GAA special congress votes for improved gender balance on Management Committee

Other motions relate to dates in the calendar and different tiers in the championships

The GAA has voted overwhelmingly, 79 per cent to 21, at Saturday’s special congress in Croke Park to approve changes necessary for a greater gender balance in its governing Management Committee. The case was set out by association DG Tom Ryan and endorsed by a number of speakers.

Ultimately, although more than a fifth of the delegates voted against – none raised their voice to articulate the case for opposing.

As a result, the size of the committee will change over the next three years – 21 members in 2024, 19 members in ‘25 and 16 in ‘26 with 40 per cent of members to be female.

Special congress took place against a backdrop of Government pressure to adopt the proposal, which was felt to have created reservations.


Ryan outlined the background to motion nine:

“The origins of this motion lie in the 2021-23 Government action plan on sport, which sought gender balance (minimum 40 per cent) on sporting governing bodies by 2024. It’s a well accepted principle that diverse committees arrive at better decisions. Motion nine seeks to build on this principle. It is appropriate that we should lead on this. Twenty five per of membership is female. Clubs leading the way with 30 per cent of management roles filled by females.”

He went on to address perceived misgivings about the process.

“Would we do this if Government didn’t require it? I don’t think we would but it’s not a bad thing if it gets us to where we should be. It is a requirement for all sporting bodies and applies to one national committee of GAA and no others.”

He asked delegate not to “judge this on basis of what ‘might’ happen,” adding, “you will be arbiters of that”.

He also rejected that the proposal had anything to do with the integration process, currently being explored with the womens’ Gaelic sports organisation under the chair of former president Mary McAleese.

“This has nothing to do with integration, which is a totally separate project. It is not divesting or sharing responsibilities.”

In answer to the argument that the time wasn’t right he argued: “Waiting confers no benefits. Is Government funding at risk? Yes. To what extent? I don’t know. Figures of 50 per cent have been mentioned but there is no confirmation. We received 15 or 16 million euro and don’t want to risk any of that. Capital projects could be affected but the risk can be avoided with no risk to the association.

“Gender quotas are divisive but I don’t think we’ll get where we need to be without this intervention. I don’t know when this [gender balance] will happen organically but taking this decision will bring that day closer. Are we being forced? We are under pressure and under scrutiny – yes, but that’s nothing new. Other sports are not our concern. The only question is will this leave GAA in better position and I believe it will.”

The supporting speeches, including delegates from Limerick, Kerry, Antrim, Wexford, Offaly, Laois were all in favour. Galway chair Pauk Bellew asked that if any delegates were opposed, they should air their issues with the proposal.

None did, however.

GAA special congress has voted to maintain the status quo in the All-Ireland hurling championship by endorsing the right of Tier 2 McDonagh Cup finalists to enter the Tier 1 MacCarthy Cup in the same year.

Since 2018, the McDonagh finalists have entered the championship at the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final stages as well as the winners regrading to the MacCarthy Cup for the following year’s championship.

A motion to revisit this arrangement was proposed by the GAA Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) but was defeated by 51 per cent to 49.

McDonagh Cup counties uniformly opposed the removal of the opportunity, which has seen some bleak hammerings, the most extreme of which was Tipperary’s 32-point demolition of Offaly in this year’s preliminary quarter-finals. During its operation, just one county Laois, the 2019 McDonagh champions, has defeated MacCarthy Cup opposition, in that case Dublin.

Removing the round would also free a couple of weeks in a very compacted calendar.

The motion, number one, was opposed by three counties, Westmeath, Antrim and Carlow – all former McDonagh winners and the Gaelic Players Association, which conducted a survey of members in the affected counties, all of whom were unsurprisingly heavily in favour of the status quo.

Motion two accordingly fell, as its reform – an additional semi-final stage in the McDonagh Cup – depended on the success of motion one.

Motion three introduced a tiered knockout format for the All-Ireland minor football championship whereas motion four added Galway and Antrim to the Leinster minor hurling championship.

Other motions of interest included the copper-fastening of All-Ireland finals in July – before the last Sunday in the month.

Congress also voted to reformat the Official Guide, the GAA rulebook, by separating its provisions into existing sections on broad policy and ethos, part 1, and playing rules, part 2, which will continue to be amendable only by congress.

A new section, “codes,” which will deal with procedural regulation and process, becomes the responsibility of Central Council and the Croke Park management committee.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times