine Gael Seanad members have accused the GAA of discriminating against Senators. Photograph: ©INPHO/James Crombie

 

Fine Gael Seanad members have accused the GAA of discriminating against Senators by failing to give them the chance to purchase All-Ireland football final tickets despite giving TDs the opportunity.

Fine Gael Mayo Senator Paddy Burke said he agreed with his party colleague Senator Michelle Mulherin, who had publicly highlighted the “instance of discrimination against members of this House”.

Mr Burke said he had received a letter from the GAA, similar to one received by Ms Mulherin, which stated “that Deputies would be offered tickets for sale for the All-Ireland football final but Senators would not”.

He said it was his understanding that “any member of this House from a participating county who sent in a letter and cheque [to the GAA] received the same response”.

Mr Burke was speaking during a debate on a Seanad Bill which aims to reform the Upper House.

The Bill, drafted by Independent Senator Michael McDowell, is based on the recommendations of the Manning report on Seanad reform.

Mr Burke said the Bill would not change the Seanad’s subordinate status.

He said that the GAA had “rolled out” its former president and current Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly, “who said the organisation had to draw a line somewhere.

“It certainly drew a clear line between Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann in this case.”

He said the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad was also discriminated against, “because he is the only officeholder who is not invited to be seated in the ard chomhairle in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, along with all the Ministers, Ministers of State, Garda and Army officials.

“All the other arms of State are represented there on these occasions, but not the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann.”

Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine then questioned whether it was “positive or wise to introduce the GAA ‘Ticket-gate’ saga when we are trying to show that the Seanad is relevant”.

She said: “I am not sure that helps in terms of the optics.”

‘Second-class citizens’

Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden said she also believed Senators were “treated like second-class citizens”.

She said the GAA tickets were an issue, as was the allocation of space for visitors on budget day.

Ms McFadden said all TDs “were given tickets for the gallery for visitors to hear the budget statement. Senators, however, were not afforded the same luxury”.

Describing the move as “ridiculous”, she said the Seanad was as important as the Dáil.

“The budget is for everyone, not just for Deputies. The allocation of visitor tickets was unfair and not right.”

Ms McFadden also highlighted the fact that there were no Senators on the committee on the future of healthcare.

“We had to fight to get on it which, again, was not right.”

She said: “Those are three small examples of how the Seanad is treated with which I do not agree.”

The Bill passed the second stage and will be debated at committee stage next week.

It was opposed by Independent Senators Marie Louise O’Donnell and David Norris.